All that hype. All that expectation. All those delays. All that face paint. For a food salvage operation?

You've decked me out in camouflage gear and given me an automatic weapon, just so I can find some snacks?

Welcome to Tom Clancy's The Division, a game that promises to deliver the year's best shooter, but gets off to a spectacularly underwhelming start.

There you are, wandering around an apocalyptic Manhattan, with fires burning and snow piling on cars after a biological attack, and all you're doing is protecting some canned food.

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Thankfully, after running errands for around half an hour, The Division finds its feet and becomes the game it's always promised to be.

You're a sleeper agent for The Division, a super-secret military force tasked with restoring order to Manhattan's infected areas. Overrun by looters, your job is to secure a base then work your way through missions in surrounding suburbs. Some involve clearing buildings of looters or flame-throwing "cleaners". Others require you to rescue hostages.

Most involve you shooting a lot of people for long periods of time during tactical firefights that require you to use those snow-blasted streets to your advantage.

That makes The Division sound repetitive and boring. It's anything but. This is a sharp take on technological warfare that encourages you to make the most of your equipment and surroundings. Taking cover, so cumbersome in other games, is a breeze. Matchmaking, sometimes a tiresome gruel, is quick and seamless. Same with respawning. Levelling up is necessary, and addictive. And if you're a gear guy, you can have a say on anything from which sticky bombs you're carrying to which knee pads you're wearing.

But the best thing about The Division is the Dark Zone. An area filled with fellow players running amok, it's a place where rewards are plentiful but friends can quickly turn "rogue" to take your stuff. This, surely, is the kind of psychological warfare that most accurately depicts a city on the brink. Expect to spend a lot of time there.


Game: Tom Clancy's The Division
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Rating: R16
Verdict: We've seen the future.