Depending on your timezone, you may already have a retail copy of Tom Clancy’s The Division installing on your machine of choice. The game officially launches on March 8, and just like you, we’re only now getting our hands on the final product. Though GameSpot often receives review code ahead of a game’s scheduled launch date, Ubisoft opted to give reviewers access the same day as everyone else in this particular instance. As a result, our official scored review will not go live until we’ve had an opportunity to complete the campaign, conquer the Dark Zone, and explore everything else the game has to offer–including its live, populated servers.

From the limited amount I’ve played so far, I can tell you the core experience hasn’t changed much since the game’s recent betas, though I was finally able to play to the previously omitted opening section. Rather than waking up mid-crisis in a chopper bound for Manhattan, you start in the considerably calmer borough of Brooklyn just moments after your Agent is activated. Following an introductory cutscene, you customize your character’s physical features in a car window before heading off to the local command center for a formal briefing–or at least, as formal your beleaguered crew can muster.

This section smartly aligns your perspective with that of your character: both of you are just now joining the effort to curb the rampant violence engulfing a virus-stricken New York City, so it makes sense you’d get some light training and exposition. Though it’s clear The Division will be driven far more by loot than by character progression, this early narrative framing provides enough context that the action at least makes sense–even if there’s arguably a logical disconnect between The Division’s themes of peacekeeping in a survival situation and the constant gunfights of the moment-to-moment gameplay. Still, by the time you’ve cleaned up Brooklyn, you’ll have gathered the equipment and experience you need to dive into the real conflict in Manhattan.

Enemies still absorb a great deal of damage, but with the right gear, they don’t necessarily feel like total bullet sponges. Putting down any enemy remains a challenge, but you no longer have to expend an entire clip to take down one guy, assuming you’ve been diligently upgrading your load out. A much bigger issue–at least early on–is enemy variety. The first few hours recycle the same garden variety looters over and over, most of whom employ the same tired tactics every time. In certain instances, I actually noticed enemies run past me as if on a preset paths. Mission variety also seems to be a potential issue, as the first three side missions in Brooklyn all reuse simplistic objectives seen in the betas: go to a location, tag an object, defend the object from incoming enemies. Thankfully, I’ve yet to see either the Rikers or Cleaners in action, and there’s plenty of campaign still ahead of me. With any luck, these as yet unseen elements will inject the variety The Division needs.

With dozens of hours and unlocks ahead of me, it’s still far too early to assign a score, but my initial impressions are positive. You can check back later this week for the full review, but in the meantime, you can enjoy our livestream of the first six hours to get a better sense of what post-outbreak New York has in store.

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Tom Clancy’s The Division

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