When Tom Clancy’s The Division released three years ago, it was mostly well-received. Not only did the game offer up a solid gameplay experience for players, but it also managed to deliver most of its promises to be a brand new MMO/FPS crossover. On top of that, the game was genuinely fun to play. Unfortunately, things went south for The Division fast, and as content dried up in the game, fans were quick to leave and look for other games. Three years later and Ubisoft is back with The Division 2, and it looks as if the company has learned from its past mistakes, as this entry in the series manages to build on most of the success of the original while implementing its own unique twists.
The first thing you’ll notice when you jump into The Division 2 is just how detailed the world is. While the first game was able to give players a fleshed out version of Manhattan, this sequel sets its sights on the nation’s capital and delivers in every aspect. The level of detail in the game is nothing short of astounding, and not only does the game sometimes feel like a true, 1:1 scale recreation of Washington, DC, but the city also manages to have its own spirit as you play. Much like The Division, missions and collectibles are scattered throughout the city, and once you’ve unlocked the base of operations – the White House – for the game, you’re free to head out and begin clearing the city of its unrest.
The theme of The Division 2 is, similar to its predecessor, that of survival. Taking place seven months after the first game, the world of The Division 2 hasn’t changed much. Unfortunately for Division agents, however, the country is on the brink of civil war, and it’s up to you and your team of soldiers to help restore order. You’re certainly free to take back the city yourself, but where The Division 2 really shines is in its co-op gameplay. Once you team up with some friends, things get really interesting. As the original game did so well, The Division 2 manages to get a lot of the teamwork and cooperative play right, with teamwork playing an integral part of how good or bad an enemy encounter can go. Thankfully in this game, the customization afforded to the players is way more than anything we saw in the original.
As it was three years ago, players are free to create their own loadouts and play with whatever weapon they feel works best. Where The Division 2 opens up a bit is in your ability to truly fine-tune a gun or play style to whatever suits you best. Not only can you get specific weapon talents based on what your specialization is, but you can also apply mods that will either offer you stat bonuses or change the visuals on weapons when you use them. If you want to unlock more slots and gear for yourself, you can; if you’re someone who would prioritize ammo or perhaps would rather focus on backing your teammates up with ammo, these are also options. In theory, this will give every player a different style, so that not only are co-op missions handled differently each time, but PvP combat is also more surprising, and much more skill based than it was in the past.
When it comes to actual gameplay, things remain about the same. You’ll still be involved in various cover-to-cover shoot outs, aiming to flank or catch enemies off guard as you take them down. Movement and general combat feels incredibly smooth, and the display that players see in-game are cleaned up so that you’re much more aware of what you’re doing in the middle of a fight. Unfortunately, the one downside in the gameplay is the enemies, with a lot of them often feeling like bullet sponges instead of realistic foes. Ubisoft has tried to fix this by allowing enemy armor to break off the more you focus on it, but this doesn’t always work, and too often I found myself trying to deal a ton of damage to a high leveled enemy by shooting a very tiny target in his armor. This isn’t always a problem, but as you get closer to the endgame and enemies become much more difficult to handle, it is more noticeable.
Speaking of the endgame, The Division 2 offers a lot to do once you get there. It’s clear that Ubisoft has done a lot to make sure players are never starved for content, as once the endgame begins, new missions appear, old missions get harder, and in general, the endgame actually feels like the real draw to The Division 2. A new batch of enemies in the Black Tusk faction comes pouring into town, and players are soon thrust into trying to fight through strongholds in an effort to stop them. Where the original Division faltered in its endgame, the sequel does no such thing, and with future raids and even more content planned for the games Dark Zone, you should be playing for a long time before you get bored.
As is the case with any modern day game, internet connection does often play a role in how the game performs. Unfortunately for The Division 2, connectivity issues were a huge problem early on in the process of playing the game. While no major server failures or lagging occurred, there were some minor issues with the game going down at inopportune times. Thankfully, this can all be cleaned up with patches and bug fixes down the line, so there isn’t anything too major to worry about.
When it comes down to it, The Division 2 managed to take what made the first game pretty good and build onto it until a much better product was born. The emphasis on player freedom, coupled with the already very solid foundation that The Division laid is more than enough to make The Division 2 a great game. Not only did Ubisoft give fans what they wanted this time around, but they also built a game that is a must play for fans of the series and fans of the new, MMO-lite genre as a whole.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 for the PlayStation 4 provided by Ubisoft.