A Very Impressive Third Person Shooter
When The Division 2 was first announced, the original cinematic trailer had me hooked straight away. However, the more I looked at the gameplay, the more it felt like Ubisoft had taken the same formula from the first game and added a shiny new hull. After playing Far Cry: New Dawn and seeing the game’s blatent similarities to Far Cry 5, I was fully prepared to write this game off as just that – a graphical upgrade.
Thankfully, The Division 2 is not a copy and paste job. Having learnt from their mistakes the first time around, The Division 2 is a well rehearsed, fantastic shooter, one boasting a fully immersive, beautiful world, well designed levels and a surprisingly intelligent enemy AI. The Division 2 is arguably one of Ubisoft’s best games released for quite some time too and a benchmark for what this genre can achieve with some thought and attention to detail.
Areas are well designed and full of cover and places for enemies to flank you
The story follows much the same path the first game did, with little in the way of twists and turns along the way. After creating a customisable character, you take on the role of a Division agent, a task-force designed to bring peace back to a war-ravaged America that’s been decimated by a viral outbreak. After liberating the White House, you slowly branch out, taking the city back from the various enemy factions district by district whilst saving the President and a suitcase holding the key to survival. It’s all very cliched and patriotic and for the most part, backed up by bland and forgettable characters giving you these missions.
Thankfully, The Division 2’s gameplay far outshines its story and it’s here where the game really stands out. Much like the first, most of the time you’ll spend playing this will be split between two key areas; exploring the game world and engaging in combat. Both of these are combined together in the 13 different main missions which progressively throw harder enemies at you, with the final few missions locked behind level caps.
Almost everything you do in the game gives you experience points that help level your character but it’s the various side and main missions that garner the best rewards by far. While the actual mission objectives are pretty run of the mill for this genre, with a combination of clearing enemies out of areas and fetch quests, the world design is fantastic and some of these areas aesthetically stunning. Whether it be a planetarium, a museum or the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, there’s a great array of areas that look amazing and really help the game shine.
The world looks amazing and Washington is a joy to explore
The Division 2 is a beautiful game. Despite some graphical pop-in and a few little physic glitches here and there, the game world itself is competently made and immersive to explore. Each district has been crafted by hand and you can really see that in the tiny details. Whether it be houses piled up with rubbish outside or a destroyed bridge chock full of cars and an overturned ambulance, the tiny stories crafted in each little area add to the feel that this was once a living, breathing city. It helps too that the game is absolutely stunning, with some great light effects and an excellent audio design to boot.
Each mission is laid out in much the same way, with large arenas awash with enemies for you to clear out, complete with plenty of cover and ways for enemies to flank you. And flank you they will. If there’s one thing that sets The Division 2 apart from its competition, it’s the way enemies behave. Combat is tough but satisfying, throwing an array of different enemies at you that will constantly flank you or try and flush you out of cover with grenades. It does take some getting used to as well but it all adds to one of the best experiences I’ve had with a game like this since Killzone.
As the game progresses and you level up, so too do the enemies. This makes the challenge suitably scaled with you feeling overpowered in a fight a rarity. Of course, given the emphasis on loot, a lot of what you’ll do in The Division 2 sees you upgrading your various slots of armour with bigger and better equipped items with improved stats.
The menus are much better designed this time around, with more intuitive options
This is far more intuitive this time around too, with a much better designed UI helping to quickly equip the best items to help you out. Each gun feels unique and even different weapon types handle completely differently from one another. You’ll probably find yourself getting comfortable to a certain play style as you blast through the game although I personally found a combination of a sniper rifle and an LMG the best tactic to use during fights. Of course, this will differ from person to person.
Adding some variation to gunfights are an array of skills you can equip, ranging from health pods and drones to fixed turrets and robotic drones. These add an extra tactical element to fights and these skills can sometimes be the difference between life and death. There’s various different modifications for each gun, branching out to include modifications for your character that add yet more customisation to the mix too. This isn’t even counting the extra bonuses you get for equipping a full set of matching armour or upgrading your side-arm that can be equipped in a tough fight as well. The Division 2 is an extensive game and given the wealth of options here, you can easily get lost in these menus.
The game looks stunning and aesthetically at least, The Division 2 is a beautiful game
Once you’re finished with the story the game essentially resets, adding a new faction to tackle and the whole set of districts you’ve just cleared overwritten once you finish the last level. While some will love this new challenge, I personally found it to be a little disheartening, especially seeing all the progress you’ve made over the past 30+ hours essentially resulting in a hard reset. Still, the game does open up once you finish the main story with the various Dark Zone areas offering a good challenge too. Much like the first game, these areas see you competing against other players with some of the best loot in the game located in these sections. A short recon mission acts as a tutorial for each of the three too, giving you a good sense of the area and the challenge each offers. Personally, I found these a little too challenging for my liking but there’s certainly incentive to persevere and garner the rewards.
The Division 2 is a thoroughly enjoyable and challenging shooter. It improves on almost every aspect of the first game with a whole wealth of content and options on offer. Despite a few convoluted screens, the menus are better designed this time around and the loot progression fine-tuned to perfection. Given the scepticism I had going into this one, Ubisoft have delivered one of the best games of 2019 so far and a very enjoyable third person shooter in its own right.
Whether you play through solo or with a group of friends, The Division 2 boasts a staggering amount of content, well-written missions and an aesthetically pleasing world to explore. Although the main story fails to inspire beyond the mediocrity it revels in, the gameplay is where this one excels and for that alone, The Division 2 is well worth checking out.
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Verdict - 8/10