Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Tom Clancy's The Division is the culmination of multiple adjectives that describe modern gaming: open-world, post-apocalypse, military, seamless multiplayer, four-player cooperative, and urban warfare. So at least in terms of design it remains well within the box but also attempts to fill box as tightly as possible, fitting squarely within the ranks of Ubisoft's high-profile catalog.
No stranger to being a target of fictional (and non-fictional) devastations, New York City has been transformed into a catastrophic landscape ridden with ruthless survivalists, looters, muggers, and power-hungry factions. A highly contagious disease, whose origin remains shrouded in mystery (though I suspect bioterrorism) has destablized the United States of America in matter of days.
It's not certain whether the entirety of the country has been affected, whether an antidote has been created, or how long it's been since the disease has taken hold, but it's clear that the President of the United States has charged the newly-formed civilian-based agents of The Division to restore order and, for you and your team, reclaim the city. This open world isn't about flashy hacking capabilities or fleeing the police in a stolen sports car; but clearing a path for civilization to return, one street at a time.
A significant portion of The Division's gameplay can be surmised from its stunning trailer during the E3 2014 press conferences, though in a theater presentation on the show floor, the developers made sure to explain some of the details that might have been missed at first glance. Before entering the firefight above ground, you and up to three of your friends can explore the ruins of the New York City subway system, specifically the 34th Street station. By activating the ECHO system, appearing as bright orange holograms overlaying the world that reveals moments of how life was before the wall. Hopefully, this will be just one manner in which the backstory will be told.
Proper preparation is key as well, outfitting your character with extra gear and tools to even the odds against gang members who enjoy taunting and overwhelming your team. Through a menu accessible on your character's wrist, you can craft and customize weapons like sticky bombs, seeker mines, lures, tear gas, pulse and auto-turrets. You can also access an overlay map of the city that shows areas of contamination, where your character automatically puts on a gas mask, as well as areas in distress that you can liberate. By freeing the museum in Midtown South, it can become an important stronghold in clearing out other opposing factions in the area.
In the hands-off live demonstration, gunfights themselves feel intense and play out similar to a modern-day Borderlands with a cover system. Damage numbers pop up on successful hits, better armor can drop as loot, and you can revive fallen friends by hovering near them. The HUD framing and following your character shows health, your squad's health, and your character's level and current ammo. Another player can even control a drone that can reveal the location of enemies and stun them with a flickering light blast. Coordinated team communication is of course a given.
The Division justifies and requires the power of next-gen consoles, and I can't imagine the title releasing for Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. Created on the Ubisoft's proprietary Snowdrop Engine, Tom Clancy's The Division is set for a 2015 release date for Xbox One, PS4, and PC.