No-one was more excited than me when they announced The Division 2. I played the first one to death and had a great time doing it, hell I’m still playing the first one. So knowing I’d get the chance to get hands on with The Division 2 at this year’s E3 I was practically bouncing off the damn walls.
Making a B-line for the Division 2 queue as soon as my schedule allowed, Gage and I took to the streets of DC to explore the new features available in the demo. Now I’ll admit I may be a little biased towards loving this game but first impressions were strong, reinforced by great gameplay reveals during both the Microsoft and Ubisoft conferences.
The most obvious change is that of the new end game classes; Sharpshooter, Demolitionist and Survivalist. Each character has a unique signature weapon that deals massive damage but comes with very limited ammo. Selecting the Sharpshooter was probably a bad call tactically but we’ll get into that later.
The Survivalist comes equipped with a crossbow that fires exploding bolts. Given the setting it sounds a little out of place at first but that apprehension dissolves after the first “tick-BOOM”. Being able to deal massive damage to multiple targets is something the Division previously struggled with, requiring all kinds of intense builds. That’s less of a concern once you unlock the Survivalist class.
The Demolitionist gets access to a freaking grenade launcher. Capable of firing both chemical and explosive rounds. The chemical rounds are by far the most versatile and interesting as they release a flammable gas that ignites when shot. This can be used to block out areas or, more commonly, lighting everyone on damn fire. Burn damage appears to have been buffed from the previous game or that could be an effect of the launcher.
The Sharpshooter class is the one most familiar to me and my weapon of choice. Full disclosure I died right at the end of the mission because I charged in like a fool. Yes I realise that the sniper should hang back. Lesson learned. The Sharpshooter’s rifle is absolutely devastating, a good shot will drop any normal enemy and most veterans. Elites take two or three headshots before going down but the ability to dispatch them quickly from a distance is exceptionally useful.
Aside from the classes, The Division 2 behaves much the same mechanically, the kinks having been worked out thanks to its predecessor. Enemy behaviours have been altered significantly showing more tactical forethought than they did previously and their access to special weapons like the immobilisation gel is a nice change. Gage got turned into a cavity creep more than once, prompting the tune to get stuck in both of our heads.
Not only do they behave differently but it seems the whole “bullet sponge” issue from the first game has been dealt with by normalising health, both player and NPC, and giving them destructible armour. Access to the signature weapons also seems to help level the field, in some cases quite literally (looking at you Demo-guy).
The Division 2 takes place 6 months after the Dollar Flu outbreak and you’re in the height of DC Summer. The collapse of civil structure clearly hit the gardeners first as DC is overgrown thanks to unchecked growth and the over abundance of sunlight. The sunbathed streets of DC seem not only warm but somehow convey the feeling of pretty intense humidity along with it, given the waste left in the streets of Manhattan during the previous game I dread to think how bad the place smells.
One interesting question raised was that of the Dark Zone, everyone’s favourite PvP hellhole, just what was going to happen with it? Whether it was an intentional slip of the tongue or not remains to be seen but our spirit guide pointed out a giant biohazard wall and said “That’s the edge of one of the Dark Zones- er I mean the Dark Zone.” So it’s possible we’ll be seeing multiple quarantined sections scattered across DC rather than focused in one continuous murder pit.
All in all The Division 2 is looking to be the perfect sequel to the first game, building on the solid foundations put down and learning from the predecessor’s mistakes. It handles great from the demo build we got to play and the new environment is a nice change to the snow-capped streets of New York. To say I’m excited about the full release would be an understatement.
Here’s hoping I can finally get one of those SHD-tech watches…