The Best and Worst of Tom Clancy's 'The Division' Beta Release

A screenshot from Tom Clancy's "The Division," which features a dystopian New York City following a smallpox breakout during Thanksgiving weekend. Ubisoft/Courtesy

Tom Clancy's The Division released its beta preview last week for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, giving gamers a taste of what has been hyped as a role-playing game to dethrone the popular Destiny. Thanks to the high demand, Ubisoft, the developers for The Division, extended the availability of the preview until Tuesday.

Newsweek got its hands on The Division over the weekend. The verdict? In short: It's definitely promising, thanks in particular to great visuals that makes apocalyptic New York City seem nearly real. Here, we break down parts of the short beta preview into what we did and we didn't like.

The Best: New York City Looks Like Hell

And I mean this in the nicest way possible. The premise of The Division is that New York City is stricken with a smallpox epidemic during Black Friday, causing the entire city to descend into chaos. The players are supposed to go into the "dark zone" and restore order into the city.

The upscale Chelsea neighborhood looks like all hell broke loose. Madison Square Garden is converted to a field hospital and has been taken by the "hostiles." The James A. Farley Post Office, which is across the street from the Garden, is the scene of a huge shootout in the single-player mode, and it is really fun. When the snow starts to fall on New York City, it feels both romantic and eerie at the same time.

The Worst: The Gameplay Is Pretty Unremarkable

After finishing the beta preview, I immediately hopped onto another video game for another couple of hours. The game left a fleeting impression aside from the dystopian New York City visuals. The gameplay was standard, and the shootouts blended together into a procession of a seemingly invincible protagonists gunning down a line of enemies.

The game's Skills Tree feature sounds promising in its potential to customize the player with new medical, tech and "security power boots." It may spice up the game, especially in multiplayer. But in beta, the range of these skills was limited to one per player, which left me forgetting I can use them to bail myself out of some tough situations.

The Best: The Storyline Sounds Promising

The beta preview obviously offers a small glimpse into the entire storyline, but I enjoyed most of the plot so far. Since this is a role-playing game, there are missions along the way for players to finish. One of the best was rescuing a doctor held on hostage in the Madison Square Garden field hospital. Since New York City has collapsed due to an epidemic, doctors are worth their weight in gold, and one senses that something significant is on the line in the rescue mission. More of that, please, Ubisoft.

The Worst: The AI Hostiles Are Pretty Dumb

In the same Madison Square Garden rescue mission, the hostage-takers bombarded me with gas canisters to trap me into a corner. At one point, I retreated and found a place to hide, and I just gunned down the hostiles one by one because they, for some reason, were bull-rushing toward me instead of taking position in a comfortable distance away. It was a sad ending to a tense, well-built situation.

The Best: It's a Ruthless, Dog-Eat-Dog World

One of the best parts about The Division is that it tries to depict the pure chaos in a lawless metropolis. Looting between players and hostiles and between players and players are both possible. Alliances and sticking together in packs may be needed in multiplayer to survive through the winter, but it also can create backstabbing and looting from people you trusted.

The Worst: Why Are We Shooting at the Hostiles?

The hostiles are hooded thugs with shotguns and tear gas canisters who are supposedly agents of chaos. But when I was playing the beta preview, I had no idea why I was fighting them. What were their motivations to loot and kill? Why did I have to shoot them? All I know is that a surprising number of them are named Alex.

After the umpteenth hostile I killed, the whole situation started to rub me the wrong way—and it seems I am not the only one. My character is brought to Manhattan by the U.S. government to bring order to a city filled with hooded vandals who may or may not be looting to survive the smallpox and the cold. It reminded me too much of Ferguson, Missouri, or 1994 Los Angeles, my hometown. Hopefully, Ubisoft will disclose much more about the motivations and the organizations of these hostiles in later beta releases or when the game actually comes out this March.