The Division 2 takes place seven months after a bio-terror attack in the original game where a bunch of bastards released a potent strain of smallpox in New York City because of some reasons. Fearing wide spread panic and social collapse, the United States government, in all its stupid idiot wisdom, activated a contingent of domestic sleeper agents known as “The Division”, who have carte blanche to (and this is an actual quote) “deal with threats as they see fit”! Which is so fucking shady it makes you wonder who the bad guys really are. The plot is straight forward enough, stop a brutal paramilitary authoritarian force by acting as a brutal paramilitary authoritarian force, but don’t worry, it’s okay when “you” do it because Merica!(“Another children’s party thwarted for America!”)
Before I dive into the meat of this review I have to say, that the folks over at Massive entertainment should be commended on the amazing post- (semi)apocalyptic aesthetic they have managed to achieve. You get a genuine sense of devastation and panic as you explore a world ravaged by a viral outbreak; smashed police cars, overturned jeeps and wild animals give this game the depth that was lacking in the original. One particular touch I found very impressive is how they have managed to integrate the remnants of the DC population into the wasteland without making it look forced. An example of this is the White House which acts as a base of operations, from the outside the grounds look war torn, but inside it’s a hive of high tech gear and people fighting for survival.
Now onto the crux of any video game, the game-play, The Division 2 does not deviate in any great way from the original. Cover is still the core around which the combat is built, and while the basic cover mechanics remain much the same they have most definitely been refined, so much so I even toyed with the parkour mode (all be it briefly). I decided against this feature as I don’t like being shot all that much to be honest. It still also annoys me that you can’t go prone or crouch down unless you are in cover, as if self-preservation is only exists in proximity to a chest high wall.(“Oh thank God, my legs were killing me!”)
The shooting has a very tactical feel to it; in the many hours racked up playing through the Division 2 I have come to learn it is not a run and gun game, nor does spray and pray work. You must think about the weapon you use and how you use it each time you encounter any form of resistance. But don’t you think for one fucking second that just because you got a headshot with a high powered sniper rifle that that means you win, get to fuck with that logical thought process The Division 2 says! The damage ratio in this game is shockingly unbalanced I have got very clear headshots with many weapons that doesn’t put the enemy down, rendering them pointless! I mean why expend the time consuming effort of lining up a headshot when instead I can just use my machine gun to mow an enemy down. But remove the thought of relying on machine guns at all times because they are borked too, often requiring a full clip at point blank range to take down even low-level enemies.(“I’ve been shooting for hours!!”)
I have made it sound like the combat is difficult but don’t worry, it’s not. The enemy A.I in this game is some of the stupidest I have ever encountered. You could be in a pitch firefight with an enemy platoon and they will randomly leave cover while under fire, often resulting in a Benny Hill esq death befitting these idiots. They will also for some unknown reason try to climb up and down random objects which, while funny, strips away any illusion this game can be challenging.
And to cap it all off the combat is just repetitive and dull, from the low-level grunts to the Named bosses they are all defeated by just pouring bullets into them from behind cover, no tactics required. What this game was crying out for was stealth or environmental mechanics, not complex ones, like Metal Gear, just an option to engage enemies covertly or drop rubble on them occasionally would have livened things up a bit. Just once I would like to piano wire a guy instead of using 63 billion bullets on him (figure based on estimates) but wait I didn’t realise the guy was psycho mantis and can see me from a week away.(“How about this time…….we shoot them…alot?”)
In summation The Division 2 is all style and no substance, while it may look the part any interesting story or world building is sacrificed at the expense of, frankly, mediocre gameplay. Tom Clancy games were, for me, the bench mark in the tactical shooter genre but this one misses the mark and by quite a bit. Stripped of anything that may have been interesting to fit the Ubisoft sandbox live service idea, and idea that, by now, has worn out its welcome.