The Division Feels Like a PC-First Experience

A couple of weeks ago, my experience playing Tom Clancy’s The Division surpassed a set of an admittedly lukewarm expectations. The deep open-world multiplayer shooter has the potential to change the way we look at multiplayer games forever, as it seems likely that developers will steal the idea of seamless matchmaking within a game world. While menus and lobbies will always exist, it’s going to be hard to see games similar to The Division going back to the matchmaking systems of yesteryear. There was one bit of information from my session with this intriguing title, however, that should fascinate a passionate contingent of gamers.

Ubisoft internal studio Red Storm Entertainment, who most recently worked on the excellent PC version of Far Cry 4, is assisting Ubisoft Massive by heading up development of the PC iteration of The Division. Because this console generation has featured a large list of games that have run significantly better on personal computers than their living room counterparts, it’s not shocking that a seemingly polished port of one of the biggest games of the year is on the horizon. Still, after the disaster that was the PC version of Arkham Knight, it’s fantastic to see a great deal of care put into Ubisoft’s most ambitious game to date.

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Earlier this week, Ubisoft released the specifications for the The Division on PC, and though they are hefty, the end result felt like a product that was deserving of its premium component asking price. In case you missed the news, here are the minimum and recommended specifications for The Division:

Minimum:

  • Operating System: Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-bit versions only)
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-2400, AMD FX-6100 or better
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 with 2 GB VRAM (current equivalent NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760), AMD Radeon HD 7770 with 2 GB VRAM or better
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Hard Drive Space: 40 GB

Recommended:

  • Operating System: Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-bit versions only)
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-3770, AMD FX-8350 or better
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970, AMD Radeon R9 290 or better
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Hard Drive Space: 40 GB

Ubisoft also gave the world a list of features that would be unique to the PC version, namely the graphical options that players will have at their disposal. If you’re looking for a game with a ton of tweakable settings and no shortage of customization options, then you may have found your match here. Here’s what Ubisoft has chosen to highlight ahead of the March 8 release date:

  • Flexible user interface: move, scale and adjust the opacity of the HUD.
  • Intuitive controls: navigate easily through the interface, inventory panels and map designed specifically to be used with a mouse or a controller.
  • Full mouse & keyboard support: opt for the high precision mouse and keyboard experience and switch to a controller in the middle of any encounter without interruption.
  • Text chat: team up with more agents of The Division by using the in-game text chat.
  • Optimized graphic settings & customised GPU effects: adjust a vast variety of technology treats, from realistic lighting, shading, snow particles, local reflection, fog volumetric scattering, depth of field and much more…
  • Multi-GPU support: unleash the graphic power of the best computer set ups for jaw-dropping graphics powered by Massive Entertainment’s game engine Snowdrop.
  • Multi-screen support: play with up to three screens for the most immersive and stunning experience of The Division.
  • Multi-resolutions: opt for 1080p or 4k and automatically adapt the resolution to fit multi-screen configurations with FOV correction.
  • Unlocked framerate: let the most powerful computer reach the highest framerate.
  • HBA0+: enjoy the most realistic shadowing, lighting algorithm and ambient occlusion.

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Even though this would be a logical point to begin discussing some of the more important aspects of The Division‘s PC port, it’s worth noting that perhaps the coolest feature that Ubisoft and Red Storm have implemented is an official keyboard lighting configuration for certain Logitech keyboards. If you’re the owner of one of these peripherals (like the G910 Orion Spark), then you’re going to be able to have your keyboard light up in a way that illustrates the function of your bindings. For instance, keys that have a direct attack functionality can light up red, while movement options are green. Yes, this is a totally ridiculous feature that only totally ridiculous nerds will enjoy (not including me, as I’m a green Razer Blackwidow Ultimate kind of guy), but the fact that this is even an official thing says a lot about the effort surrounding this PC port.

