The Division 2 is a game with a vision and plenty of staying power – PS4 Review
The Division 2 has proven itself a product of hard work on the part of Ubisoft Massive, who are now reaping the rewards on all platforms.
While their new looter shooter isn’t perfect, it has proven itself a rewarding grind for those who fancy an excursion into a savage Washington D.C battlefield.
The Division 2 can be seen as a perfect sequel, the start of which took root in the updates made to the original Division game.
The Division launched in 2016 and followed a similar pattern that many other looter shooters suffer from.
A lack of end-game content, a problem with balancing and plenty of growing pains when it came to server issues left it with a laundry list of challenges to overcome.
This started in The Division and has been completed with the release of the sequel earlier this year.
Having put in the hard graft, fans can now look forward to an addictive run-and-gun adventure around the ruins of Washington D.C.
Ubisoft has managed to put together an intriguing new package that should keep casuals, and hardcore fans busy into the future.
I took my time writing this review as I thought throwing something up in the first week would make it impossible to rate The Division 2 on one of its most important aspects, staying power.
Unlike other genres, Looter Shooters are built to reward players with ever-better gear or loot, with harder challenges and events built in.
And the good news is that having played this game since launch, there is plenty to look forward to. For those deciding whether The Division 2 is for them, they need to know one fundamental fact.
The Division 2 is an extension of the original game in many ways, so if that didn’t grab your attention the first time around, this new improved game might not be the right fit either.
However, if you found the first experience to be enjoyable, albeit flawed, this will definitely scratch that itch.
STORY – 3/5 ENEMIES – 4/5
The game’s main missions have been beefed up to fill less filler-like and can also pack a serious punch when it comes to difficulty and the cunning of enemies.
Missions have been given a serious upgrade in both level design and enemy combatants, adding to the overall quality of The Division 2’s replayability.
You explore areas that are interesting landmarks in Washington D.C and make for mazes of exciting clash points.
The enemy is no longer the bullet sponges of old, a pet peeve of mine from the previous title.
Instead, the AI looks to outflank you and push you in different directions, while the variety of firepower and abilities they have can prove formidable.
Some can still feel a little resilient but these walking tanks can be brought down by using weak spots, while their exploding armour means you can finish them off with gusto.
Like in the first game, there are several factions in the game, all of which offer different battlefield experiences, which are spread out across a significant but not unwieldy map.
I enjoy fighting against the hordes of apparently very evil factions that can be found down most streets and can even put up with their less bright qualities.
Sometimes you can find yourself being overrun by spawning enemies that can reduce you to mincemeat in seconds.
Cover is everything, so if four or five enemies pop up behind you without any real warning, you can find yourself in serious trouble.
This is also massively affected by how you are playing the game and it’s another strong point for gameplay.
Being able to choose to go through the campaign solo or with a group isn’t precisely, but it does change things a lot.
The skills you use can alter dramatically depending on if you are by yourself or leading the charge with others.
Playing Solo might mean having a turret that can cover a flank or a health item to get you out of a jam.
It can also affect what kind of gear you equip, with a preference of earning back armour on kills a necessity for solo players.
As a Division Agent, you can call in backup from other players in your clan or just randomly looking to drop into a game.
This becomes more and more inevitable as you move toward the end-game and take on higher difficulties.
But it’s nice that many missions are still balanced enough to make it possible not to need a helping hand all the time.
There are also some limitations to this system as well, with Ubisoft failing to offer a proper matchmaking system for side-missions.
The combo of tough enemies and excellent level design make missions a lot of fun to dip into either with friends or by yourself, but there are also drawbacks too.
The game’s story is probably its weakest aspect, failing to provide any kind of stakes.
Notable characters are also forgettable, and nothing ever really builds, even when you’re saving people.
Plus the chatter you run into on the streets can be cringy, verbal high-fives raining down on you from people who have seen their world completely crumble.
I’m not looking for Ubisoft to throw down a super gritty maze run, but the Agents becoming the saviours of DC just seems a severe pullback from the first.
It would also be nice if there weren’t such a clear line between good and evil. Perhaps moral shades of grey aren’t really possible in a looter-shooter, but it is still an area where this game could improve.
MISSIONS AND MAP EVENTS – 4/5
As mentioned above, missions work well, offering big story events, side-missions and Strongholds full of loot.
Each has its own difficulty curve which thread together to make for a smooth experience across the map.
If you don’t have the time to complete a longer story mission, you can always entertain yourself with a side quest.
Wanting to upgrade your weapons and loot? Strongholds offer a challenge which is usually pretty reasonably balanced.
We say most times, there was probably only one mission in this game that left grinding my teeth because of its great leap in difficulty.
That I could re-run with a full squad and get it pencilled off is something that makes for a great experience.
And if you don’t want to do any of these events, you can hit a Control Point or a mini event where you save other survivors.
These are spread across the map and keep everything feeling lived in and fresh for those who want to run around.
The Dark Zone is another massive part of the game and is indeed something worth exploring.
You may want to wait until the end so that you can start picking up better loot, or you may enjoy the PvP experience more than anything.
While it’s hard to say that most of the missions and events offered won’t end in massive shootouts, it probably says something about the gameplay that these rarely feel like boring grinds.
