The Division 2 may not be out until March, but this weekend gave an interesting early taste of what’s to come in the sequel to what was essentially Ubisoft’s take on Fallout, only scaled back to deal with an apocalypse that was worse than nuclear winter: Viral Christmas shopping gone rogue. While the original game may have been lacking in endgame content (something which the sequel aims to nip in the bud), it still had the skeleton of a properly enjoyable RPG-shooter that bits of extra content could be slapped onto.
A third-person adventure with a mix of cover, stats and good ol’ role-playing elements for extra points, there was a lot to emotionally invest in when it came to constructing how your character operated within New York City and its Dark Zones. A few years later and we’re at the doors of sequel territory, with The Division 2 featuring more subtle changes to its formula while still retaining the feel and handling of the original.
While you’re still able to pop a squat behind some cover and whittle down enemies, there’s a lot more value and challenge to combat in The Division 2. Enemies are smarter, they’ll make an effort to flank you and by the time you’ve read this sentence finish I’ve been smacked in the face with a wrench at least five times by berserkers in gas masks.
And that’s great! When you have a more aggressive enemy and more options to move around cover more quickly, the sum of these parts results in a more fluid experience whenever you enter a room and start a firefight. While my usual tactic in the first Division game was to meerkat my way to headshots, I found myself going for a more gung-ho approach as I kept advancing forward and took the fight to my enemies instead of waiting for them to come to me.
There’s still value in patience and hunkering down, but combining it with more frequent opportunities to press your advantage makes for a more engaging game while also ensuring that your armpits begin to resemble a dank Miami swamp after a few minutes of action. Parkour mode is an especially helpful tool, and while it takes some getting used to get the most out of it, it does add that sense of fluidity that the first game was lacking.
I could say the same for weapons as well. Beyond the numbers, various weapon types didn’t exactly feel all that different from one another. Range was off, resulting in a topsy turvy rate of effectiveness from any direction, while shotguns were glorified rock salt shakers at best. That feeling feels largely done away with, with the ability to use various weapons to suppress enemies creating a more satisfying effect with realistic consequences for the tools that you’ve chosen.
I generally found myself favouring a mix of medium to short-range options with the retooled weapon system, using assault rifles to pin enemies down and then move in for the kill with an Uzi. SHD tech also felt better, with the options on how to use lethal ordinance feeling more varied. Between my seeker mine and turret, having the option to call out targets felt sublime.
I could fight a battle on two fronts, leaving my turret to do the heavy lifting for me on some goons while I focused on a boss, while tactical usage of my seeker mine turned it into a tennis ball of death that left enemies dazed and disorinetated before they even knew that a fight had broken out. How the rest of SHD tech, group activity and high-level play will combine and create ultimate loadouts when teams properly prepare themselves, should make for an absolutely gratifying meta-game on its own.
Now if only I could do something about those enemies who came at me with their own technology, such as toy remote control cars equipped with flamethrowers. Tricky bastards.
If I’ve got one standing complaint so far though, it’s that for all the wealth of new content in the beta, it’s that it’s exceptionally difficult to keep track of. You’ve got various vendors, quests and prompts besieging your eyeballs when you enter a safe zone, to the point of pure overload where even with a manual to fall back on, it feels like a disorganised dump at times.
It’s challenging enough to remember who to see, where to go and how to activate certain skills that you’ve unlocked even if you’re a veteran of The Division, but for newcomers? It could be massively intimidating to be thrown so early into the deep end of ideas, characters and unlockable content. That being said, The Division 2 feels like the right kind of sequel so far.
A refinement of established ideas, subtle new variations to shake up a jaded fanbase and if its anything like everything else tat Ubisoft has released in the past couple of years, primed to receive one hell of a post-game support as a live service.
Last Updated: February 11, 2019