The labyrinthine subways and tunnels of New York are an ideal setting for The Division’s first paid expansion, which introduces Underground Operations – special missions that consist of randomized dungeons and objectives. I had a chance to check out one of these missions at E3 2016, specifically a quick 1 Phase Operation, and came away wanting to dig deeper into the depths of Manhattan’s underbelly. But before getting started, our squad leader gave us a quick tour of the new Tactical Operations Center – an extension to the Base of Operations.
While there’s plenty of activity in the area, you’ll want to head to the table in the center of the room where you can start planning your operation, starting with four difficulty options – normal, hard, challenging, and heroic (all of which have recommended gear scores associated with them, so you’ll have an additional reference for the challenge ahead). Also, the menus indicate that all multi-phase Underground Operations are only playable on hard and above. In our case, ur three-person squad decides to take it easy, and we go for the normal difficulty setting, which means we can only select the 1 Phase mission. Our guide then explains Directives, a collection of modifiers that can make the mission more difficult. To give you an idea, there’s Fog of War, which removes HUD elements (like the mini-map) from your screen, lowering your awareness of enemy positions. Waste Not Want Not makes you lose any remaining ammunition in a clip during reload, and generally gives you less ammo. Mad Skills makes it so that when you use a skill, it sets the cooldown timer on all of your skills, while using a signature skill forces the cooldown on all of your teammates’ signature skills. Special Forces gives enemies special ammo types, and finally, Sickness constantly depletes health down to the last segment of your health bar. We select Fog of War and head underground to our first mission.
Having watched other Agents play through their own Underground Operation before getting a turn to play, it’s cool to see just how different our level layout is from that one. The opening moments of their mission had a relatively large space dotted with subway trains to run in and out of. Conversely, ours directs us to a room that featured stairs and ladders for more vertical movement, but is much smaller. As we move through the level to complete our objective of destroying enemy supplies, the Fog of War modifier has a noticeable impact on our strategy – we’re relying even more on our squadmates to use the Pulse skill, and we’re moving through the environment a bit slower than we normally would.
That’s not the only thing slowing us down. Underground levels are filled with environmental hazards caused by the damage the system has sustained since the collapse. As we make our way through the rooms, we run not only into two electrical traps (that can be dismantled or carefully navigated around, if there’s room), but also a fire hazard that requires Agents to turn off nearby valves before moving on to destroy more supplies.
Up to this point, most of the enemies haven’t posed too much of a problem (we’re playing on normal, after all), but as soon as we take out the supplies, the room gets rushed by stronger foes, and snipers take up position in the balcony above. We take them out and move into the final area, where there’s a final cache of supplies to destroy, along with even stronger enemies. Our squad leader moves in to destroy the supplies while we flank enemies to draw their fire. After a short but intense firefight, we’re victorious, but if we’d wiped, we would’ve sent back to the Tactical Operations Center. We then make our way to an adjoining room to collect our fancy new loot before heading back to Tactical Operation Center to start another randomized Underground Operation.
The Underground expansion for The Division will be available on Xbox One and PC on June 28, and on PS4 August 2.