Buy now

Review: The Division 2 (PC)

9

Amazing

Civilization might have fallen, but in this wreckage, people are building anew. Time has passed and we have moved from damage control and wishing things didn’t happen to actually thinking about the future and living with what we have. That is the base message in The Division 2, and beyond the looting, shooting, looting, levelling and exploring, it adds just enough hope that drowns out the absolute horror of what some of the factions are up to.

The world needs you, the voiceless, mostly expressionless Agent, to come in and answer a distress call. The entire SHD network is down, meaning Division Agents all over the country are without intel, communications and some of their best gadgets. At the same time the White House is under attack, with several groups trying to wipe out the last bastion of federal government. Hope you have your walking boots on, there is a lot of ground to cover.

Where the streets know my name

Moving through the city and exploring is just as fun as shooting enemies, if not the best part of the game. There are so many nooks and crannies, forgotten avenues and the remains of old shelters just waiting to be explored and the worldbuilding and level narrative design is top notch. In these quiet spaces you can find bits of backstory, or a glimpse into the lives people led in the time between the Green Poison hitting and the seven months that followed.

Moving through the city and exploring is just as fun as shooting enemies, if not the best part of the game.

From something as ramshackle as tents in a blocked alley with garden chairs on the roofs of abandoned delivery vans, to entering the somber, deathly quiet of a contaminated building that has been boarded up and left abandoned, there is so much to see here, without even touching on the game’s ECHOs, which allow you to have an augmented reality look at events that occurred in the past. I adore these quieter sections, and find myself looking for bits of environmental storytelling almost as much as I am looking for loot containers.

There is something dreadful about discovering that you are in the children’s ward of a hospital, now boarded up because the Dollar Flu was so bad. I don’t need to hear a phone recording to know what happened here, I can see it on the walls, the art the children made before they were too sick to continue decorating, the number of beds cramping the room, showing how they used every space possible to try and fight an epidemic.

This same quiet extends in the Dark Zones, but there you don’t have the chance to sit and observe every detail, because other players might decide that you look like an easy source of loot, or a fun target just because. There is something horribly telling about humanity that in a game that goes to great lengths to show how some people become truly monstrous in the burning wreckage of civilisation, players will still fire on other players without any need for conflict or aggression, for no reason than to get loot and a better DZ ranking.

A real enemy

The Division 1 had an issue where it felt like you were the hardcore armed vigilante with a licence to use excessive lethal force to deal with any threat, and some of your enemies seemed… ambiguous in their means to survive the hardships of the Dollar Flu. You could kill groups armed only with baseball bats, looters trying to get by in a harsh winter, regardless of if they were threatening anyone or even looting at that very moment. Thankfully The Division 2 has fleshed out the enemy factions in such a way that you won’t have that feeling that you might be the bad guy here, meting out bullets without a second thought.

The enemy factions you face are downright terrible. Society is trying to get back on its feet, making farms, finding foodstuffs and even educating children so that the next generation is prepared and hopefully grows into functional adults. The first group you encounter, the Hyenas, believe that having a gun means they can have what they want, and burn or spit on the rest. These scavengers kill for kicks and see people who strive for a better tomorrow as weak people who deserve to be killed, tortured or used up.

The enemy factions you face are downright terrible. The Hyenas, believe that having a gun means they can have what they want, and burn or spit on the rest. The Outcasts weaponise infected blood as a biological attack vector

It doesn’t get better as you find a paramilitary group that uses military structure and discipline to enforce the will of someone who feels he should be in charge if the government failed, and anyone who is sick or disobedient should be shot. This group, the Last Sons, enjoys using civilians for target practice and shelling settlements with repurposed mortars full of DC-62, an agent that was supposed to target the Dollar Flu, but ended up being far too toxic.

The final group (besides the endgame faction), the Outcasts, believes the country failed them and wants people to suffer like they did. These people were caught in a quarantine zone and treatment never arrived. Now they encourage suicide bombers, pyromaniacs and more to punish those who didn’t help them, even going so far as to weaponise infected blood as a biological attack vector. These people are disgusting, abhorrent and believe that they deserve what they want because they have more guns than anyone else and this monstrous behaviour is shown often, so you know that the NPCs you are killing are the enemy, without a doubt.

