|Release Date||March 15th, 2019|
|Platforms||PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One|
|Developer||Ubisoft & Massive Entertainment|
*A copy of the game was provided by Ubisoft to FYIG for review purposes.*
In the wake of the widespread release of the “Green Poison” smallpox virus, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 brings players back into the post-apocalyptic United States to again take back what rightfully belongs to the country. This time, from The Division‘s setting in Manhattan right after Christmas, trouble stirs in a new area – Washington D.C. A distress call goes out as the S.H.D. network goes dark, and it’s up to the Division to help citizens bring D.C. back to its former glory.
Right off the bat, The Division 2 is similar to its predecessor, with run and gun combat, varying weaponry and gear, and a large game world to unlock and explore. After a short introduction and random tutorials, you’re set free to explore a realistic D.C. and begin to restore the area to a fraction of its former glory. Much like Manhattan in The Division, D.C. feels as if it were just left right where it was and abandoned. There’s trash and random items, but homes and businesses seem like people could still live there, and Christmas decorations are still strewn about. Without the enemies wandering, which can be a nuisance to the still landscapes, one might wonder if everyone simply just disappeared. However, the enemies are still there and you have a job to do – no time for sightseeing! The first enemies encountered are Hyenas – random goons dead set on ruining everything good in the world. Both roaming in packs and holing up in control points, as well as conducting public executions and spreading propaganda, it’s up to you (and your friends) to take ’em down. As you progress, though, different enemy groups like the True Sons, Outcasts, and post-game Black Tusks stand in your way, each group more difficult than the last.
The world is also lush with S.H.D. tech caches, materials like steel and ceramics, as well as resources like water and food to resupply settlements, fortify outposts, and generally helping out the people that need it most. The world of Division 2 feels a bit emptier than Manhattan, with seemingly less random houses or buildings to explore, but that’s made up with more to actually do. Where The Division lacked in content, The Division 2 makes up for in droves. Everything picked up from the world is useful for something, even if at times it feels like some things cost too many resources or it might be a slog to obtain them. Exploring feels worth it over sticking to the main roads and paths where the hidden gems are just out of view.
Working towards a common goal is a satisfying way to power through difficult situations, and The Division 2 is no exception. Unlocked settlements and control points need resources, materials, and safety. Clearing out a section of the map helps achieve those goals in many ways, like stopping a public execution, taking out a high-level enemy, or even just making sure the settlements have enough supplies. The more donated and completed, the better each settlement gets, and the rewards are easily seen in each settlement. The Theater settlement, for example, will show you a new game corner for the kids, a battery farm, and eventually defenses and a steady supply of resources for the inhabitants via hydroponics. It’s satisfying to know that you’re making a difference, even though the game can sometimes seem repetitive. Making sure that the Control Points are well stocked also grants bonuses like better loot detection and better enemy detection for a range around each point.
While The Division 2 seems to be a simple shooter on the surface, the story lurking beneath the chaos delves into the perilous situations of a rebounding society. Saving agents, helping communities, and hope on the horizon drives players through D.C., in a sometimes futile attempt to be the force of change. Main characters are unlocked and travel to the White House as you unlock them, showing positive change with each new filled room. The story occasionally feels as if it lacks depth, most often relying on a sense of urgency and necessity more than emotion or genuine want, but the tone matches the game well. There’s a job to do, and you’re a specialist there to do it. Those who enjoy a genuinely-driven story may not fit in well with the more combat-focused style that The Division 2 offers. Post-game content was also beefed up considerably from the previous game – players have a reason to keep playing after the game has “ended” and max level reached. While it may not be as in-depth as some would like, maybe hoping for an extension to the story, Ubisoft has confirmed that the first year of The Division 2‘s DLC will be free (one every three months), and will include more story and post-game content.
