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New York, New York. The city that never sleeps, the Big Pineapple. The location of a thousand games from yesterday and a million more on the horizon for tomorrow. There’s something alluring about the isle of Manhattan, a location which was given a post-apocalyptic makeover in the original The Division game from Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment.

A virulent plague had descended on the world, society fell into ruin and the streets were littered with lunatics in face-masks plundering stores of all their toilet paper and drinkable bleach. It sounds vaguely plausible but there’s no way that a mild pandemic could drive people to such mad lengths…right? Anyway, the first game was a blast and a sequel was in development quicker than you could say live service.

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A sequel which was absolutely terrific…for a time. Like any big budget release from Ubisoft, the emphasis on live service elements meant that The Division 2 would live or die by its endgame. A plan was in place, a schedule for content was implemented and…it just didn’t really feel all that good once you’d seen and done everything there was to do in Washington DC.

Excitement was fading months down the line, new patches were nerfing aspects of the game that fans loved and players were once again abandoning the servers as they looked towards greener server pastures. Warlords of New York then is Massive Entertainment and Ubisoft hitting F5 on The Division 2. It is a nostalgic slice of action that builds on what came before with an eye fixed on the future. If this is the direction that The Division 2 is headed in, then it’s a damn good restart.

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Before you can even dig into that endgame, it’s time to trek back to New York City. Legendary rogue agent and infamous naughty boy Aaron Keener has taken over New York, his personal squad of fellow turncoats have carved out their own empires within the ruins of the sleepless metropolis and gangs thought dead have once again risen to plague survivors as they feast on the remains of the once bustling city.

That’s where you come in, to reset the balance of the status quo with as many bullets as possible. If you’re going to end the threat of Keener once and for all, you’ll need to smoke him out of hiding by taking down his lieutenants one by one. You can approach this part of the campaign in any order you want to, whittling down Keener’s right-hand men and women until you finally get a lead on him and work to end his menace once and for all.

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In typical Division 2 fashion, you’ll do so by shooting apart armies of hired guns through a variety of locales. Make no mistake, the combat once again feels distinct and superb when you get right into the thick of things. The Division 2 evolved its cover-based formula to emphasise flexibility and movement, and having that approach guide you through an ocean of cover points as you make enemy gang member heads erupt in a geyser of numbers is as satisfying as ever.

Throughout your journey (which will take 6-8 hours as a rough estimate), you’ll unlock new skills which can give you a tactical advantage once they’re pulled from the corpses of your foes. Speaking of which, Warlords of New York may just have some of the best boss fights seen thus far in the series. From a duel with a master of holograms who goes full Mysterio on your senses to a tanker battle where you’re being constantly peppered with phosphorous grenade charges, every Warlord brings a new challenge to the table that’ll either have you sweating buckets by the end of the encounter or swearing in tongues when you wipe yet again.

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Massive has also made a concerted effort on making New York feel like a more interesting location to return to. You’re stuck in a map smaller than the original slice of explorable real estate, but one that still feels detailed and dense with details. From crumbling city streets littered with refuse and corpses to the internal tree of knowledge sprouting within a hub of computers to form a modern-day Ygdrassil, Warlords of New York is a scenic tour that’ll have you snapping pics constantly in photo mode.

The big question though, is what’s really different in Warlords of New York? At first glance, it looks like the exact same game but with a change of scenery. Underneath the hood though, it’s a whole new game on a technical level. The current drive to ding level 40 can easily be done through the main campaign, but once you’ve gotten that far you’ll be pursuing a system not too different from the Badass rank points of Gearbox’s Borderlands series.

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Extra XP will be funnelled into various attributes that can add an extra layer of damage to headshots or give you more armour with which to soak up damage, small upgrades with incremental bonuses for agents. There’s also a drive to make gear matter. Less loot drops overall, while weapons and gear now have more simplified stats that push home how good these items really are and keeps your inventory less stocked with utter junk.

If you like aspects of your gear, you can even save the attributes of these drops and use them to recalibrate what you have into something that suits your style of play and create more perk-heavy weapons and armour that tie more deeply into manufacturer brand bonuses for equipping items from the same war machine family.

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There’s still so much more to really dig into with Warlords of New York, and with a mere week behind me I’m still discovering much more beneath the surface. The current make-up of seasons with rogue agents to hunt down sounds like a fascinating endgame, agent growth is a constant goal to pursue and the more subtle customisation elements should hopefully prevent The Division 2 from getting stale again.

Last Updated: March 10, 2020

The Division 2: Warlords of New York
Warlords of New York is a massive leap forward for The Division 2, a fun diversion that aims to be less repetitive and more engaging. There’s a big picture being developed here, one that’ll make the trademark grind of The Division 2 more addictive than ever before as civil war rages on in the streets of the divided states of America.
8.0
The Division 2: Warlords of New York was reviewed on Xbox One
82 / 100

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