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
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
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 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
The final group (besides the endgame faction), the Outcasts, believes the country failed them and wants people to suffer
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
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
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.