Reviewed on Xbox One X
Ubisoft’s original stab at The Division wasn’t a perfect experience, far from it. It was a repetitive looter shooter held together by solid combat, a gorgeous snow-coated world and the intrigue of the dangerous Dark Zone.
The original The Division was a stunning MMORPG to look at. Drudging through the snow was a great time, especially when a storm would kick up inside the Dark Zone. Finding contaminated loot and fighting off other players whilst being barely able to see was intense. Sadly, by moving away from the snowy environment, I feel The Division 2 has lost some of its charm. Unlike the original, it’s aesthetically drab. While it attempts to add charm through the occasional bout of graffiti, it never feels earned.
The Division 2 is still a stunning game to look at. Post-apocalyptic Washington D.C may not have anywhere near the same level of charm that New York had, but it’s still a beautiful landscape to run around and shoot bad guys in. Without friends or randoms to run around with it can still feel lonely—the streets of D.C may feature the occasional animal and troop of humans but emulating life is something that escapes its design.
Of course, it doesn’t help that technically The Division 2 falters consistently throughout its journey. Texture and object pop-in, poor AI, dodgy collision, mission screw ups and more are the one true constant in the game’s virtual interpretation of Washington. It’s a mess, a cacophony of bugs often interacting with each other in ways that never truly harm your playing experience, but they’ll definitely ruin any hint of immersion you’re currently feeling.
Then again, it’s not like there’s much immersion to be found here. It’s a looter shooter through and through. Washington D.C isn’t really a world, it’s a beautiful 3D checklist designed wholly around granting you places to shoot and loot. If you’re looking to do one or the other, but hopefully both, then you’re sorted—The Division 2 does both remarkably well.
While its mission design is predictably repetitive, a clever combination of fantastic and exhilarating combat makes the countless hours of shooting samey baddies feel rewarding. Guns feel satisfying, the movement is snappy, and the feeling of scavenging your first WW2-era sniper rifle or double barrel shotgun out in the field always scratches that itch for seeing numbers grow over time.
There’s a suitable amount of weapon variety, too. Whilst I rocked a submachine gun and a double barrel shotgun for the first couple of hours, I found my loadout constantly evolving throughout my time with the game. A good deal of time has gone into environment design this time around; there’s always a reason for you to switch to an all-new loadout and try something different. Some missions take place in crowded office buildings which might benefit from close range weaponry. Other encounters are spread across wide fields where a sneaky sniper rifle might be useful.
Of course, you’re bound to find your favorite weapon types and there are systems in place to make sure that you can play how you want while also not being at a huge disadvantage. Using weapon mods, you can slap a huge 8x scope onto your monstrously powerful LMG. With the ability to shoot your LMG from range, you can now swap out your sniper rifle to a powerful shotgun or even a mid-to-close range SMG. Ubisoft has certainly designed this sequel around player choice, and it shows.
In between written missions, you’ll find yourself interacting with the many world events that attempt to keep The Division 2’s world from feeling empty and flat. In reality, they end up making it seem rather bothersome as moving between safe houses and missions usually ends up with you initiating three or four of the things. With that said, they are useful for leveling up in the early game. Taking out a propaganda broadcast, stopping a public execution or taking over an enemy occupied hangout can net you a hefty XP drop alongside some great loot.
If you’re looking for the best loot, though, you’ll be exploring The Division 2’s new interpretation of the Dark Zone. Designed as a more dangerous zone where players can kill each other for higher-end loot, the Dark Zone is still an enthralling experience. Just a few minutes into my first Dark Zone venture and a rival player had already launched a grenade at me for my tasty legendary rifle.
Much like the original, all loot in the Dark Zone is contaminated. As If fighting through harder enemies and greedy players wasn’t enough, you’ll have to extract your treasures through the use of extraction zones in order to keep it. This involves going to a zone, calling in a helicopter and fighting off anyone who tries to steal your goodies away from you. It’s a fun time! It does, however, have the tendency to make you brick yourself.
The Division 2 feels like a full package. It isn’t always as polished as we’ve come to expect from a AAA experience, but then it does have the expected Ubisoftisms about it. It’s buggy, but never intrusive. It has some questionable microtransactions, but they don’t ever really affect you. It’s repetitive and utterly meaningless, but it can be an incredibly satisfying experience.
I can feel myself coming back to The Division 2 for a long time. It scratches the same itch as Diablo and Destiny, but it definitely has more going on than the latter. If you want a game that’s fun on your own and a great time with friends then this is the faux-MMO for you. With Ubisoft’s planned support, I’m sure The Division 2 will become something truly great.