So here we are, The Division 2‘s warped version of Washington D.C. complete with overgrown greenery, abandoned streets, and derelict buildings just begging you to come inside. It’s a world you never thought would exist, yet someone has imagined it, and you’re currently living it.
Bioterrorism has struck once again following the Dollar Flu epidemic from The Division, and as a result factions with their own rules and agendas have decided to take possession of parts of the city to spread their warped outlook on the world and the future we’re all supposed to live. It’s a dark, grim story and one that, if you care to explore, is rich with branching narratives and personal accounts of the biggest disaster that the world has ever seen.
It’s a shame that this story is buried and overshadowed by incredibly engaging and enjoyable gameplay, gameplay which was glistening in the first game, but has been polished within an inch of its life in The Division 2, making it the game we wanted the first one to be and then some. No longer are you progressing towards nothing, you actually feel like the progress you’re making is making a difference to the game as a whole.
The Division had a spark of something magical, it was, launch issues aside, a pretty great game, but it did involve a lot of back and forth as well as gameplay which was a little janky at times. For the most part, this has been fixed with The Division 2 as players can naturally progress through the game with only rarely heading back to the main base of operations in order to upgrade skill levels. This is achieved through settlements which players discover through the game.
These settlements are then developed upon as players clear through each district of Washington. Whether it’s finding rooftop gardens to develop on, or water treatment facilities to provide fresh drinking water for the city’s inhabitants – at least, those who don’t have a different agenda. It’s this sense of accomplishment that I felt was missing from The Division and one I greatly welcome in The Division 2.
The game world is also a huge improvement over the first as it actually feels lived in. Sure, the last game had random encounters as well as sick civilians wandering the streets, but this time these random encounters aren’t only groups of enemies populating crossroads or side streets, they themselves are often doing their own thing, whether it’s looting buildings, sabotaging comms, or in some cases holding a public execution. All of these can be intercepted, and if you’re tactical enough can be thwarted without any victims lost.
What I found most impressive though was that the citizens of Washington D.C. are ruthless. Hostages being held for public execution don’t just scatter when you engage the enemy, they find cover and fight back, and not even that, they’re pretty good at fighting too. They don’t just shoot at random, they actually target and in some cases even take down enemies. This becomes most evident when you’re attempting to take over enemy strongholds.
When deciding to engage an enemy stronghold you have the option to call reinforcements in the form of a random group of civilians. While it does take them a minute or two to arrive when they do you can tell. No longer is the enemy focused solely on you, instead you have a powerful fighting force – not just cannon fodder – to help you take over and subsequently defend the stronghold. It’s genuinely impressive.
One thing that has changed however is the game’s focus on multiplayer. The Division 2 isn’t a game you can enjoy solo. I’ve seen a handful of articles questioning whether The Division 2 is a good single player game, and while I can agree that in some respects you can play the game solo, it’s not really built for it. Free roaming the environment is a good solo experience, as well as foraging for supplies, but as soon as you get into missions you begin to realize that facing-off an entire army of enemies by yourself isn’t a lot of fun.
I’ll admit, I’m not a very patient gamer and several times I found The Division 2 to be beyond frustrating as I’d get flanked by a random enemy who would not only manage to break through my entire armor but also take me down almost instantly. And don’t get me started on the Rushers – those fuckers made me want to actually tear my hair out. That being said, these more frustrating enemies do have weak points which players can exploit.
Much like the Cleaners from the first game, more specialist enemies like Grenadiers or Rushers have weak points which, when targeted, can actually give you a helping hand. With the Grenadiers, for example, they have a nice red pouch which, when targeted, causes their arsenal to explode. This is definitely a nice, quick way to dispatch enemies, however, you do have to be pretty damn precise in order to hit these each time, and if they’re hiding behind cover, you’ve got no chance.
That being said, The Division 2 has this nice element of realism to it where you can fire grenades out of the air, or even knock back an enemy charging a grenade causing them to drop it and inevitably blow themselves to pieces. It’s definitely a nice touch to what could be considered a frustrating and overpowered enemy unit. Mistakes can be made, and these units are definitely prone to them.
As for the gameplay itself, I did find that The Division 2‘s gunplay was a little messy, at least on console. If you’re using anything other than a semi-automatic rifle, or shotgun, you’ll find the recoil to be almost unbearable. Not only that, the sensitivity of the controller by default is a little high for my liking causing me to be about as accurate as a stormtrooper. Fortunately, online other AAA titles as of recent times, you can switch out weapons on the fly.
Find that your current setup isn’t working? Well before you get back into the action you can swap out weapons, mods, and gear in order to counter what you’re about to face off ahead. One mission had me bouncing off the walls because I couldn’t take down the high-armored enemy who would simply just walk up to me and blast my face off, so I decided to counter that by equipping a high-powered LMG and a shotgun to boot. While I still struggled a little to dispatch the enemy, this swift change in tactics certainly helped make the repetitive kill, die, repeat, loops a little more bearable.
Speaking of switching out weapons, The Division 2‘s gadget system is absolutely fantastic. Being able to switch them out on the fly is the most genius idea ever, not only that but offering different variants to each gadget helps players perfect their builds. Ubisoft has definitely taken player feedback into account this time around and it’s made for an overall fantastic game.
Sure, there are elements which I find frustrating, such as how easily you can be surrounded and destroyed by enemies, or how the cover system can sometimes be more of a curse than a blessing, especially in highly tense situations, however, I feel that this was more due to my own capabilities when the heat was on. Though being stuck behind an abandoned suitcase or a cardboard box when trying to avoid being pummeled to death is definitely something I encountered more than once.
You can’t review The Division 2 without talking about The Dark Zone, the game’s PvPvE mode in which any good player can become a vile piece of shit in a matter of seconds. Well, I’ll admit having only spent a small amount of time in this area, it offers much of the same but with some slight changes. First, upon encountering two players I immediately started to panic when they opened fire, I ended up returning fire and finding cover only to quickly realize that this isn’t the way you become Rogue anymore.
Becoming Rogue is now a manual action which can be done by pressing a specific button. This is an absolute blessing as I can’t count the number of times I came Rogue accidentally when engaging another Rogue player and accidentally hitting another agent in the cross-fire.
That being said, The Dark Zone is much of the same but with the addition of more objectives. Now, players can clear landmarks of AI enemies to earn their loot which they can extract. It definitely adds a lot more potential to the multiplayer aspect of the game, however, it’s still pretty rife with griefers so going in alone is definitely a bad idea, unless you have a pretty incredible build at your disposal.
Overall, The Division 2 is a familiar face with clearer skin and a new haircut. It’s much of the same from the first game with plenty of added extras to keep the game fresh. The game world now feels more alive despite being rundown; friendly and enemy NPCs are more reactive to one another often being in the midst of battle as you encounter them, and the overall environment is breathtaking. Nothing will quite feel as surreal as seeing a Deer in the middle of an overgrown city street littered with abandoned vehicles and trash.