The Division 2 Review – Bringing Loot Shooters Together

It’s doubtful we’ll see the kind of turn-around between games as we’ve seen with Massive Entertainment and The Division 2. The latest release in the ongoing Tom Clancy open-world series adapts from the mistakes that the first game made, putting everyone on the same level playing field this time around. Gone is the idea of a season pass – at least, for now, you never know what year two will bring – and in its place is a model in which all the first year’s content is provided for free. For everyone. That’s good news all around, meaning some players won’t feel left out when it comes to particular firefights.

The Division 2 Review

It also feels like a more complete package this time around, mainly due to the developer’s devotion in providing some great content. Endgame by itself will keep you busy for some time, but there’s also PvP and Dark Zones to consider, in case you’re feeling up to the challenge. Some players may be overwhelmed by the whole thing, yet there’s no question that The Division 2 is leaps and bounds over what the original offered.

 

Innovation: 8/10

Instead of taking place in rainy ol’ New York as the original game did, The Division 2 instead puts the action right into the heart of Washington D.C., which stands as the last great city following civilization mostly being wiped out by a dangerous virus. It’s become a battleground between Division members and the Hyenas, a group of merciless soldiers that will stop at nothing to grasp whatever power they can. It’s up to you and your fellow unit members to push back the tide in your favor and take back the city before it’s too late.

The story itself isn’t the most innovative thing out there. A good amount of melodrama can be found here, and it’s not really that moving. However, it does set the stage for the action, which is totally satisfying.

For one thing, the gameplay no longer feels like it’s just a matter of getting into the same old firefight. Massive Entertainment has incorporated a great deal of balance here, though there are times it can be overwhelming on your own, depending on the level of mission you’re going to take on.

The beginning mission, where you make your way to the White House, set the stage for what’s to come. It’s here you’ll become familiar with the controls, which work just fine when it comes to cover-based shooting and figuring out a good path to your next objective. But from there, things get mixed up rapidly. One second, you’re taking on a mission through a hotel with increasingly growing forces. The next, you’re tackling a stronghold where enemies come out of the damn woodwork.

It helps to find a good squad to pair up with, if you can, although you can tackle the game on your own if you’re gutsy enough. I definitely suggest the co-op route, as it’s great to team up with colleagues and clean house. That way, you won’t have to worry about getting wiped out by Hyenas that are on a higher up level than you.

Fortunately, the online sessions we took part in were quite good. We found some partners after a few rounds of play that managed to stick around, making the team experience come together quite well as a result. Again, though, the challenge is up there with some missions, so make sure you’re prepared.

 

Progression: 9/10

There are a lot of goods that are available to you in The Division 2. At first, you can decide which early perks to unlock, like an assistive drone or a turret that can do some auto-firing for you. Eventually you open up some sweeter guns and other goods, which, in the long term, will help you immensely. This makes going on missions feel a little more easygoing than the first game, as you’ve got a little bit more of an end goal in mind. It feels terrific to unlock stuff within the game and stockpile where necessary.

The Division 2 Review

Speaking of stuff that adds to the game, the Endgame mode is not kidding around. If you think the main missions are a challenge, wait till you step in here. Enemies are much, much tougher and the odds are definitely stacked against you. But it’s a great way to get prepped alongside a squad that knows what they’re doing, and you feel more of the team dynamic come together in a cohesive way. I loved what this had to offer.

On top of that, you’ll unlock new specialization weapon progression paths, along with new missions and daily/weekly assignments. This is on top of the stacked content that Massive is set to introduce over the next few months, including expansions that should keep things interesting, to say the least. You’re going to be busy for a while with The Division 2, and that’s exactly what the developer (not to mention Ubi) is counting on.

 

Community: 8/10

On the one hand, it did take a little while to find a proper group to work with in The Division 2. That’s the thing. The more players you know that are enjoying this game, the better off you’ll likely be, and be able to get leveled up. But you can also go solo, like I said, if that’s your thing. Just be prepared to die often and with little back-up if that’s the case.

On the other hand, I was impressed by how elegantly the team-based combat worked. Not to mention how you can build up your local community base in a number of ways. Even something as a barbecue grill can be a true momentum changer, as the idea of a delicious burger makes completing a tiring mission all the more worthwhile.

It’s great to see the buzz on social media about the game as well, and talk to folks about what works so well within the game. Granted, there are some technical hiccups to overcome, such as with disappearing characters. (We’ll get more to that in visuals and sound below.) But for the most part, it’s something that’s really starting to grow on players, and that means more traction for the long haul.

 

Graphics/Sound: 8/10

Yes, The Division 2 has glitches, based on the version that we played (in this case, Xbox One, though we did do some comparisons with the PC version). Some characters simply vanished without explanation; and sometimes there are funny glitches that occur when it comes to finding a good cover spot. But none of these get too much in the way when it comes to enjoying the spectacle the game makes, particularly on Xbox One X.

