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Five Beautifully Subtle Details You Might Notice in The Division

In many ways, Tom Clancy’s The Division shows New York City at its absolute worst. The city has been decimated by a virus, after all, leaving abandoned vehicles everywhere, trash piled 10 feet high, and roaming bands of looters to add a further element of misery. Oh, and corpses. So many corpses. But the game is also loaded with tiny details that show off the city in a shockingly realistic – and even beautiful – fashion. Here are five impressive subtleties that we’ve noticed so far.

Stone in Love

Take aim at one of the zillion pieces of decorative stone, brick, or concrete in New York City and you’ll be in for a neat surprise: It all behaves just as you’d expect. Blast away at a brick wall and brick faces will be blown off, dropping chunks that persist in the game world. Go full-auto on a concrete planter and you can chew right through a corner. Open up on a tiled surface and the tile will shatter and drop off in discrete bits. You can’t blast entirely new entryways through walls – this isn’t Rainbow Six Siege – but when bullets meet stone, the results are undeniably convincing.

Into the Wood

Many wooden structures are similarly convincing, too. Check out what happens when you lay into a park bench, pallet, or temporary wall: The wood splinters and breaks in a most satisfying fashion. You can knock out some holes, carve out entire slats, or demolish the whole thing. So, pro tip: Do not use park benches as cover.

Shattering Records

One of the most satisfying bits of unnecessary destruction in The Division comes when you take aim at windows, mirrors, or other glass structures. Each type of glass shatters in a different way, from fragile plate glass to tempered car windows. You can even get creative with your shots, carving out a shape in a plate-glass window that will fall out, leaving a custom-crafted hole in the glass. And, of course, bullets penetrate glass realistically. To demonstrate, try firing through a car window; the bullet will follow the trajectory and puncture the window on the other side – leaving a hole just different enough to seem realistic. And speaking of cars, notice how you can close doors, hoods, and trunks. And cars even have semi-realistic suspension: Shoot out a couple of tires, and the vehicle will noticeably sag to that side. Or enlist a friend to climb up on top of the car, and notice how it dips under them.

Everywhere, Signs

This post-pandemic NYC is loaded with signs: Warning signs, LED billboards, store signs, and (of course) street signs. And each type of sign reacts to being shot differently. Metal signs deform where the bullet hits, with clear indentations on both sides. Fiberglass store signs shatter and fall to the street (occasionally accompanied by a shower of sparks). LED billboards show dead pixels where you hit them. And LCD signs glitch out as you shatter the display. And of course, the pattern on each of these is slightly different, depending on your weapon.

Seeing the Light

The use of light in The Division is one of its most technologically impressive and subtle details. The real-time shadows that reflect exactly what your character is carrying are neat enough. But the game also has a remarkably lifelike sunlight model: Stand in one place long enough, and you can see the shadows of the buildings move as the sun crosses the sky, shifting to a noticeably redder hue at sunset and sunrise.

And the way the light changes in different weather conditions is simply gorgeous: A dense fog provides a soft, diffuse light, for example, while a heavy snowfall darkens the sky perceptibly. And check out how neon looks in a nighttime fog! One other neat light-related feature: You can shoot out way more lights than you’d think. They almost all flicker back to life very quickly, but it’s a nifty touch nonetheless. And speaking of light, try shooting through one of the banners mounted on a lamppost; you’ll see light through the persistent bullet holes.

Of course, this kind of interactivity is almost entirely unnecessary from a gameplay standpoint. Some of the destructibility can affect cover in a small way, but it’s not exactly a game-changing feature. But, taken as a whole, all these little touches combine to make this version of New York City feel spectacularly immersive and lifelike. See for yourself: Tom Clancy’s The Division is available now on Xbox One.