Fans of post-apocalyptic scenarios of survival and warfare have never had more reason to rejoice than they do now. Publishers in all mediums are clamoring to cash in on the trend, from movies and television shows to podcasts and books. Luckily for you and your doomsday-prepping gamer friends, video games are no exception, and the fad may not be a fad at all. We have seen game after game, story after story of post-collapse society for years now, and developers show no sign of stopping. Latest in the genre comes Massive Entertainment’s and Ubisoft’s ambitious semi-modern looter shooter, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. The Division 2 has just enough grit and gun to satisfy your survivor spirit. Maybe.
Title: Tom Clancy’s The Division 2
Developer: Massive Entertainment
Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Reviewed On: PC
Release Date: March 15, 2019
Game Purchased for the Purpose of This Review
In Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, you take on the role of an agent of The Division, a task force of the United States government. The world around you has been destroyed by the “Green Poison outbreak”, a smallpox pandemic that has brought society to its knees. You are stationed in Washington DC, and it is your monumental task to liberate the city from the control of three separate factions that have sought power for their own in the country’s vulnerable position. The White House is your base of operations, and players familiar with the US capital will recognize much of the landscape. The game boasts a 1:1 recreation of Washington DC for you to travel through as you rescue civilians and government officials to help rebuild and strengthen the leadership remaining in the United States government, and attempt to find a cure for the wrathful disease.
The digital version of Washington DC supplied to the agents of The Division is impressively made and carefully crafted. I have never been to Washington DC, but the landmarks and sites feel real and authentic and pay beautiful homage to their real-life counterparts, though frequently crumbling and overcome by vines. The city is overrun with decay, and stray dogs and wild animals are frequently seen roaming the streets, rummaging through garbage cans, and sidling between broken down automobiles. The weather and lighting effects change how the city looks just enough to make the world feel real and consistently fresh. These are accompanied by a wonderful original soundtrack that add to moments of eeriness or tension appropriately.
The core mechanic of The Division 2, namely third-person shooting, plays very well with little to complain about. A frequently quoted complaint of the series’ first entry was that humans do not respond appropriately to being shot, shot at, or receiving damage. Bosses were bullet sponges, taking multiple clips of heavily powered guns to down. But in the world of The Division 2, this feels right. Your main enemies are humans, and this sort of game simply would not function if single bullets could kill each gangster and boss. The bosses are heavily armored and deal healthy damage, and don’t be surprised if a mission forces you to retry multiple times. Strategic thinking is necessary in many missions, and serves to immerse the player into the situation. Enemies, likewise, respond to player movements and actions, sprinting across rooms to flank your position or diving behind cover to save themselves. A handful of activated abilities, though sometimes weak, are intuitive enough to sometimes turn the tide of a battle and become an integral part of your approach.
The world is great, the guns are fun, so where does The Division 2 go wrong? Well, for starters, despite the tight mechanics, the game never truly becomes fun. Functioning gameplay mechanics will carry a game for hours, but not for the months it will take to experience all of the content Ubisoft plans to implement. The story of The Division 2 is weak with few memorable moments. The gameplay loop of looting guns and gear from fallen enemies is quite literally the only gameplay element of The Division 2.
Virtually every mission will reward you with a handful of new gear components, some of which are upgrades to what you’re wearing. Before long, I had received so much gear that I didn’t care to check the stats of every single item I received, and was simply equipping pieces with the highest item level and rarity to spare me those tedious seconds. The missions themselves fall into the same rut of repetition: enter building, kill enemies, interact with object, kill enemies, enter new room, kill boss, and loot. In the tens of hours I spent playing The Division 2, I did not experience a single mission that varied outside of this formula.
If the repetitive missions and shooter-looter style of gameplay don’t bore you, the enemies almost certainly will. A gameplay loop similar to that found in The Division 2 is not new to gaming. In the 90s, I could sit and do this very style of game for hours in the likes of the Diablo series. There, the progression from small, trivial imps to large, imposing, murderous demons felt threatening and reflective of the player’s power and potential. Fans of the genre found more of the same to love from the Borderlands series. In The Division 2, the first and last enemies you encounter will be humans. Not hulking mutated humans throwing cars your direction, or humans piloting super-powered mechsuits firing barrage after barrage of missiles at you. Just humans. Sometimes they have armor. Other times they are half naked. But all the time, humans, nondescript and ordinary in nearly every way. Occasionally you will have to down a small turret on a perch, or maybe shoot an electric coil, but this does little to break up the monotony. The Division 2 is not a high-fantasy or ultra-sci-fi-themed game, but some creativity in enemy variation could have gone a long way. A tank! A helicopter! A mutant or a mechsuit! SOMETHING!
My biggest grievance with The Division 2 lies with the wretched abomination that Ubisoft has the nerve to call an interface. The Division 2 has packed so many things into a single game, including (but not limited to) guns, grenades, specialized ammo, armor, cosmetics, multiple types of crates, crafting recipes, crafting components, quests, side missions, points of interest, fast travel points, bases, base upgrades, rewards, two different types of XP, clans, parties, stories, collectibles, and, of course, in-game purchases with premium currency. Having all of these components in one game is not inherently wrong, but the developers have crammed them into a pseudo-hologram UI where nothing is labeled, controls are muddled, and accidentally stumbling into the wrong portion of the menu happens unfortunately often. I did not learn how to actually leave a party of other players until I forced myself to find the option at level 25; or, over 80% of the way to the level cap. As an honest and unbiased reviewer, I have no choice but to deduct an entire point from this game’s score for the ludicrous and complicated HUD.
There’s a lot of good to be said about the world of The Division 2. The world feels very real, characters feel absolutely believable, and the game was crafted with obvious love. For some, especially fans of looter games, they will find a satisfying loop of running, gunning, grenades and gear to please the palate. For others, myself included, the core gameplay loop never becomes anything deeper than exactly what it appears, and the seemingly endless cycle of upgrading gear just to get more will wear itself thin before you reach the highest tiers of power. I do not regret the time I spent in The Division 2, but the wide ocean was unfortunately too shallow for a full swan dive.
7.0 / 10