Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is not what I expected. With rocky reviews from critics and fans alike, and a lot of doubt moving forward, there’s a lot to be surprised about and a lot to unpack here. The foundation of a game that the first title laid down with a difficult execution is fully realized in 2019. While it’s not a new Splinter Cell title like we’re all hoping for at some point; this is the best product that the Tom Clancy team has offered in years.
The Division 2’s world is incredibly dynamic. In between missions, you’ll encounter other agents scavenging for food, patrolling, or heading towards a specific destination. There’s never a dull moment, as combat erupts with minimal warning when roaming the streets of Washington D.C. Gunplay functions very well, and using the different weapons in the game feels more satisfying than before. Not being a fan of third person shooters personally, I often find difficulty remaining engaged in a game like this. That being said, firing and taking cover requires absolute attention because enemies adapt to your strategies so quickly.
The A.I is something that really stuck out to me. Enemies take cover as if they were other players and change positions quite effectively depending on where you move. The enemies in The Division 2 are incredibly unforgiving and will attack without a moment’s notice. Needless to say, this game is built to keep you on your toes. The game’s cover system is well implemented with a simple press of a button. This gives you time to think and recuperate, but it doesn’t feel like avoiding combat entirely like in other games. The cover system is pretty intuitive and allows safety from multiple points, especially considering enemy position. The controls are fantastic and respond surprisingly well. Despite this, I often found myself getting stuck in between cover corners during the game. This was due to a bug that’ll hopefully be patched out soon.
While the action is fun and engaging for some time, the difficulty has a big spike as you progress. You’ll likely find yourself respawning quite a bit by the second act. The checkpoints are a little too far apart than what I’m comfortable with. I found myself repeating sections of missions for hours because someone ran up behind me with a shotgun. Having to assess your strategy and think about how to approach a battle is great. Having your enemies be so merciless and finding yourself in the same section of a mission for extended periods of time on the other hand, can be daunting, making things very tedious.
Aside from the skills that you can buy (Turret, Seeker Mine, Drones, etc.), combat can be repetitive. On top of that, all of the missions are very linear. It almost feels like an on rail shooter at times because of how repetitive the process can become.
Unfortunately, where the Division thrives in gameplay, it lacks in story. The tale of Washington D.C and the agents taking it back from chaos is almost laughably cliche and really nothing that hasn’t been done before. The concept of average people having to become soldiers in order to rise up against a powerful group(s) of adversaries has been done again and again. The Division 2 portrays it in a way in which there is almost no emotional investment. It’s disappointing because The Division 2 is a game that I genuinely enjoy due to it’s immersion and gameplay elements. Unfortunately, the lack of a cohesive and directional story makes it difficult to continue. I do however appreciate the nods and references to real life Washington D.C tropes (your Base of Operations is literally the White House).
The survival mechanics that were implemented into the Safehouse element of the game felt like a bit of a chore. It didn’t really give me a reason to want to do them. Contributing to projects by donating resources grants combat perks (i.e. Accuracy, Critical Hit Probability), but I personally just would have preferred to have unlocked that in combat instead of having to worry about the communal section of the game. Having to hire recruits to provide more food and resources for the stronghold is tedious too. It’s really such a menial part of the game. I spend about 15% of my time playing the game in the safehouses and strongholds, and when I was, it was to accept missions and upgrade. Adding civil duties and stronghold mechanics to the game feels generally contrived and doesn’t leave much to be desired.
The graphical jump is solid, the streets of the game world are vast and inviting at times, while cold and claustrophobic at others. Customization gives you more than enough options so all of the different avatars feel unique and don’t get boring to look at. I actually got excited when running into another player wearing some flashy gear. The character models are sleek and look great underneath the dynamic lighting. The game runs smoothly and the servers runs surprisingly well considering that you’re always in an online world with others.
Your selection of weapons and gear is quite vast but takes an unbelievable amount of grinding to unlock. The main story missions are lengthy and leveling up doesn’t happen quickly. It gives you an old-school style of incentive to played versus the infamous microtransaction platform used in a lot of titles today. The game also allows you to step far out of your comfort zone by allowing you to purposefully wander into territory that your player isn’t strong enough to fight in yet. This is great for those who love a challenge and want to level up sooner rather than later.
In light of a half-hearted predecessor and a lot of skepticism going in, The Division 2 delivers in what it sets out to do. It’s an exciting third-person co-op experience with the run and gun of the original capitalized on in the best way possible for the current generation. Although at times tedious, it’s a sufficient game for its target audience. And while annoying and unnecessary, the shoehorned survival elements don’t take away from the fun there is to be had here. With free downloadable content coming from Massive over the next year, things are looking great for The Division 2.