Tom Clancy's The Division preview: 'Our game is an RPG' says Massive Entertainment

When we see the Tom Clancy name it tends to make us think of first person shooters (and novels, of course). Which is exactly why The Division, and its third person style, defied our expectations - and then exceeded them. 

"Our game is an RPG, and using your skills is very important", Massive Entertainment tells us.

In a behind closed doors presentation of the game at this year's E3 expo in Los Angeles we're treated to a bleak and snowy, yet beautiful, New York city. Following a virus outbreak the world is a rougher place, with scatterings of gangs looking to further their existence.

We don't see The Division as a role-playing game in the traditional sense, but there are a number of factors that help it to stand apart from the busying crowd.

First the open-world nature of the game is all about exploration and choice; travel around the unused Metro or over ground on the city streets. Real weather and time systems mean you can tackle tasks at different points in time, potentially used to your advantage. Or not.

"Night is a dangerous place in our game. Factors such as weather and the time of day are also very important - they will influence your experience as a player", we're told.

Secondly there's team play and tactics which are an essential. The game's live interface looks great, overlaying a translucent set of stats to each character on screen so you can glance at both colleagues and enemies to assess what their strengths and weaknesses are.

When taking down a group you'll need to assess their credentials, pick off the weaker ones in order to increase your chances. Going in gung ho and shooting up the place without the right support in the right places will likely result in your downfall. It's all tactical.

Lastly there's the ability to loot in order to gather collectibles which can be used to level-up weapons, regain health and so forth. There's also a skills tree where you'll want to select and distribute special abilities and weapons to your in-game colleagues.

But it's all real-time, with no drawn-out turn by turn play. An RPG Metal Gear Solid perhaps.

It all looks gorgeous too thanks to the Snowdrop Engine. "We want to set the graphical bar for the next-generation of gaming". Looks like Massive has succeeded to us, particularly with some of the wonderful integrations of maps and "echo" - a device which reconstructs a 3D scene of a moment from the past.

From what we've seen The Division looks like it'll be one of the stronger titles in 2015. A third person tactical shooter with RPG elements and bags of originality. Just the ticket.