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Tom Clancy's The Division shows first signs of graphical downgrade

Ubisoft neuters The Division's graphical output from Ultra down to High.
Raise your hand if you saw this coming.

Wow! That's quite a few of you. For those of you with un-raised hands, staring blankly at your computer screens with jaws agape, let me catch you up to speed. This is the second time Ubisoft has destroyed my hopes for truly next-gen graphics, and they have become exceedingly efficient at it.

When gameplay footage of Ubisoft's Watch_Dogs was first revealed, I was absolutely stunned. Trees swayed and bent beneath the wind. Rain cascaded across the city streets. Civilians traversed the streets with character and personality instead of stock walking animations. I couldn't wait to play it--not because I was interested in the story or the gameplay, but because it was one of the best looking video games I had ever seen.

Then, Watch_Dogs actually released--a watered-down facsimile of what I had been led to expect, and suddenly the fanboy brigade was out in full force, chastising anyone with the pretension to expect a product as advertised. Sure, expos past had taught me to be wary of the pre-rendered cutscene, but never gameplay footage. Not until now. 

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Mostlogical's comment echoes the sentiments of many, but that doesn't make it an easier pill to swallow. After the Watch_Dogs debacle, I had hoped that maybe The Division (also published by Ubisoft) might be different. Unfortunately, that isn't the case.

The video above compares the visual detail present in the 2015 E3 footage of The Division as compared to its 2013 reveal. As you can tell, the overall graphical fidelity has taken a noticeable hit--reduced shader quality, decreased ground clutter, and an apparent absence of bump mapping. Overall, it's as if the game's graphics settings have been lowered from "Ultra" down to "High."

This comparison may seem laughable to some, but it's a comparison I use intentionally. There are a lot of gamers out there who are completely unconcerned with the graphical performance of their games--and that's just fine. You do you.

But for many, pushing the limits of graphical performance is part of what makes next-generation gaming feel new and exciting. To those gamers, anticipating a game for its graphics only to see them needlessly hampered is an incredibly disappointing experience.

If I'm thankful for anything, it's that Ubisoft at least had the decency to reveal these downgraded visuals before the game's release. At least this gives many graphical enthusiasts the opportunity to lower their expectations accordingly.

Tom Clancy's The Division is set to release on March 8, 2016. Expect a wave of graphical modifications to be released in the weeks that follow.

Published Jun. 19th 2015
  • Chris_8312
    Honestly? I'm not that worried.

    There's no way to quantify how good a game looks - at least not overall. Frame rate and resolution are helpful measures, for example, but they are certainly far from being comprehensive. (Think about how they omit something as important to aesthetics as color palette.) So this game went from looking "crazy-awesome" to "pretty great." I wish that hadn't happened, of course, but I don't know if it counts as a downgrade. The game isn't finished; no one bought it under false pretenses.
  • topher339
    I've come to expect that the initial release graphics will always be better than what is actually produced. It's simply used to build hype and make the game look amazing. Ubisoft excels at this. Personally, graphics are hardly ever at the forefront of what I look for in games. The graphics still look great though. The graphics are scope of the game are still more than the 360 could manage. That's next gen enough for me. Eventually a game will come that truly takes advantage of next gen capability but probably not any time soon.

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