The Division 2: First Impressions

I hear a gunfight  breakout as I head towards my next mission and take cover behind an old rusting bus to survey the source. A shootout between one of my patrols and one of the gangs who claim they own the streets. I let up my drone and send it in to do some damage and cause a distraction as I flank around and up some nearby scaffolding. From my perch I pull my rifle and take aim. My first round takes an enemy down, I pull the trigger again, this time I miss. All hell erupts as enemies swarm out of a nearby shutter. A grenade soars in my direction landing by my feet  I dive out the way into another bit of cover. Popping out I take out another few enemies. My patrol is almost gone. I switch to my Aug rifle and fire off some more rounds. Two more enemies fall. I jump down to ground level and break for a nearby car. Gunfire erupts into me almost taking me down. I heal up and check where the bullets came from. One enemy left but he’s clad in armour. I unleash all hell into him. Chunks of armour fall away as i make my stabd. One of us is going to fall and Its not going to be me. My health falls at the same rate as his. I drop to cover at the last second and dart around him. I drop him with a shot to the back. With all enemies dead and barely alive I survey the scene. One of my patrol has survived and thanks me. I smile and take a breath. Time to continue on to my mission.

Moments like these are a dime a dozen in The Division 2 but they never get dull, each is as thrilling as the last and make for some amazing encounters. Its the unscripted nature of the world which truly makes the desolate ruined Washington D.C feel truly alive and fun to explore.

The Division 2 is the next big Ubisoft hit following on from the pretty well received (and much later well regarded after lots of updates) The Division. After the events of the first game, we move location to Washington D.C where our custom created agent steps up to the task of helping bring peace and stability to the state. Doing so will take you on a journey through the ruins of society and wondering what the other side looks like.

I played a lot of the first game and loved it although always felt it could be better. With the second I feel my wants have been answered. I’m currently around 13 hours into the game so feel I can give a pretty good first impression of the game but with so much to offer, I feel the game will keep giving me more with every sitting.

Let’s begin with the elephant in the room. Yes, it’s online only and you need to have PS Plus (on PS4) or Xbox Live (on Xbox one) to play it. This makes an already expensive AAA game even more expensive. But does what you get warrant the price? I’d say yes. Unlike the likes of games like Anthem, Division 2 feels like a pretty finished game from the outset and with all story content updates free its just going to get even better. There is a phenomenal amount of content included and all of it can be played solo or with friends and unlike many looter shooters (as I’ve learnt they are called) it is actually enjoyable to play solo. Yes, it is more of a challenge but never one that feels unfair. It just takes more planning and more tactics when in a full blown firefight. Having played it both in solo and co op (even trying random matchmaking) i can happily say that either give a truly fantastic experience.

What about the actual gameplay? If you have played a looter shooter before, you’ll recognise the formula. If not, it essentially consists of shooting lots of people and progressively collecting better weapons and armour to further help with the shooting. That is putting it basically as there is far more to the game then a lot of the others in the genre and a lot more to do then the first game. The combat is some of the most satisfying cover based shooting I’ve experienced in a game, with careful planning of where and how to get the best shot on the enemy. The weapons feel meaty both in feel and sound (Which was something the first game lacked), with each handling decidedly differently to one another. Popping out from cover and picking off a quick head shot with a rifle is truly satisfying but equally so is holding your ground against an onslaught of enemies while wielding an LMG.

The cover mechanics are quick and precise and it’s never been easier moving round or over objects. While in cover you can look at a place you want to go and the hold the cover button which will allow you to make a quick dash to it and immediately lock yourself into safety. The fact it’s so smooth really helps you get around the battlefield and to quickly flank enemies. The cover itself is ever present everywhere you go, but it never feels out of place. It kind of makes the entire map feel like one, giant, very cleverly thought out battlefield which, with random enemies popping up as you wander the streets, means you always have a place to hide.

This brings me to the world itself. Unlike games like Destiny, Anthem or Borderlands, this game is set in the real world. Moving the location to Washington D.C and setting it after the events of the first game, has given the developers the chance to construct a stunning world with numerous different environmental feels, even though the majority of the time you are in the city streets. The city feels alive with nature almost taking over in places, with vines creeping over cars and up buildings. It’s easily as impressive as the snowy world of the first game and in many ways far superior. The little details are phenominal and help make everything blend together seamlessly. Abandoned cars which litter the streets act as a perfect cover when in a gunfight, while also acting as a poignant reminder of the disaster that took place years earlier. Wild digs and deer roam the streets in a way that feels entirely natural and help bring more life into the city. While exploring it’s so easy to get side tracked by seeing an apartment block you can enter or an underground car park. There’s no loading between these areas while exploring and you can easily get caught up wondering where these paths lead and what might be at the end. As well as above ground the developers have also intricately designed a maze of underground tunnels beneath the city which you are free to explore, each offer dangers but also offer great rewards. I did wonder if exploring the world on foot would get tiresome, but I needn’t of worried as it feels tense and thrilling.

All of this adds to the immersion and the feeling that there is always something new to see. Seeing once great landmarks reduced to rubble is quite stunning and following the stories of the people of the city through hidden pickups can be quite powerful. The story in the game isn’t the best thing ever but it’s intriguing and compelling enough to keep it feel that you are doing things for a reason. Combined with the world though and the stories it tells, the game feels very fleshed out and is a lot more thought provoking then one may expect.

As well as your main missions there are side missions and random tasks that appear on your map. Most do end up boiling down to go here and kill enemies, which is a bit disappointing. They do try to keep it fresh by adding different objectives to them, but they can occasionally start to feel like the same thing just in a different place. Luckily the combat is so good it doesn’t impact that negatively on the game as a whole. There are times you know what’s going to happen though, such as when you go into an area with lots of cover and no enemies, with a button or objective to activate. You know waves will swarm out, but it does allow you to prepare.

Your character can learn skills as you level up and these help you craft your character to play as you want to play. The first skill I chose to unlock was the assault drone as I thought I may need some help while playing solo. Even this skill has numerous options and loadouts (All of which can be modded later in the game). You can also unlock perks as you progress allowing things such as more xp from killing enemies or more inventory  slots (of which you will be needing lots).

With so much loot you it’s inevitable you will have have lots of junk. You can sell all your unwanted bits, donate them to projects in the game which help unlock blueprints and gear or disassemble them to get components to allow you to craft items. Through crafting you can create mods for yiur weapons to help improve them. Theres a lot of sub menus but all become familiar and easy to use the more you play.

I haven’t even touched on the dark zones which I have only dropped my foot into. These are areas where all is fair game and players can kill others and steal gear. I look forward to trying more of the dark zones as I loved the one in the first game.

With so many great things going on there will inevitably be some negatives. Although this is yrue there are not as many as i would expect. The biggest one is the graphical pop in when exploring. With so much going on the game strughles to keep up sometimes. Its by no means game breaking but it does occassionally pull you out of the immersion. The other larger issue is the game has to always be played online which means there are some people who wont be able to play as they dont have good internet connections. It’s a shame and it’s an issue which could simply be the nail in the games coffin for some people. There is also the possibility that some people will get bored of the repetition of it being a cover shooter but for me, it’s not a worry.

All in all, I think that The Division 2 improves on everything the original did and surpasses all other looter shooter games on the market. For me, it is so far my game of the year (Although we have a long year ahead of some big games). It plays beautifully, is stunning to look at and offers so much content it’d make even red dead blush.

From my time with the game so far I’d give it a strong reccomendation and believe that with each passing day the reccomendation will get even stronger.