Chances are that by now, you've either bought it, or decided you're not going to buy it, and read other reviews - or my review-in-progress. But here it is in a nutshell, for the sake of completion.
Tom Clancy's The Division is set in a mostly abandoned New York City that has been devastated by one of those awful viruses they have nowadays.
Not an original start by any means, but it's a compelling and superbly-realised environment. It manages to be truly open world - you can cross large swathes of it via rooftops, alleyways, or subways. Fires burn, snow falls, and bodies are piled up in makeshift morgues.
The level of detail is, frankly, jaw-dropping.
You play a member of The Division - the type of neoconservative paramilitary groups that you get in games like this. It's a cover-based loot shooter - meaning you can only play online - and you're essentially playing to level up, and find or buy bigger and better weapons and gear. Think Destiny. It's an open-ended quest to get more stuff so you can find yet more stuff.
Which makes me wonder if there's some thinly-veiled meta commentary on consumerism at the heart of the game; the virus was spread through infected cash that got passed around on Black Friday, see. Probably not though; that would be giving the story a little too much credit.
As you'd expect, the core game sees you teaming up with other players to take on story missions and assorted side encounters and skirmishes.
Gradually you'll gather enough resources to build up your headquarters, and as you open new departments in your HQ, you'll open up new things to do.
Yes, the story is banknote-thin, and nothing we haven't seen before, but that's really not the focus here. Despite a couple of token attempts at characterisation, the dramatic personae in The Division are as grey as the concrete canyons of Manhattan, and as memorable as a... y'know... a whatever. A thingy. A thing.
At the centre of the map is The Dark Zone - a player vs player vs harder enemies free-for-all area, where you can find the best gear. However, when you find the best gear, you have to call in a whirlybird to extract it - while defending it, and yourself, from other players and enemies. If you die, other players are free to ransack your failure of a corpse.
And that's it in the broadest of strokes. More or less. You've hopefully "grasped" the "nettle".
THE LATE SHOW
This review is later than I intended, because I wasn't sure quite how much I liked The Division.
That's not because The Division is bad. In fact, when it works it's great. Really great. The highs are proper highs. The rhythm of the combat, the enemy AI... even at default difficulty, it offers a proper challenge without being off-putting.
Thing is... I know Ubisoft's reputation for releasing buggy games. However, Assassin's Creed Unity - allegedly the buggiest they've released to date - played for me without any major issues. The Division, however, I've not been so lucky with. And that's an understatement.
Indeed, it's probably the single most frustrating experience I've had with a game since Super Star Wars on the SNES. At least in that instance, I only lost it - and punched a chair - because the game was difficult. My troubled experience with The Division (at least, the PS4 version I was playing) stems from it seemingly being fundamentally busted in a number of important ways.
I would suggest that on average at least 50% of my games ended with The Division crashing, or being booted out of the server, or having to log out myself because my character wouldn't move, or my gun wasn't having any effect on the enemies, or I got stuck on the scenery.
There are other, minor, bugs - weird graphical glitches. Such as finding a gently rotating arm sticking out of the road, that was so hypnotic that I briefly wondered if it was deliberate, and something they actually have in New York.
At least, I experienced all this when I could actually find a server that would let me play a game. I've vented these frustrations on Twitter, and most people have come back to me saying they've not had any problems. So maybe it is just me - or maybe it isn't.
I can only tell you how I found it, and what I found was a genuinely decent game that was basically a crapshoot in unintended ways. Like wanting to visit a bar you've heard about, but not being sure whether it's going to be open. Or getting there, and finding it has a dress code. Or that it has burned down. Or you walk in, and it's full of partially-nude clowns.
A few of the design choices I struggled with. The menus, map and inventory/skills screens seem to be flashy and over-complicated for the sake of it, rather than practical.
Even now, I'm not always entirely sure whether I've equipped myself with the best items, or if I've dished out all the skills and perks I'm entitled to. Or even which missions I've completed.
That said, when it worked for me, I loved The Division. Aside from it being one of the best looking games I've ever played, it somehow managed to circumnavigate many of the things I found off-putting about Destiny.
The structure didn't feel like I'm wandering through a theme park shooting gallery - which resets every time I turn my back. I felt like I was there. Similarly, the combat hits a sweet spot between arcade accessibility and grounded reality - something helped considerably by the grittiness of the setting. Props too, to the dynamic weather - suddenly you can find yourself in a blizzard, which can force you into changing strategy on the fly.
Yes, gun battles can be a grind - enemies seem capable of taking more hits than you can - and melee is virtually useless. Plus, some of the opponents seem designed to frustrate - the axe-wielding loons who charge you, seemingly with a death wish, are a case in point. They appear to exist purely to befoul the attempts of you and your team to adopt a strategy of suppress-and-flank. But mostly, it makes a whole that's addictive and compelling.
Unfortunately, The Dark Zone currently feels a little too much of a sandbox - some sort of additional structure within it wouldn't go amiss. Mercifully, it looks as if Ubisoft is listening to criticisms, and will continue to build on this already strong and intriguing base in future updates.
Also, the rewards for all your handwork seem to be just better versions of things you already have; I'd urge Ubisoft to think a little bit more creatively with the loot. Think outside the box a bit with the sort of gear players can get. As fun as it is, The Division right now lacks that Kinder Egg surprise factor that was one of the better things about Destiny.
Still, it speaks volumes for the game that, despite all my issues, the server drop-outs, the crashes, the bugs, I still keep returning to it. When it's good, when it's stable, The Division is a proper game. Providing Ubisoft does as good a job of rewarding the faithful as Bungie has with Destiny, I can see myself playing it for a long time to come.
SCORE: 100 ÷ 12 out of 100 ÷ 10