Ubisoft's foray into the looter shooter genre continues with The Division 2, an unusual combination of traditional looter shooter/RPG mechanics and a modern-day "realistic" setting. Just like in the first Division, you control a Strategic Homeland Division agent, a special operative tasked with restoring order in the United States following a massive biological terrorist attack. This time around, you're in Washington, D.C., though there's little time to visit the nation's more famous monuments. Roving gangs of marauders are out doing whatever it is that roving gangs of marauders do following the collapse of society, and you have to stop them.
At its core, The Division 2 handles like any other third-person cover shooter. Looter shooter and RPG mechanics implement a layer of complexity to the proceedings that help it stand out. As such, every player has access to a set of abilities intended to mimic traditional RPGs. You can deploy healing drones, apply a variety of status effects with grenades and other gadgets, and even tank to a certain degree. The inclusion of friendly NPCs, upgradable civilian strongholds, and a tense PvPvE mode called the Dark Zone round out what makes The Division 2 a slightly different approach to looter shooters.
Compared to the first Division, The Division 2's combat is slightly less tedious. The new armor/health system undoubtedly contributes to this feeling. Rather than having a huge chunk of health, you have a non-regenerative bar of armor that protects a fragile bar of health. You can partially replenish the armor with abilities, but this is decidedly inefficient. Alternatively, you can use armor plates to completely repair your armor, but using armor plates in combat leaves your character unable to shoot for a couple of seconds. Furthermore, you can only carry a certain number of armor plates. Needless to say, this means that proper positioning is of utmost importance. The fact that most abilities have relatively long cooldowns reinforces the idea that shooting comes first in The Division 2. Rather than being the star of the show, the RPG mechanics bolt on to this shooting experience.
Interestingly enough, high ranking enemies possess a similar armor and health mechanic. Breaking through their armor lets you drop enemies in no time at all. This is certainly an improvement over the immersion-breaking amount of health that some enemies had in the first Division. To compensate for their newfound mortality, many enemies in The Division 2 now have all sorts of new abilities, most of which are offensive in nature. For example, the high tech Black Tusks routinely deploy drones of all shapes and sizes. These range from small healing drones to deer sized quadrupedal killing machines. Less technologically advanced factions have their own "drones". These are little more than giant toy cars fitted with explosives and obnoxious lights. Generally speaking, you can expect a faster time to kill on both ends of the spectrum as players and NPCs have less reliable burst healing and less health in general.
While this new, faster side of The Division sounds great in theory, some issues may still require a bit of polish. Chief among these is the behavior of enemy NPCs. Most of the time, they tend to be reasonably intelligent. They move from cover to cover to flank, but sometimes they just walk past players. They'll sit behind them, and then attempt to walk back to their lines. Almost as if they suddenly realize that they're not exhibiting normal behavior. Alternatively, certain NPCs just spam explosives at you as if they don't understand the concept of cooldowns.
Furthermore, even though time to kill is generally faster in The Division 2, some individual weapons or perhaps even weapon classes don't really feel all that powerful. Light machine guns are great at suppressing NPCs, but an assault rifle with extended magazines can accomplish the same role. If anything, assault rifles are outright better as they provide roughly the same or better damage without the high recoil. Similarly, submachine guns simply don't have the magazine size or range to function well in PvE. Perhaps this issue boils down to playstyle differences, but the nature of the game favors long range accurate shots. It doesn't help that some weapons don't sound "beefy" enough. This is more of a personal preference issue than anything else.
It's possible that Massive already has such issues under control. After all, it's simple to balance things when compared to fixing game crippling bugs. However, it would certainly be misleading to say that The Division 2 solves all of the problems with the original. Or to say that it's outright better than competing games of the same genre. What it does offer is a fun third-person shooter experience with a high emphasis on gunplay and moderate emphasis on teamwork and abilities. If you want to feel like a god who squishes enemies with raw power, then this isn't for you. If you want slower and more methodical gameplay, then look no further than The Division 2.
TechRaptor previewed The Division 2 via the Pre-Order Beta. The Division 2 releases on March 15th on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.