The main criticism of The Division was that there wasn’t enough to do at launch. It featured a solid leveling phase that built up to a barren end-game. Clearly, the team over at Massive Entertainment took that to heart. The Division 2 counters this by presenting a densely-packed game with a huge amount of content. If you’re not looting containers or shooting enemies, you’re on your way to do both. This is an iterative sequel in every sense of the word. It expands upon the size and ideas of the first game without drastically changing much.
Division 2 drops you into Washington DC seven months after the virus that brought society to its knees initially broke out. America (and the rest of the world?) is well and truly into post-apocalyptic territory. Vicious gangs roam the streets and the Division - the last remaining form of official authority - are desperately trying to restore order. That’s where you, the nameless, silent avatar aiming to repair the broken world, come in. The premise may sound strong on paper, but it’s tiresomely dull in execution.
The bland and predictable writing comes complete with dialogue drenched in unsurprising cliché. Characters are extremely one-note, existing solely to provide a service or give you your next quest. The world has little depth beyond the basic outline. It’s the end of the world after all. If you don't ally with the Division, you're probably a villain. The three hostile factions are the clearest indicator of the game’s unoriginal writing.
The Hyenas are ruthless scavengers that prey on the weak. The True Sons are militaristic oppressors led by a maniacal General. The Outcasts - the most interesting of the three - are radical zealots who love radiation. Video games seem to execute these ideas over and over, and other games have covered this ground much more efficiently. Meanwhile, the modern military aesthetic is plain and boring. Perhaps it’s just a matter of taste, but I found every aspect of narrative and world-building to be exceedingly forgettable.
Thankfully, The Division 2’s refined gameplay is stellar. The combat is tough, gritty, and extremely responsive. The core of diving into cover and shooting dudes feels great. This tight feeling in all aspects of running and gunning is essential because you’ll be doing it a lot. The progression of loot keeps things fresh and rewarding. It’s well-paced, providing you with a steady stream of new guns and armor. The weapons themselves are varied, with each category of guns (shotgun, SMG, assault rifle, etc.) feeling distinct and uniquely viable.
Armor plays a big part in combat. You essentially have two health bars: armor and HP. You can manually restore your armor during combat, whilst your HP regenerates over time. Meanwhile, most enemies wear some form of protection that you’ll need to destroy before you start chipping away at their health. This adds an interesting dynamic, rewarding concentrated and focused fire on specific body parts. Breaking apart an enemy’s chest armor or helmet feels good and it's satisfying to see it tear apart.
A tactical shooter is nothing without quality AI and The Division 2 is top-notch in that department. Enemies are smart and dynamic, making them challenging and exciting to fight. Enemies in a closely gathered group will immediately disperse and dive for cover upon first contact. They duck and weave their way towards you, seeking out a way to flank you and break your cover. You’ll need to be sharp and on your toes to avoid being overwhelmed. Frequent use of your entire arsenal, including your active skills and simple grenades, feels essential for flushing out opponents and quickly thinning their numbers. It makes The Division 2 pretty challenging, especially when you’re playing solo and don’t have someone to revive you. You can’t soak up too many bullets. Even with top-notch armor, you’ll go down pretty quick.
Division 2 does a great job making its endless barrage of loot feel anything but overwhelming. This is mostly thanks to smart inventory filters, which allow you to categorize your items in a variety of ways. You can sort by rarity or level, or go even deeper and arrange by damage or attack speed. Paired with the essentially streamlined options for picking up loot - allowing you to immediately equip an item, mark it as junk, or simply send it to your inventory - it makes it simple to keep on top of your loot. Items marked as junk can all disassembled in one fell swoop - a brilliantly simple solution that more loot games should adopt.
Alongside the progression of loot, you also have access to a tree of Perks. These offer bonuses like larger inventory capacity and bonus XP rewards for headshots, providing upgrades that are essential yet dull. As you progress further into this branch of character improvements, they begin to feel more and more superfluous, especially once they simply start supplying you with extra weapon attachments. It almost seems like the tree exists just for the sake of itself. To offer an additional form of progression that makes you feel like you’re improving more than you actually are. The skills section is much more substantial, fleshing out the combat with a series of active abilities.
These eight skills each come with a few variants that change how they behave. For example, the drone can pound the enemy with persistent gunfire or deflect enemy fire away from you and serve as a shield. The various skills and respective variants are diverse and fun to experiment with. Although they're useful tools to have in a sticky situation, they never feel as essential as they should be. The lore frames Division soldiers as having the most radical and badass military tech on the planet, but the reality is a handful of modest gadgets that offer minor support. Most of the time, simply shooting dudes is all you’ll ever need to do.
The world feels densely packed with stuff to do. Between the significant number of scripted missions to tackle, side activities to engage with, stashes to find, collectibles to hunt, and endless packs of enemies to shoot, you’ll never find yourself wanting for stuff to do. You could easily lose dozens of hours mopping up content. Although its specifics can get repetitive - the selection of activities is fairly small and the mission design is repetitive - the fluid and varied nature of the combat ensures it’s consistently fresh and exciting.
The environments are also extremely dense and beautifully rendered. Cover of differing heights fills combat arenas, multiple floors that provide some refreshing verticality, and an impressive amount of debris. Cluttered rooms and densely littered streets bring the world to life, providing quality environmental storytelling. It makes the city feel lived-in and organic, as well as being impressive on a technical level. Between the stellar lighting and detailed environments, the world of Division 2 looks fantastically sharp.
The overall experience is pretty smooth. Aside from a couple of crashes, I ran into very few problems in my 20+ hours with the game. There were no issues with servers or connectivity. Unless I was just incredibly lucky, The Division 2 seems to have a resoundingly successful launch. Meanwhile, I had a couple of minor annoyances in the form of visual glitches and some sticky terrain. Ultimately, I forgot about them before too long.
Massive Entertainment’s second attempt at a third-person Destiny competitor offers a substantially more compelling stream of content to dive into. You won’t have to wait for months of patches before plunging yourself into this excellent loot-shooter. There’s plenty to do and the core loop of combat and loot is compelling and remarkably refined. The disappointingly plain writing is a shame, but it’s easy to ignore and doesn’t detract from the tight and polished gameplay experience. If you’re looking for a significant expansion of the first game’s foundation, Division 2 has it in spades.
- Tight And Refined Combat
- AI Are A Blast To Fight
- Rewarding And Streamlined Loot
- Looks And Sounds Excellent
- Weak And Cliché Writing
- Repetitive Mission Design