First off, the city of Washington D.C. looks spectacular here, especially when it comes to spotting certain monuments like the White House (as torn apart as it may be) and other tourist spots. Massive did its homework here, creating an ambient city location that comes to life better than what it did with the original Division. Not to mention the weather effects are better, the animation looks to be smoother than before (mind that cover animation) and the weapon effects, particularly on your secondary units, are a lot of fun. Watching a drone reign down gunfire from above while you take your time lining up tactical shots is really cool, to say the least.

And the game also surprises when it comes to its interior settings, which is a treat. You’ll be going inside often as you invade hotels, planetariums and other locations to clean house on the Hyenas. The detail here is just as astonishing, whether it’s a background with swirling planets, or explosions rocking their way through the environment. The game runs at a very smooth clip, with barely any noticeable slowdown. Granted, I can’t speak for older Xbox One or PS4 models, as the game seems best built for PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.

The PC version has performance that really holds up well, depending on the hardware. The game does choke a little bit on some laptop models, but not to the point you’ll be turned off. Get a higher-end unit and you’ll certainly be in business for the long haul. Overall, The Division 2 is a much larger visual beast than the first game, and that’s all that most fans can ask for.

The Division 2 Review

In terms of audio, this sequel does pretty good for the most part. There is some hokey dialogue that can’t be avoided, like with some enemies that can’t help but taunt you despite the fact they’re at a disadvantage, and some of the guns sound better than others. However, the game still has audio performance to spare, especially when it comes to hearing your own teammates, as well as effects within the environment that really bring it to life. It can be mixed in some places, but overall, it’s got some good stuff to it. Pop on a pair of headphones and dive in to get its full effect.

 

Value for Money: 9/10

The first thing you should understand about The Division 2 is that while you can go at it solo, it’s recommended that you get other players involved. The game as a whole is built as a connectivity model to bring groups together in a dynamic way, and I think that’s where it benefits best. Get a good squad to watch your back and there’s nothing you can’t conquer, not even in the Endgame mode. There are hours worth of missions here, and you’ll like everything that it has to offer.

The game features a lot of side content as well, whether it’s building up a base to prosperity or taking on secondary missions to gain the trust of others. Not only that, but the progression system is handled quite well. There are times that the odds can be too overwhelming if you’re not properly prepared, but with The Division 2 you learn and eventually get better.

Not only that, but Massive really piled on the content here. The main game will take you several hours to get through before you give Endgame a shot. Even then, you’re still not done, as they’ve promised a number of additions to the game over the long haul. Again, the first year of content is free. While we can’t exactly see what’s going to be offered past that, it sounds quite promising, and it’s great to have everyone on the same level to start. Sure, you can max up your soldier and push forward like a true bad-ass, but this also gives newcomers the chance to see what it’s like to build up without having to spend excessive amounts of cash on perks and secondary content. They did a smart thing here, and I hope the model sticks around in future games. This is how you build upon an establishment, just as the publisher did with the likes of Rainbow Six Siege and For Honor.

 

Summary: 8.5/10

Had the story taken more chances with the way everything plays out, and the glitches been done away with after the game’s hefty first day update, The Division 2 would be just about right with its model. But as it stands, there’s still a lot it does significantly well, especially when it comes to effectively bringing together friends for co-op, or letting you challenge on your own for the sake of leveling up and unlocking some sweet stuff.

The main game will take some time to get through, but it’s the Endgame and post-launch content that’s really worth looking forward to. Endgame in itself will take you on at every turn, forcing you to strategically think as you move ahead. And the forthcoming content should be promising, depending how much you’re drawn into the game.

The gameplay for The Division 2 feels mostly balanced, despite some iffy cover botches, and I’m sure patches will clean that up nicely over time. Furthermore, the visuals are really something, especially on higher-end hardware. It’s worth ponying up for this title alone.

The Division 2 Review

While The Division 2 may have some things that still need fixing, it’s a work of testament for the team at Massive Entertainment, showing that they’ve learned from previous mistakes (for the most part), and that they’re ready to move forward with the model that players rightfully deserve. It may say it’s about Division, but really, it’s bringing together crews in the best ways possible.

Pros:

  • There’s a lot of content to dig into here. Endgame will keep you busy, even if you’re one of the best players out there.
  • Washington D.C. has never looked better, and the open world environment is staggeringly well done.
  • Engaging gameplay, doing away with ‘spongy’ enemies in favor of more balanced challenge.

Cons:

  • It may take a bit to get a good crew going, but it’s totally worth it. Playing on your own is possible, though, if you’re up for it.
  • Story could’ve used a little more oomph, along with some of the sound design.
  • Some of the glitches are questionable, but hardly deal breakers.

(Ubisoft provided a copy of the game for review.)

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