The Division was a controversial release back in 2016. On the one hand, there were claims of a downgrade from its initial reveal trailer, but on the other, Ubisoft Massive still showcased some beautiful technology in the final game. In fact, booting it up today on Xbox One X – now updated with an enhanced 4K patch – it’s striking how vast the Snowdrop’s engine feature set actually is. Volumetric fog effects, real-time reflections, object physics and parallax occlusion maps help anchor this post-apocalypse Manhattan as something real and believable. The terrain isn’t just a wasteland of derelict cars either. Factoring in the beautiful snow particle effects and lighting, there’s a vibrancy to the map that dodges the grittiness of most apocalyptic shooters. Two years on, The Division still holds up – and it’s a real treat on Xbox One X.
As of patch 1.8.1, Ubisoft Massive gives the game a substantial resolution boost on the new Microsoft machine, along with a suite of minor visual extras that all combine to make this great 4K demo material. The game is something of a tricky one to firmly pin down in image quality, with temporal anti-aliasing, chromatic aberration and a dynamic resolution in play on every console, from PS4, PS4 Pro and even Xbox One and X, but our final numbers are fascinating nonetheless, with the new Microsoft console really flexing its muscles.
But first, let’s backtrack a little. PS4 Pro already has its own enhanced patch to support ultra HD TVs – an update we missed when it first dropped – but it doesn’t hit the lofty heights of a full, native 4K resolution. In fact, the highest number we picked up in pixel counts is 3200×1800 while indoors, with a dynamic scaler letting it flex downwards at stress points. And although 1800p is the upper bounds of the scaling range, there is a catch. Like all of the console versions, the Snowdrop engine reconstructs the image while movement is static, to give the impression of a true 4K. It’s convincing as long as you stay still, but once we step forward, the illusion breaks and resolution drops.