GAMES: New firepower with The Division (PS4) by Ubisoft
UBISOFT'S hyped-to-the-gills marquee title, The Division mixes RPG-lite levelling with multiplayer blasting as a top-secret group of sleeper agents hit the mean streets of a virus-ravaged New York, confronting the angry mobs that have sprung up in the aftermath. Tom Clancy's hackneyed plot involves infected dollar bills thinning out the proletariat on Black Friday in a nightmare scenario that'll make you think twice about trampling through Asda for that cut-price Beko.
As a member of The Division, players must take back the streets in an online extravaganza stuffed with cliched action-movie motifs.
The online team building has drawn inevitable comparisons to Destiny, but whereas Activision's overhyped, grind-heavy gameplay rapidly descended into butt-grade crap, The Division is much closer in spirit to Borderlands, with a dash of The Last of Us in its decaying, virus-ravaged setting.
With nary a magic alien in sight, The Division instead aims for realism, and with a terrifyingly plausible smallpox attack and the Big Apple going to hell in a handcart, you'll have more than just the pimps and CHUDs to contend with.
Gameplay is of the "go to point A, shoot things and pick up loot" variety as you and up to three friends you Pliskin your way through the city that never sleeps, saving civilians and picking off rioters for their sweet, sweet loot. Easter eggs abound, with references to everything from Breaking Bad and I Am Legend to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a game that seamlessly blends elements of co-op and competitive gunplay.
Evolving your soldier means the inevitable grind as the game slowly doles out better gear for those who tackle its content across the city's 16 districts, but it's never a chore.
And if, like me, your friends are too busy doing silly things like having families, you can play solo or have plenty of craic with online randoms. When you tire of the main event, the Dark Zone is easily The Division's best idea.
A classic player-on-player arena, players tool up in a safe zone before entering an urban death maze where players can smack your corpse around for contaminated loot which must be choppered out. Alarms alert enemies to airlifts while your group's chatter can be overheard in a clammy-palmed take on multiplayer. The cover shooter has fallen out of favour since the heyday of Gears of War.
As a result, The Division actually feels fresh in a sea of Call of Duty clones, with beefy gunplay and grunts that are more nimble than Gears' man-mountains. Blasting Manhattan rioters, desecrating their cadavers and getting the leccy back on is more fun that it has any right to be in this slickly packaged blockbuster. Start spreading the news – I'm leaving today…