One of the perks of being a specialist agent in the Division means a ton of cool tech and weaponry to unlock and discover. The Division 2 adds more tech, skills, and perks than its predecessor, which means a lot more fun ways to take down your enemies. Progression classes are still available, giving players the option to specialize to a class that more uniquely fits their playstyle, like a long-range Sharpshooter with a special sniper rifle or a Demolitionist with a grenade launcher. New skills also join the mix, with an unmanned drone to pick off your enemies and a chemical launcher to slowly poison or dismantle enemy armor. Combining Skills and Perks, your character molds into one of your playstyle – whether you hang behind and pick off from afar or rush in and cause the most mayhem possible.
Of course, as is Tom Clancy tradition, weapons are realistic and widely varying. Ranging in rank from Worn to Exotic, each weapon has different fire rate, accuracy, and damage, among other modifiers. Higher level weapons offer more damage and even specialist Talents, which offer more specialized bonuses like more damage multipliers or better handling and stability. Also returning to The Division 2 is the ability to craft weapon upgrades and additions like a sight or a stock that will make your weapons even better. On top of weapons, you get to find and experiment with clothing of different types, like kneepads, a respirator mask, or a holster. Each piece of clothing offers different defensive resistance, as well as perks similar to weapons that can give offensive bonuses or even more health. Finding good combinations and even sets of clothing offers even more bonuses, and even look good to boot.
Where The Division 2 really shines is in co-op. This is rather disheartening on some fronts, because The Division was fun to play by yourself, and offered a slightly different experience than playing with friends. I’ll be completely honest, I spent the first two days playing this game very frustrated. I would die all the time – enemies felt like huge bullet sponges while I felt like a piece of fine China – a few hits and I was down for the count. There were too many enemies and it seemed completely unreasonable to be able to take them all on by yourself. I don’t actually play with friends often, I really enjoy taking the time to play and explore by myself at my own pace. It wasn’t until I went out to buy another Xbox One X (which I’ll talk about later) and another copy of the game so that my fiancee and I could play together in the house that I really started to enjoy what The Division 2 had to offer. We turned into tactical machines, blasting through D.C. with a goal in our minds to just wipe out everyone that opposed us. The game became exponentially more fun when it wasn’t one-versus-the-world, and even more so with a full squad of four just jumping from one mission to the other. Taking out bounties and high-level bosses was just fun, and didn’t feel like a terrifying game of cat and mouse. Going back to playing by myself just turned into stealthy clearing of the map and picking up caches, which was pretty boring in comparison. The game does give the option to call other agents in real-time that are playing the game, but those responses are sporadic and can leave you waiting with a significant amount of time before someone answers and joins your game. Something as simple as player scaling for the NUMBER of players in a world instance would have really helped this, and given players who play alone some more freedom to enjoy the game.
On top of traditional co-op, the Dark Zone makes a return in The Division 2. Similar to the previous game, the Dark Zone is an area of high risk, higher reward. Everything is harder, and you’re not only up against enemies but fellow Division agents for the best loot possible – and they may even go rogue and turn on you for your gear. Like before, this mode seems to be more fun in a larger group where everyone can work together – and that kind of play just isn’t for me. I popped into the Dark Zone a few times, but it wasn’t very enjoyable. I do know many people that will only level up enough to unlock the next Dark Zone and spend more time there than in the regular game. It’s high-pressure and keeps you on the edge of your seat trying to make sure you make it out with something good that you can use.
We’ll continue on this streak of honesty and make sure to point out one thing that really seemed to hit me the wrong way. I did buy an Xbox One X for my office, as I wanted to have a better, powerful console to stream with, and so co-op in the house was easier than game sharing or switching accounts (which is an appropriate hassle for trying to skirt around game ownership). I’d played The Division 2 for a few days on an Xbox One S, and getting it installed on an X was an almost striking change in graphics quality, technical performance, and even reduced the amount of crashes that I was experiencing on the One S. Now, I’m very aware that a high- and low-end PC experience the same, but it almost seemed like the game was only optimized for the One X, and very little care was given to weaker systems. While I loaded into the game in about 30 seconds or less, friends had to wait 2 or 3 entire minutes to finish loading. It made walking more preferable to fast travel when everyone has to wait. That being said, as much as I want to dislike the game, I keep going back, and I’ll keep going back for a long time. It’s just plain old fun, and a great way to spend an evening.