SERVERS AND GAMEPLAY – 4/5
I was pleasantly surprised to find the servers holding up well when playing The Division 2.
With it being an always Online game and me having a bit of a rubbish connection, I have rarely found myself lagging hard.
This has happened and has made the game pretty much unplayable, but it is certainly not a deal breaker.
Bugs are of course a problem, and even though The Division 2 release has not been plagued with terries issues, there’s still a lot that can change.
We are already seeing updates and improvements the UI, which started as a bit of a mess and hard to follow the data you need.
Building a UI that can handle all the different loot options and gameplay options would be a challenge for anyone, and I expect to see this refined further into the future.
MULTIPLAYER AND OPEN WORLD 4/5
Ubisoft has managed to create both an enticing open world and an excellent multiplayer experience for most gamers.
There are a lot of options to choose from, spread across an open world that looks good.
Depending on what platform you are using, rendering can sometimes take a while and affect the overall aesthetics.
The people who feel it aren’t that compelling, but the streets filled with swampy trash and wrecked cars certainly make for an exciting playground of destruction.
While The Division was a cold and unforgiving cityscape, Washington is more open and far wilder.
There are plenty of dogs and deer running around the world, which don’t actually server much of a purpose.
The inside areas of the map have also been represented very well, and Ubisoft Massive must be proud of what they have achieved in this area.
There is a lot of content to be enjoyed in The Division 2, some of which is PvP, which remains an intriguing prospect.
Fans can now find options to play 8-player modes geared toward more traditional clashes, or they can enter the Dark Zones.
DARK ZONE MAGIC 4/5
Ubisoft has changed things up in their sequel by splitting up the Dark Zone and making them more varied.
No longer stuck down a labyrinth of never-ending streets, you can find yourself in pitched battles with Rogue Agents pretty quickly.
Things can still be pretty savage if you’re ambushed on your lonesome, but some of the sting has been taken out of the tail.
One of the changes made in The Division has crossed over into no.2, with loot now easier to retain during a Dark Zone.
While many of the best items will still need to be airlifted, other rewards can be collected and equipped straight away.
This means you can head and not find yourself losing everything to a sneaky Agent.
The Dark Zone has become more balanced via Ubisoft’s stat normalisation, and they have also provided more levels to the Rogue system.
The higher the threat level, the more heat and attention you will find for yourself in The Dark Zone.
This makes the whole experience feel more worthwhile and a little less savage.
However, there’s still enough bitter encounters left to throw you into a hectic blood feud with others.
END-GAME CONTENT AND LOOT – 5/5
These are probably the areas that Ubisoft Massive have achieved the most in with their new game.
Gameplay, the rough and tumble of gunplay, feels fair and fun to participate in for most of the game.
The shooting feels good and well balanced for most of the weaponry found in the game, and the challenges keep on coming throughout your time in The Division 2.
I still sometimes find myself making silly mistakes and getting gunned down outside of cover, or doing something silly.
There comes a time when I get too confident and think I am strong enough to stand against the toughest group, only to be humbled once again.
This has happened to me throughout the game and shows that both the loot system and gunplay works well together.
Again, teamwork helps boost many of the events that can be found and can certainly be fun in The Dark Zone.
I’ve found myself being adopted a few times while running around, enjoying sinking into a group to take on the tough challenges.
And the longer you play, the better some of this stuff gets.
And you will already know, The Division 2 includes a lot of loot to collect, most of which becomes redundant in a few hours.
You will find the types you like, and you will work out how to unlock better bonuses by using the game’s different brand sets and Crafting Tools.
It can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming when you are swimming in loot and need to get rid of it just so you have more room.
Every time you level up or reach a new World Tier, the loot will change and upgrade in different ways.
It would be nice to hold onto things a little longer, but I think it is better to have lots of loot raining down then finding yourself grinding too much for a shot at something special.
The loot system will probably be a little over the top if you have never played The Division 2 before, but you have until Level 30 to work things out.
So even if you make some early mistakes, it won’t take long to find a replacement for your arsenal.
When you do reach the end-game, there is plenty to look forward to.
New enemies arrive, missions are revamped, and you find yourself staring down an even longer tunnel of exciting encounters.
We won’t spoil what happens, but the way things layer on top of each other really is a great way to keep fans happy.
The best news so far is how Ubisoft has been listening to their community and making changes quickly enough to affect things.
Public Test Servers will certainly help with this and could prove very important in the long term.
And it sounds like fans can look forward to a great set of free content coming in Year One, with Raids the next big thing.
But even if you’re not into team-based stuff, there’s enough end-game content to keep you busy.
And with a game like this, it may be the most critical thing Ubisoft has gotten right.
The Division 2 is a vast improvement over the original game, revealing that it is indeed possible to load your game with plenty of content straight out the gates.
While not free of bugs, The Division 2 didn’t suffer a torturous launch and should only improve when it comes to weeding out the more annoying issues.
Ubisoft Massive has also found what The Division is, a process that took a long time to achieve and started with the tough launch of the first game in the series.
There’s going to be plenty of new games to enjoy in 2019, but I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of Looter Shooter fans will be keeping The Division 2 installed on their gaming machines over the coming months.
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