Let’s get back on track though, shall we? From multi-monitor support that allows you to realign your HUD on any of your screens to SLI and 4K support, The Division feels right at home on PC. One of the few bummers about the three and a half hours I spent with the Xbox One version was that it was clear that some visual and performance compromises had to be made to get a playable product on what is the weaker of the two major consoles out on the market. Seeing the The Division in all its high-resolution glory running at sixty frames-per-second on three monitors really hammered home that the best way to experience Ubisoft Massive’s magnum opus is almost certainly going to be on PC. Sure, with massive online games with tons of moving parts (especially those that allow The Dark Zone to be so progressive), there could potentially be issues that went unanticipated during development, but if the build that Ubisoft felt comfortable enough to show off is any indication, then this could be the makings of a shining example for PC ports.

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There’s a few elements of The Division‘s PC port that were immediately evident from the moment I laid hands on the keyboard and mouse. The first is that it was far and away the best looking version of the latest Tom Clancy title. This should come as no surprise, as the graphical fidelity that a high-powered PC can render is no secret to anyone, but there was more to it than that. Because The Division is a game set in an apocalyptic version of Manhattan (one grounded in reality, no less), there is something haunting and immersive about witnessing a horrifying take on a real-world location. One of the biggest draws to The Division, even among players that are not fans of online multiplayer gameplay or big-budget shooters, is how fascinating its setting is. The Xbox One iteration certainly has its moments of beauty, but it’s certainly not without its low resolution assets and hitches. Being able to experience this world the way it feels like it was designed, especially after seeing it in less detail, really drove home its message.

I’m certainly well aware, as are many of you, of the horror show that ensues in every comment section whenever a game’s framerate is brought up. Without fanning those flames even harder, it’s really tough to make the argument that a shooter plays better at thirty frames-per-second on a controller than at sixty frames-per-second on a mouse and keyboard. Your personal preference may steer you far away from the world of clicking to shoot enemies, and there’s nothing incorrect about this, but it’s also fair to suggest that controllers are inherently more imprecise than a solid gaming mouse and a mechanical keyboard. With that said, The Division is a game where seconds really do count, and not being able to land a headshot on another player might be the difference between getting that awesome piece of loot you wanted and walking away with nothing. Being able to experience the tangible difference between how precise aiming is on the Xbox One version and the PC port hammered home that the tightest shooting takes place on the latter.

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One other feature that hangs out deep within The Division‘s PC interface hammered home the quality of life improvements that Red Storm and Ubisoft Massive have put into this port. By default, players have the ability to leap over cover and climb onto small objects by hitting the left control key. Yes, this is totally remappable since this is a PC game, after all. If you’re not the type of player who likes to perform what one unnamed Ubisoft employee referred to as “pinky gymnastics,” however, you have the ability to turn on Parkour Mode. Whenever you have this option enabled, your character will automatically vault objects whenever you sprint towards them. The result is a smoother, more seamless movement experience and the fact that the teams behind The Division thought about something as small as pinky finger over-extension speaks volumes here.

While fooling around with The Divison on PC, I attempted to find out whether this would be a Uplay-exlcusive or a title that would launch on Steam as well. We all know that services like Uplay and EA’s Origin are the banes of many gamer’s existence, and there are fair reasons for this. With the immediate Steam releases of fellow Tom Clancy title Rainbow Six Siege and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, however, both of which are games that personally underwhelmed, it seemed as though a Steam edition of The Division would be in play. When the official Steam Store page for The Division opened for business, I’m sure that there was a sigh of relief across the PC gaming community.

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If there’s one thing that all gamers, whether on PC, consoles, handhelds, mobile devices or some combination of the four should ask for, it’s that all of their games should have as much polish as possible. Make no mistake, there will always be games that come out broken in some form or fashion and games with as many moving parts as Fallout 4 will always have their comical bugs, but when money is exchanged for a product, consumers are well within their rights to hope for quality. Not only does The Division feel like a smooth polished experience on PC from what I was able to experience, but the apparent high quality of this port could elevate what is shaping up to be a dynamic experience.