I’ve never really been into MMOs or looter shooters. As more of a single-player story based and MOBA/Dota kind of player, I’ve always been someone from the outside looking into this alien world which I find amusing but unwilling to jump into. While I appreciate why people like the genre, the only time i’ve really dipped my toes into a “looter shooter” experience was Borderlands 2 from about a decade ago. I had fun playing the game (mostly coop), but it didn’t really keep my attention for that long as it was quickly forgotten in my library in favor of the usual suspects.
The rise of the modern MMO-lite looter shooters in the form of Digital Extremes’ Warframe, with it’s massive free content and Bungie’s post-Halo project in the form of Destiny 1 and 2 gave fans of the genre a spotlight in the mainstream. With more and more people getting into the hype and genre due to the pedigree of Bungie’s previous Halo games and Activision’s marketing machine, the “looter shooter” genre has evolved and become modernized into something the core audience both hates and loves with a very divisive opinion on it.
When I got the chance to play Ubisoft’s latest entry in the genre, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, I hesitated knowing as it really wasn’t “My kind of game”. At the same time I was also intrigued as I am what I would consider a versatile gamer who doesn’t really stick to one particular genre and isn’t really good at any of them. I opened up Uplay, code in hand from our friends at Ubisoft, and started up my download of the game. Was I ready for post-apocalyptic Washington DC? Or was it ready for a noob like me? Time to strap in and find out.
There’s Lore but Who Really Cares?
Like every modern game, there’s an opening cinematic. Although there’s no convoluted story or characters initially, the Division 2 tells you that you and the other agents are the hope in the world of ruin and chaos and there are the Hyenas who serve as the major enemy faction along with other marauders and you have to free Washington DC from their clutches and take back the city. All you have to know is that you go around Washington DC shooting and looting and making things explode while you get better loot along the way.
That said, I doubt anyone is playing any of these games for the lore. It’s just there as a premise and as an excuse to strap on your best gaming gear or controller and get to shooting.
Robust Character Creation Options
Just like Ubisoft’s recent Far Cry entries, you’re treated to a fairly robust customization screen with all the bells and whistles in terms of hairstyle, eye color, shape and clothing. Fortunately (or unfortunately) your character is a mute and never speaks so that’s all of the personality you can muster out it.
As for clothing, you’ll find that there are not that many options but plenty enough to make you look like an serious operative in of The Division. You’ll find that there are other fun and cool costumes but they’re unfortunately locked behind microtransactions which isn’t really surprising nowadays.
Once I was happy with my character, I hopped on into the world of post-apocalyptic Washington DC – hopefully looking badass enough to not get shot at in the first few minutes.
Washington DC is Painstakingly Represented 1:1
After I dipped my toes into the tutorial which went over the basics, I was thrown into Washington DC as you aim to reach the White House – now the stronghold of The Division. Walking around Washington DC is just a phenomenal experience as they modelled it pretty much 1:1 with the actual city. Every building matches real life scale as much as the developers could, and you can see these in several comparison videos and stories out there.
They really did a great job recreating war-torn Washington DC and it’s quite the experience just being in the alternate-reality version of the White House and realizing how far technology has taken us in terms of our video games.
The Gunplay is Pretty Tight
The main draw of the Division 2 of course is to shoot up Main Missions, Side Quests and just shoot up random encounters in the streets of Washington DC. And that it does pretty well. Aiming and shooting is pretty smooth, so are the sounds of your guns. You can immediately see feedback on how much damage your bullets have done on the HUD. While most of the game doesn’t really require you to be an elite sniper, headshots are rewarded with additional bonus XP and certain weapons give a lot of additional damage for headshots, which is very useful for taking down tougher enemies.