Helping people

Besides these unambiguous enemies, the game has also shifted how your upgrades and unlocks work, with many upgrades being to settlements rather than dedicated wholly to upgrading your arsenal. The frequency of these upgrades slacks off as you start heading into the higher levels of the game, but by then I definitely cared about the settlements rather than seeing them as a handy fast travel point. Speaking of travelling, the map of Washington DC is much more open than Manhattan ever was. Splitting the Dark Zone into three spots on the outskirts means you don’t have to spend the entire game navigating around the massive looming wall of Division 1’s Dark Zone, which squatted in the middle of the map.

Alleyways and underground pathways invite you off the main roads, with a few collectables to be found in buildings that haven’t been boarded up completely. NPCs constantly roam the streets, with enemies and friendly NPCs heading out to find supplies, guarding areas or attacking control points or patrolling their territory. It makes the city feel alive and engaging, with small skirmishes and firefights breaking out all over the city. This can also lead to some heated moments where you end up going to hunt down a bounty target and end up alerting a guarded piece of territory and a hostage situation all at the same time. These fights can be all too brief if you are caught out in the open or in the middle of a three-way fight, but if you can coordinate with your squad and stop your flanks from being overrun, it becomes a fun, challenging affair as you take out fighting enemies and get all the rewards.

One of the biggest changes in Division 2 which has to be praised is the change to enemy health and behaviour. Enemies are no longer massive bullet sponges and they will react to damage as you hit them. Armoured targets still take a fair number of rounds, but because each piece of armour can be targetted individually, a good shot can end a long, difficult encounter with a few well-placed rounds. A marksman or sniper rifle can break a helmet clean off, before dispatching the enemy with a mighty headshot critical, and there is something so satisfying about breaking off armour to get at the weak health bar underneath. Enemies run, stumble and stagger as you hit them, and will try to dodge attacks instead of standing around or charging headlong at you. Enemies dodging attacks makes up for the smaller health bars, but if you connect, you can see that they are hurting. It feels believable.

Behaviour wise the Black Tusk use different tactics than the poorly trained Hyenas stops all enemies from feeling too similar, or like simply reskinned archetypal units. Some Outcasts rush headlong at you, ready to set off a suicide bomb, while True Sons will try flank or lie prone while shooting to present a small, armoured target to you. It keeps fights from feeling boring and due to the pressure each faction can apply, no cover is safe for the entire length of a fight. You will get flanked, hit in melee, forced out of cover by grenades or flamethrowers or drones, meaning you need to keep on your toes. This can be a bit much when playing solo, but solo play is much more possible now compared to the previous game, meaning you and a friend can do missions together without any randoms with no issue.

Graphically, The Division 2 has shifted to summer, but it isn’t just a change of season that makes for good views. A day/night cycle and weather make for impressive changes to the world around you, with massive storms making it hard to hear enemy barks, while thick fog at twilight makes it near impossible to use your longer range weapons effectively, with the Snowdrop engine showing off just how good it is.

Thankfully you can change weapons and skills while out and about and after playing other games that lock you into specific skills or gear while on a mission or exploring, it felt so good to be able to change things up, or equip a new upgrade straight away. It opens up experimentation and I could play for hours without seeing a single load screen. Just like the weather system adds depth, the sound design makes for some impressive moments. The odd quiet of a Dark Zone or contaminated area, the sounds of wildlife taking the city back and the way your gunshots sound different if you are indoors, outdoors or surrounded by tall buildings all add to the feeling of being there in Washington D.C.

The Division 2 is everything you could want in a sequel.

The Division 2 is everything you could want in a sequel (my niggles with having a voiceless character aside). You can feel how the developers took note of what fans wanted, liked and loathed, shaping the game to be a better, smoother and smarter experience. It is the type of design iteration that I hope other companies take notice of. I expect to spend a lot more time in this game, collecting all the various bits of lore and plumbing the secrets of a city that feels alive, while fleshing out the endgame specialisations.

Good

  • The city feels alive
  • Watching a settlement upgrade and thrive
  • The weather system
  • Gunplay is responsive and fun
  • Healthy endgame

Bad

  • Give me a voiced character
  • Some activities are still too challenging when playing solo
  • Open microphone is the default option

Summary

The Division 2 is a product of years of love, labour and listening, iterating and reiterating on what worked in the previous game, and adding and changing based on developer and community feedback. Everything feels polished and thought out, making you come back for some more.
9

Amazing

If it has the letters RPG in it, I am there. Still battling with balancing trying to play every single game that grabs my interest, getting 100% in a JRPG, and devoting time to my second home in Azeroth.

Lost Password

Sign Up