Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 Review – The Complete Package
Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment’s looter shooter returns with the release of Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. Hoping to build on a legacy of rewarding combat, immersive environments and varied end-game, The Division 2 launches in a more hostile environment for the genre, but does it have the pedigree to pull it off anyway?
Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 Review
The Division 2’s story follows the events from the original game as Agents, members of a special elite task force, head to Washington D.C to restore power to the SHD Network – a global network acting as the central source of intelligence and assignments for Agents of The Division. What follows is the discovery of a cure for the Green Poison, and subsequently all viral infections, which acts as the primary driving force behind the games challenging story campaign. The Division 2’s story is easy to follow, and while it maintains a level of quality throughout, it lacks any memorable punch and feels more a prelude to the games end-game content than a stellar standalone story. While somewhat disappointing initially, the “play it safe” story quickly fades to black as the games true intentions become clear.
Much like the original game, The Division 2 is, at its heart, a cover-based looter shooter that relies nearly entirely on its combat mechanics and grind loops to entertain and enthrall. Thankfully, it nails both. It nails them in such a way that The Division 2 is arguably one of the best cover shooters available, and one of Ubisoft’s greatest works ever.
The over-the-shoulder combat relies heavily on two major factors. Ducking, diving, sliding and jumping between different forms of cover as a huge variety of enemies ambush and approach your location from multiple sides, and combining a massively impressive arsenal of weapons with an equally impressive array of skills and abilities. While the bullet-sponge issues that often plague the genre are still very much present in The Division 2, the combat is satisfying, rewarding, and immersive from start to finish. And, it’s brutal. During my many runs as a solo Agent, I found myself outgunned, outmanned, and outplayed, feelings that heavily push the player towards grouping with other Agents. While enjoying many of the games activities solo is a definite possibility for the hardcore among us, it’s ill-advised in many situations.
Accompanying the impactful cover and shoot combat is a diverse list of skills and abilities that can be customized, enhanced and improved throughout the game. Agents unlock skill point as they progress through the main campaign, accessing advanced technological assistance for future battles. One group could be heavily focusing around their squad leader leading the charge behind a huge shield, while another sits at a distance and coordinates drone strikes and seeker mine attacks. While some of the skills and abilities would greatly benefit from a bit of balancing, there’s already plenty of opportunity to experiment and explore a robust skill and progression system.
One of the biggest problems facing Agents looking to restore order to the nations capitol is the frustratingly “intelligent” AI. Instead of facing enemies that adapt and react to the threats they face in a realistic and believable way, I too often found myself battling seemingly psychic soldiers that could read my every move from behind a container 50 meters away.
Approaching an enemy checkpoint, I hear calls for help from my nearby allies. Pinned down by heavy enemy sniper fire and a hulking mess of armor and firepower, my allies were unable to advance onto the machine gun nest that had been the primary cause for our failure to capture the checkpoint earlier in the day. I grip my controller tightly, I begin to hum the Mission Impossible theme tune, I take several side alleys and a small underground passage to approach our enemies from the opposite angle. I was straight up ready to Tom Clancy those fools.
I draw my heavily customized and camouflaged sniper rifle, line up the perfect shot on the enemy sniper then, just like that, he’s gone. This expertly trained and highly attuned sniper, that had been providing covering fire for nearly two minutes straight, randomly had the immediate instinct to duck behind cover as soon as a gun is aimed at his location – despite being out of his line of sight. I wait, and wait, and wait. There’s no sign of movement from his location. I decide to switch my attention to the heavily armored enemy rocking the minigun, but no sooner do I change weapon does that sniper rear its ugly head once more. A quick switch of my weapon back to my trusted sniper and, what? Once again, as if from divine intervention, the enemy sniper instantly returns to cover.
These types of events are not random, it’s not the result of some cascading AI scripts resulting in random psychic reactions from enemies, it happens in nearly every fight. I press the button to activate one of my abilities, the enemies react and move before humanly possible. Enemies will rush and advance on your position with absolutely zero care for their own survival. This makes sense for some of the units designed to rush, such as the lunatic that straps explosives to his chest and charges your location, but for other enemy types it becomes frustrating, predictable, and boring. A situation made worse when you face squads of enemies that take 200 bullets from an LMG to fell one soldier. On the surface The Division 2’s AI seems intelligent, responsive, and varied, but dig a little and you’ll find very limited AI behavior that is easily its biggest shortcoming.
The Division 2 truly stands head and shoulders above the competition with its myriad of activities and flurry of end-game content. It still bears the mark of Ubisoft as Agents head to new areas, repeating activities to free yet more civilians from tyranny – a formula used in practically every Ubisoft game of this generation – but it’s fine tuned to perfection. In previous Ubisoft games, I often found myself pushing to complete that first region 100%. Hunting down that last side quest, defeating that last high value target, only to feel exhausted to repeat the process a second, third, fourth and fifth time. In The Division 2, the team put just the right amount of content in each area to keep things fresh and engaging throughout the experience.
A single phrase often thrown around the industry today best describes The Division 2. Content is king, and The Division 2 is the king of content. From launch, there’s a massive variety of objectives and activities as you progress, objectives and activities that expand, evolve and improve continuously throughout the campaign and even moreso when you reach end-game. Never before have I been so excited to complete a games main campaign. As soon as you hit level 30 and complete the main story you are bombarded with prompts and unlocks, each exposing something more interesting and exciting than the last.
Real-time conflicts and territory changes between the games multiple factions, hidden boss enemies that hold special cosmetic loot drops, evolving checkpoints that increase in power the more your presence is known in the area, strongholds that act as challenging dungeons with multiple boss battles and fantastic rewards, bounty targets that require the gathering of intel to locate, collectibles, the content just keeps going, and going, and going. And that’s just from the perspective of the PvE fan, there are entire areas dedicated to PvP. The content itself is only trumped by a single other aspect, the loot.
The Division 2 boasts incredibly interesting loot and advancement systems that allows players to truly specialize, customize, and improve their characters in a variety of ways. Tons of weapon customization options, the ability to switch talents and perks from one weapon to another, random chances of hitting the “critical” success when crafting, there’s no end to the ways you can improve your character in the game.
Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 raises the bar for the looter shooter genre. Put simply, it is the complete package.
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