For a certain type of player, i.e. fans of tactical shooters, or anyone after a more grounded feel than is offered up by stablemates Destiny and Anthem, The Division 2 also offers a solid, and mostly plausible, contemporary setting to run around in. This is paired up with cover-based combat that is frequently challenging but offers several rewarding ways to engage with enemies.The bombardment of loot never abates, but you learn to filter it out, breaking down unwanted weapons for materials or combining them to pool their traits. The glut of missions is exhausting but at least keeps you moving around the city, and the firefights themselves are quite engrossing. As in the elderly Gears of War series, players slide around cunning arrangements of chest-high cover, trying to get the drop on opponents who range from resilient juggernauts to sneaky flankers. The experience is lifted above mere gunplay by quasi-magical support gadgets, which include drones you can send to pester dug-in snipers and gel launchers that bog attackers down.
You spend a lot of time hunkered behind cover, popping out to fire at any enemy dumb enough to expose themselves. With the large amount of weapon variety available, this familiar facet of combat is solid in itself. Add to that the ability to equip two special skills from a possible eight–which include tools such as riot shields, drones, and from what I can gather, robot bees of some sort–and combat gets pretty interesting. But the vector that really keeps The Division 2’s combat lively for upwards of 60 hours is the behaviour and diversity of its enemy types.
The value proposition of loot shooters like The Division and Destiny, or similar loot games like Diablo, ultimately rely on the strength of their endgame content, or what players are given to do over and over again in their quest to score superior loot. This is partially where the bottom fell out of The Division. Anyone who wasn’t into PvP and willing to brave the savagery of the Dark Zone quickly ran out of things to do in The Division once the story campaign was finished. The weaknesses and imbalances in the game’s combat systems also become obvious once players settled in for the long haul.The game is set in Washington D.C., and the map is staggeringly expansive, littered with recognizable landmarks and museums that provide a surprisingly varied array of exterior and interior environments to explore and wage war across. Graphically, the game is sharp, detailed, and performs well even in the midst of copious amounts of onscreen chaos.
Playing solo can be tough, even though The Division 2 does have matchmaking for many activities. In the open world dying alone means respawning far away and having to trudge back, but you learn to play more carefully, you learn which skills will help you (the self-revive one is a must) and you get better in time.The soldiers of Black Tusk, for their part, make for really challenging foes. With technology to rival your own and a highly aggressive approach to combat, they make you feel far more under siege in combat than any point in the series thus far. As a result, reaching the endgame in The Division 2 feels like a genuine step up, rather than the start of a long and dreary grind.
The Division 2 is an excellent shared-world shooter and a how-to guide for big franchises looking to make a sequel.The closest it gets, perhaps, is in the returning Dark Zones, quarantined areas where you’ll encounter AI opponents and other players, all searching for top-grade gear that must be extracted by calling a helicopter. It’s possible, here, to betray other players, pinching their spoils or ambushing them for kicks. Ubisoft has grandly styled this side of the game a “social experiment”, and it’s certainly a thrill to meet other players in the undergrowth, never quite sure of their intentions.