Edited by: Tiffany Lillie
As the sequel to Massive Entertainment’s first installment of The Division, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 has some big FPS shoes to fill — as well as some flaws of the predecessor to overcome. With a solid fan base looking forward to the next development in the series, this title needs to prove that it can provide the same replayability as the last game, while shedding its predecessor’s reputation of being a bit of a walking simulator. Let’s see how they did.
Incredible world; shoddy storytelling.
This open-world environment of a post-apocalyptic Washington, DC is expertly crafted. Your journey across the map effectively immerses you deep into the world. Distant gunshots keep you on edge, while catastrophic landscapes entrance you enough that you’ll take moments just to wonder at the devastation of what used to be civilization.
Unfortunately, when you do finally reach whichever mission or settlement you were aiming for, your immersion in the world is immediately broken, with your awareness fully restored of sitting in your chair, looking at a screen, and controlling pixels. Characters feel hollow, launching into personal epithets before becoming relatable to you in any way, making you feel very apathetic about the missions and quests that make up the narrative of the game. This feeling is only worsened by dead-eyed, last-generation character models, not to mention the abysmal, forced voice acting that left me wondering if Ubisoft’s finance department were the folks behind the microphones.
From a narrative standpoint, The Division 2 doesn’t have much to offer. The environment is what will leave an impression long after the story ends. The ruined buildings and desolate landscapes tell their own stories better than the exposition, so just going out and walking around is my recommendation for learning about the world.
Great gunplay, intuitive level design, and the “duck and cover.”
The Division 2 is a cover shooter, and regardless of your loadout, this is really the only way you’re going to be able to play. This method of combat always runs the risk of becoming a repetitive slog of hiding behind conveniently-placed, waist-height cover, then waiting for enemies to reload, moving to different cover, and repeating. The combat scenarios suffered from this, feeling wearisome at times.
Despite the lack of combat variety, The Division 2 provides a thrilling ride for the most part, through excellent level design, tough (but fair) objectives, and enemies that challenge you to play as strategically as possible. You'll get punished if you get lazy, and deaths always feel legitimate. More often than not, you'll know what you did wrong and how to right it when you encounter it again.
The AI contributes to this as well, playing by rules of engagement that are fairly constraining (cover, shoot, hide, cover, shoot, repeat), yet flexible enough to keep you guessing, thus ensuring it remains an interesting opponent. AI teammates are no slouches, either, which makes large-scale gunfights on the mean streets of Washington, DC all the more engaging.
Guns, guns, guns.
There’s a plethora of guns available, which you’d expect from a “looter shooter” like The Division 2. The amount doesn’t overwhelm, however; you can easily learn most guns by name, and how to fight with them in a pinch. Most players will pick a few loadouts that they’re happy with and look out for the guns that make up those loadouts, perfecting the play style that their weapons of choice allow. I think that some of the weapons could have been able to stretch their legs a bit more if the style of combat wasn’t so focused around a cover system — but not every game can be Doom.
You’re also given various new tech to use, that you probably saw highlighted in the trailer: a drone-mounted gun, for example, or an automated turret that can be tossed out from behind cover. For all the hype about them, though — both in-game and also in promos — these novelties really don’t live up to their potential. The AI doesn’t respond in a particularly intuitive way to the tech when it’s deployed, meaning that the developers have failed to tune the new arsenal for breaking up the sometimes-repetitive task of hiding behind a wall and waiting your turn. All in all, I thought that the new gadgets were neat, but didn't use them much.
A single-player, multiplayer game.
The Division 2 is better with friends, yet still allows you to be a one-man army if you wish. A single-player run is a challenging solo experience that makes you think like a tactician and play like a Navy SEAL. Playing with friends, however, opens up new avenues of strategy and timing that are just impossible solo. My suggestion would be to play most of the way through by yourself, but have a couple of friends by your side for the endgame.
I know it's not usually a topic worth its own paragraph, but the sound mix in The Division 2 puts other titles of this generation to absolute shame. If you’ve got a nice pair of headphones — or even a pair you bought at a gas station —I wholeheartedly recommend wearing them while you play this game. The mix of sound is so realistic, especially while traveling streets, that it makes you feel like a part of that world even with your eyes closed. Sound is incredibly accurate. You can really sense where a gunshot is coming from, or exactly where the footsteps behind you are before you even turn around. The audio really helps you suspend your disbelief, making life-or-death situations feel truly life-or-death.
The Verdict: Good
The Division 2 is worth your time, but maybe not at its full asking price. There’s not a ton here that can’t be experienced pretty closely by playing its predecessor, although there’s no denying the environmental improvements. The story and NPCs can be difficult to care about, but can be mostly ignored without too much lost, allowing you to bask in the glory of the well-crafted open world. Combat is a treat, if a bit repetitive at times. Wait for a sale, throw on some headphones, and you won't be disappointed.