You start off with a basic weapon which does the job when you start off at first – until you level up and realize that you need to upgrade your weapon sooner or later by looting your enemies. There are lots and lots of weapon types from Assault Rifles, Sub-Machine Guns, Snipers, Shotguns amongst others, each with their own rarity, effects and stats. Early on you’re going to find White (Worn) weapons, Green (Standard) weapons and maybe sometimes Specialized (Blue) weapons with a Talent or passive skill on it. Later on in the game you’re going to encounter Purple, Orange and Red (Exotic/Unique) weapons. There’s also damage dropoff for each weapon the further that the enemies are, so you really need to pick your weapons wisely before going into the next mission.
Outside of shooting and looting you also gain access to 8 different Agent skills, from deployable turrets, drones that annoy enemies, support skills for yourself and allies and chemical gas. These allow for more variety and versatility in your arsenal and it really allows for a team with good communication to take advantage of synergy. Perks on the other hand are earned by finishing side quests and by picking up SHD Caches throughout the map and are passive skills which allow you to carry more weapons, more armor healing kits and allows you to level up faster with more bonus XP options.
A key mechanic in the game is the cover system as enemies are in a word, ruthless. They may seem dumb as they don’t hide that well and are always out in the open for certain enemy types, but they are really accurate and will punish you if you even peek for a few seconds. They will also flank you with melee types which hurt a lot so you really need to be on your toes and move from cover to cover.
Please Don’t Go at it Alone
The Division 2 is designed with co-op multiplayer in mind and it definitely shows. My attempt in going at it single-player was met with frustration, curses and the very word that naysayers throw around with regards to the game: Bullet-sponge. Enemies can be very tough to take down solo early on, and it’s frustrating to watch headshots from a sniper rifle only do a third or a quarter of enemy health, and enemy “bosses” which are pretty much just heavily armored regular enemies with buffed stats simply made me want to pull my hair out.
The silver lining? You don’t really need friends to enjoy co-op as the game allows for several types of Matchmaking for just random free roaming, or missions or side quests, which make missions a lot more palatable, and even gives you bonus XP just by partying up with randoms. Thankfully friendly fire isn’t a thing in this game so I haven’t encountered any griefing so far.
There are Loads of Things to do on the Map
It’s a hallmark of every Ubisoft open world game to have a lot of activities and side missions in the world, and The Division 2 is no exception. There are plenty of Side Quests marked on the map which reward you with a lot of loot, crafting materials and perk points. There are also several safehouses which allow you to fast travel and mark points of interest on your map.
Outside of these marked points on the map you’ll regularly encounter strongholds on the street that you want to liberate as these are important points on the map you’ll always be passing by. These have some of the toughest enemies in the game and you’ll not only have to liberate it but also defend it from the next wave of tough enemies. There’s also several random hostage rescue events and propaganda speakers that you have to hijack. Oh and did I mention crafting materials? There are several blueprints on the map that give you access to special gear that you’ll need to gather crafting material for. There’s never a dull moment in The Division 2 as these diversions seem to just never end.
There’s also the PVP mode called “Dark Zones” which I haven’t had the chance to encounter so far, so I can’t be the judge of that but it’s worth a mention.
You’re never going to run out of things to do in The Division 2 which is from what I’ve seen a strong talking point over its competitors with weaker end game content.
Is The Division 2 for me?
Did I enjoy my time in the Division 2? I would say Yes as it really allowed me to explore what a modern looter-shooter is and what the fuss is all about. I even played it for 4 hours straight a few days ago.
Will I keep on playing it? Well that’s a bit harder to answer but personally I’m leaning on no. I might explore it again from time to time as the premise is quite interesting, or when someone who’s into it pulls me back in, but it’s still not really my kind of game.
Is it worth the money? With plenty of content, tight gunplay, several varieties of missions and gameplay and a pretty good discount going on Uplay, I would say yes. If you’re the kind of gamer that enjoys coop gunplay, raiding and looting, crafting and you don’t mind spending some time invested into a game, you could do worse than The Division 2.
Thank you to our friends at Ubisoft for allowing me to experience the game and their take on post-apocalyptic Washington DC.