I took my time with Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. Since its launch, Massive Entertainment has impressed me with their ability to learn from past mistakes, and as a result, they've provided one of the best launches for a looter shooter to this day. It’s all about endgame when it comes to games like these, but The Division 2 offers so much more, as your journey to the level cap is among the most rewarding experiences you'll ever get in this genre.
This game is packed with content the moment you set foot in The White House, your base of operations as a division agent tasked to retake Washington D.C. from hostile factions that have plagued the streets.
When I played the beta sessions before launch, I had this feeling that the story would be the game’s weakest point, and I was right. This is unfortunate, as this cool, unique setting deserved a memorable story to match. The Division 2 went with the silent protagonist approach, which is a weird choice that only a handful of modern games can pull off - it does nothing for the cutscenes, and it was just awkward every time I'd see my onscreen avatar sort of interacting with the key characters via a simple nod, or replying with a blank stare.
As you progress, there’s not much in the way of character development, so you won't really get to know the characters who've been managing communities since the outbreak hit D.C. It’s clear that Massive wasn’t focused on having the story be at the forefront of the experience, but rather used it to set the stage, as the best narrative details can only be found through collectibles and in faction videos, buried within the game's menus.
It took me around 30 hours to complete the campaign; that number could have been cut to maybe 20 if I hadn't engaged in exploration and side activities. When the campaign ended, I remembered just one name among all the characters I’d encountered. Manny, was it?
But despite the game’s lack of a worthwhile story, The Division 2 makes up for it in its gameplay and inviting world, which can easily hook you in for hours if you’re not careful. The first game’s campaign had its issues, as I remember struggling to get the last few levels by doing mundane side quests to progress. In The Division 2, no activity or gunfight ever felt like a chore. The rewards made me feel like I was progressing, and it was fun to explore every nook and cranny in the labyrinthine Washington D.C, as the city is filled with secrets for the curious.
Can’t stop, won’t stop
Loot addiction starts early. Loot can be found everywhere; I'd always find myself rewarded with a chest if I only scouted around. It was a joy experimenting with the different talents and gear sets available as I leveled up. But Missions - stages that progress the story - can be hit or miss, as they are filled with typical objectives, such as activating a certain terminal, or killing waves of enemies to progress. The Division 2’s take on bosses is disappointing, as they are just more beefed up versions of an enemy type. These encounters are not creative, but are still intense and fun to play multiple times as you’re flooded with different types of foes that keep you moving.
Sidequests are a big improvement over the first game's mindless fodder objectives. This time around, they work just like missions (making it hard to distinguish one from the other), complete with a brief backstory to provide more context as to what you’re trying to accomplish. There's a good incentive to these side-quests; they provide attachment blueprints, which you can use to craft via the game's crafting system.
Washington D.C. is like a big playground - messy, but beautiful. There's moments where I stopped what I was doing to appreciate the gorgeousness of it all, despite the death and destruction all around. Weather effects like rain or fog occur randomly, and they're some of the best I've ever seen in a game. It sometimes affects your vision, too, as it can be difficult to spot an enemy when you're caught up in a blinding storm.
The enemy AI here is impressive; I never had a gunfight feel like a mindless shooting gallery. I’ve had enemies take advantage of my weapon reloading time by advancing closer to catch my flank. They even throw grenades when I hunker down in one spot for too long, or reposition themselves when I get close - this is especially true of the snipers. Shotgun-wielders move fearlessly towards you even under constant fire. The game is challenging, and it will punish you if you don’t stay covered and keep moving.
More loot, less competition
During my progress from level 1 to 30, I focused on The Division 2’s PVE aspects, reserving activities like the Dark Zone (the space where PVE and PVP meet) and a new PVP mode called Conflict for the endgame.
The Dark Zones are now split into three, and are still intimidating to explore, as you’ll always question whether any given player you encounter will be an enemy or an ally. This space can create unique scenarios. I’ve seen chaos erupt when one player cuts the extraction rope, dropping all the loot for the players hoping to extract it - that had all of us turning against each other in mere seconds. But those moments are rare, as more often, it’ll be either filled with PVP-focused players hunting others players down... or a ghost town.
Conflict, The Division 2’s PVP-focused game mode, only does one thing for the franchise - reminding players that The Division is more of a PVE experience than a PVP experience. It has two game modes and a handful of maps at launch, and I was easily done with it after a few matches. Added incentive in the future might help the appeal, but the game isn’t built on foundations conducive to fostering a diverse competitive scene. Dark Zone works as it has PVE elements, but that’s as far as it can go in its current state.
Up there, that’s the endgame
The quality of a looter shooter’s endgame is essential to its appeal and lasting value for many, and developers Massive Entertainment have already released a good chunk of content that’s already resulted in my devoting 113+ hours into their game so far. In this day and age, it’s actually impressive to have this much content waiting for you at launch.
To spice things up since the endgame mostly consists of recycling past missions, they included a new faction called the Black Tusks, a PMC group that invades Washington D.C. Endgame consists of Invaded missions with five World Tiers to progress through in order to get the best gear possible within the game.
Endgame also includes added Specializations. They launched the game with three: Demolitionist, Sharpshooter, and Survivalist. Each one has a unique signature weapon that serves as your trump card when things get a bit dicey, plus each has its own talent tree, to further add more customization to your character build.
The content at launch will keep you busy for weeks if you love the thrill of seeking the best loot. A few bugs and balancing issues still plague endgame players, and growing pains are showing for a game that’s considered a “live service”, but Massive Entertainment seems to be on the ball with regards to corrections, as they seem to be transparent with the community and are making changes on a weekly basis.
The developers are set to grow The Division 2, and they have a good foundation to build on. The fact that the first year of post-content will be free to all players suggests Massive Entertainment’s commitment to the game, and it’s going to be interesting to see what they have planned after the franchise’s first ever raid content goes live at the end of May.
Massive Entertainment was able to nail two important factors that make a good looter shooter - endgame content, and the leveling experience from level 1 to max. The Division 2 had a great launch, which in and of itself is a rare sight when it comes to online-only games, and once I started, it was hard for me to stop playing until I reached Gear Score 500.
It’s a pity Massive Entertainment can’t seem to make a good story out of what I think is an interesting universe set in the modern world, but as it stands, despite its shortcomings, The Division 2 is one of the best looter shooters out today. If you’re new to the genre, you can’t go wrong here. And for those coming from other looter shooters, you might get a kick out of what they have waiting for you at the end.
(+) Washington D.C is enticing to explore and rewarding if you do.
(+) There’s enough variety to keep you looting and shooting.
(+) Packed with post-campaign content.
(+) Gorgeous graphics regardless of the settings (on PC).
(-) Missions are nothing unique.
(-) PVP feels like an afterthought.
(-) Forgettable story.
(+/-) Microtransactions are only limited to cosmetics.
What I’ve Played
Spent over 113 hours total.
Reached Dark Zone Rank 48.
Played a couple of hours of Conflict (PVP).
Finished all Strongholds.
Reached World Tier 5 and have reached Gear Score 500.
Played on: PC
[This review is based on a review code provided by Ubisoft.]