Tom Clancy’s The Division 2

I rarely purchase newly released games, but played The Division on PS4 and enjoyed it. There was a lot of hype and buzz about it’s successor, The Division 2. Having read lots of positive community feedback and watched YouTube trailers, it was quickly ordered a couple of days later.

6 DVDs arrived by post not long after release and I immediately was surprised. My ITX build PC doesnt have a DVD drive. Thankfully, a code is provided to download the whopping 54Gb of data needed to install the game!

Once installed, there were a couple of nights tinkering with graphics settings and obligatory Steam controller profile. Worryingly, there was a serious sound issue that needed resolving. With all that out of the way the game was working well and it was time to cruise the streets looking for trouble!

Graphics

There are a huge amount of visual settings to tinker with in The Division 2 and an NVidia game profile to kick-start with recommended settings. Running the game in 4K with DirectX12 and HDR enabled it looks gorgeous.

A huge amount of work has gone into the map and the detailed textures, combined with dawn and dusk scenarios. It feels like a living beast, spending a day in the city. It takes on a different feel at night. Your senses become heightened, you feel slightly on-edge because you can’t see as far. Most notably, it’s frightening when a stray deer whizzes past you unannounced.

It’s a fantastic feat and Ubisoft deserve recognition and credit for what they’ve achieved visually with the game. The minor niggle is how dark it becomes when you’re in a car park or basement. It can be incredibly difficult to see. HDR on/off doesn’t help much here, but a torch would be useful in your kit.

Letting rip with a few flashes from your rifle muzzle soon sorts the issue and also helps get the attention of whatever unsavoury characters you’re currently hiding from. Pro tip: Pretend to be Tony Montana in Scarface and bellow out “Say hello to my little friend” at the same moment for added effect.

Gameplay

The game mechanics in The Division 2 are excellent, building on what worked well in the first title. Taking cover is always the recommended route in any scenario. Fail to do this, well you’re just going to die repeatedly.

It’s easy to get caught out with the odd stray bullet or sniped on any flailing body parts, so it’s not fool-proof. Alternatively, blind firing from cover works a treat and fits well with any gamer who likes to play hide and seek at the same time.

This applies to everyone including enemy characters also playing hide and seek, especially if they’ve left some visible body parts. More often than not, this results in suppressing the enemy which is a great tactic for your team mate to sneak up and take them out with a melee attack. I much prefer the distance work of hiding and blind-firing. I’ll accept I’m not in line for a bravery award any time soon.

Story

The game is built around an exact replica of Washington DC and it’s open expanse of streets, nooks and alleyways. This works fantastically well in game and you get a real sense of open-world scaling. There’s always something round the corner be it gangs of trouble, loot, missing items or an abundance of stray animals. Having never been to Washington DC, I can’t comment on how accurate this is, but it’s not a million miles away from my home town of Middlesbrough.

The storyline revolves around a coup within Washington DC with various factions fighting for control. The story itself isn’t poor, it’s a great backdrop and sets the scene well, but it wasn’t hugely immersive. It’s not a flaw in the game, quite the opposite. There’s so much fun, enjoyment, addictiveness and abundance of main missions, side-quests as well as loot and upgrades.

Simply wandering the city looking for public executions or other random encounters provided such a pull that the story missions hardly got a look in during the first five hours of gameplay. Gameplay is king in the Division and it’s thoroughly enjoyable.

Upgrades, Levelling & the Grind?

Upgrade paths within weapons, gadgets and clothing have noticeable effects on your gameplay and are deeply detailed. The biggest is clearly weapon level, but there are a few caveats to this once you have exotic weapons. The shotguns in particular are very effective at taking out high ranked opponents.

It’s questionable whether to upgrade your weapons with mods, skins and other items as you level up so quickly. This means your snazzy, upgraded purple rifle becomes useless the further you progress. Waiting till the level 30 cap seems sensible because any upgrade will be permanent and relevant.

Upgrading a favoured weapon early on is the best approach as you’ll have a short term kick-ass weapon. This is useful to get you through the tougher battles. Dismantling or selling low level green weapons will help you gain credits and much needed parts for later in the game. Flogging the purple and blue items and dismantling the greens is a good strategy to employ.

With all the levelling up that happens, it doesn’t feel like a grind as there’s so much to do and variety in getting that all important XP.

Collectibles in the game range from toys, spanners and other odd stuff through to the useful SHD tech points. Whilst sounding very mundane, the random loot items such as a child’s toy are requested by in-game characters. Did I spend too much time hunting them out to return for XP? Yes, but was it somehow morally rewarding? Again, yes and would I waste time doing it again? Definitely!

Completing side-missions earns SHD tech points which can be redeemed for various upgrades. I recommend spending the SHD tech points on XP boosts early-on as this helps in the levelling up process.

Online

If you’ve read a few of my reviews, you’ll see I’m not a huge online gamer but did team-up on a number of missions in The Division 2. You can start various missions and bounties in-game with a group of friends or strangers and it’s very enjoyable. The community is helpful and friendly with your squad helping each other through revivals or tactics.

It’s interesting to see everyone deploy their own gadgets when in missions. Prepare for some comical moments should you be partnered up with a Rambo styled player, while the rest of the squad play doctor to revive this lunatic.

The Division 2 automatically pairs you with similar level players during matchmaking and this makes each fight fair yet still challenging. There’s the odd occasion I’ve been mismatched to players 2 levels above and was effectively the cannon-fodder-pawn for the squad. Taking damage and running around to draw fire like a pro. To the squad, I probably appeared like Rambo above but my shockingly poor kill ratio should have set that straight. At least one of the squad saw the genius in this tactic and that was enough for me.

When a mission finishes, you’re immediately dropped back into the city as a group, so you can continue to play collectively if you wish or if Rambo is still with you, watch him go all guns blazing down the street chasing a stray dog.

Summary

The lasting impression of The Division 2 is one of beauty and addiction. After many gaming sessions, I was always looking forward to returning to play it. To try a different mission out, look for another upgrade or just to re-kit my character based on what weakness was evident. This is a great achievement as it proves it’ll hold longevity. This game has me hooked and haven’t touched on the Dark Zone and conflict game modes.

The detailed and gorgeous world which looks even better in full 4K with DirectX 12 and HDR. Gameplay builds on the excellent game mechanics from The Division, but with very deep upgrade paths and hugely entertaining multiplayer in this vast open-world recreation of Washington DC.
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