The Division is out now and we now have the chance to check whether it remains faithful to the laws of physics and also point out the intricate graphical details. Now there is a very specific reason why we have decided to publish an article like this. If you remember, Watch_Dogs made a complete mockery of physics and despite being a good look gaming, it had several graphical inconsistencies. Being an open world game there is a certain level of expectation as to how environment and objects will react to player’s input. Although complete adherence to physics is an unrealistic expectation, games like Grand Theft Auto 5 have shown us how close games can get to real-world physics simulation. Does The Division improve on Watch_Dogs? Well, the answer is a confusing one because when the SnowDrop Engine decides to do stuff correctly the results are quite good but when it does not, the results could range from downright hilarious to awful.
Before we proceed, we would like to point out that the footage below has been captured from the PC version at Ultra and 1080p settings, and boy does the game look amazing. We will get to the good part in a bit but let us begin with the bad and the ugly!
In The Division you can shoot a vehicle’s tire and make it go flat. Really nice touch, right? But for some odd reason this not the case always. We came across several instances where we were just wasting bullets and the tire won’t budge. Furthermore, shooting at random objects such as plastic bags or cans can bring in mix results. When the player shoots, holes are formed on the plastic bags but for some odd reason they disappear after a while. On the other hand shooting at cans results into unrealistic simulation. They don’t crack or blow up into little pieces. And what about the closing of vehicle doors as the player moves around it? The results are again a mixed bag. When it works, it works and when it doesn’t…well it doesn’t.
Talking more about vehicles, how about shooting at their windshields? We literally emptied magazine after magazine but the windshield remained unaffected. Sure, bullet spots can be seen but ideally the glass should have blown to smithereens. Then we came across a pool board and shooting at those balls should make them move, right?. Well, not really. Hammering bullets into them don’t have any effect at all. A really crazy thing we came across were the light lamps. We literally wasted a ton of bullets on them but due to some Ubisoft magic it always switched back on.
We are pretty sure there is more stuff out there but that will be it for physics gone horribly wrong. Now, finally, on to the good parts. As we mentioned before The Division is an eye killer. It looks absolutely amazing on a capable PC, but small details such as snow flowing along with the wind really adds to the overall experience. In the video above you can see this effect. It’s a subtle touch but adds so much into making a scene rich.
The destruction, too, could be spot on at times. Whether you are destroying a wooden object or wasting bullets through cement pillars, the effect is pretty much spot on. You can even the hear the noise of stone particles dropping on the ground from the pillar as you pull the trigger.
And oh, by the way…do you remember how awful glass reflections were in Watch_Dogs? Well, this seems to have been fixed in The Division. Although the quality of reflections is somewhat questionable, you can see in the video that the reflections of the objects that are actually present behind the player, and not some random objects like in Watch_Dogs.
Other subtle details include the vehicle’s bonnet closing under the player’s weight, light indicators getting destroyed or malfunctioned when shot at, different materials reacting differently to the kind of weapons you are using such as a cardboard box or a white plastic board will react differently to the weapon used, glass getting procedurally destroyed, display sets getting destroyed pixel wise and fire extinguishers going out of control at the exact point where the player shoots it. You can check all of these effects in the video above.
The visuals aesthetics are jaw dropping at times. Whether it is the use of global illumination as light dynamically bounces in a tunnel or as you hustle and bustle through a gloriously lit street, it all comes together thanks to enhanced motion blur and screen space reflections. There is no doubt that The Division looks at its best during night. But hey, don’t get us wrong. The Division is quite a looker too when the sun rises. With improved object detail during day, the theme of a destroyed city is visible in every corner of the city. Debris, broken cars, NPCs roaming around helplessly…all of them come together to create a visceral experience.
In the end, The Division is a great looking game but its physics framework stability is inconsistent as it apparently gets a lot of things wrong, and although it does a lot of things right too, Ubisoft has a long way to go before it can develop games which are as interactive as the likes of Grand Theft Auto 5 in terms of physics simulation. So yes, The Division’s physics and attention to graphical details are better than Watch_Dogs’ but they are good and bad in its own way.