Release Date: March 15th, 2019 (Xbox One, PC, Playstation 4)
Genre: Action role-playing game, Third-person shooter
Developer: Massive Entertainment
ESRB: Mature (Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language)
Games As A Service, henceforth abbreviated to GaaS, is a concept that has been around for a while now and one publisher has seemingly found a winning formula while everyone else has been caught with their pants down. When Ubisoft released The Crew back in 2014 GaaS games in their current model were just beginning to spill out onto consoles, with 2014’s Destiny leading the way. These games had major bumps in the road early on, but most ended up turning out well n the end. In fact, the trend is that a lot of GaaS games start off a bit rough (Just look at Anthem’s release!). Where Ubisoft shines is that they listen to the fan feedback and continually work to bring games to a state both old and new players can appreciate, like Tom Clancy’s The Division. So when Ubisoft releases the rare GaaS sequel, they have set themselves up for success.
That is where we stand with the release of Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. The game itself is based on the same engine as its predecessor and is built upon the last major update that game received. For those unaware, The Division 2 is a third person cover-based looter shooter. Examples of a looter shooter include Borderlands, Warframe, and the Destiny games. The main mechanic/progression is collecting better gear from completed tasks, fallen enemies, and random interactive scenarios. Think of these titles as what the offspring of RPGs and traditional shooters would become. As a person who prefers single-player games I mostly stay away from this genre, but I have tried to get into a few of these games recently. I never really got hooked on any of them, with the best one being The Division, until now. To put it bluntly, The Division 2 is downright some of the purest fun I have had playing a game in a long time.
The fun I had is accented by the little things that could have easily been missed by the developers, but the fact that they were not only heightens the enjoyability of the game. For instance, the lore from the first game is that the “Dollar Flu,” a smallpox epidemic that was transmitted via banknotes, swept through New York City on Black Friday 2016. The Division 2 takes place six to seven months after those events transpired and as the player travels around Washington D.C., they will notice that all the Christmas decorations are still up. Having the decorations around makes sense, given the global epidemic and how no one would spend the time to take them down – which speaks volumes that the developers thought those details through. In fact, not having those decorations would have completely hurt the immersion of anyone who played the first game or knew its lore.
Speaking of the story, The Division 2 rapidly kicks off with a short video exposing some of the lore before jumping into a quick gameplay sequence to get the player used to some of the mechanics. Once that mission is completed, the game quickly pans into a movie-like credits sequence that I personally love. It brings a cinematic touch to the proceedings that most games do not quite touch on. Afterwards, the map becomes filled with multiple story and side mission symbols, some of which are in areas that out-level the player. Luckily, these symbols are not overbearing nor do they overcrowd the map, as older Ubisoft games used to do. With that said, while side missions are optional, players will most likely need to complete them to level up unless they happen have the perfect setup for their playstyle early on. This is not all bad though, as the missions help upgrade settlements which unlock perks, blueprints, and other goodies for the player to aid in their progression.
Moving on to the gunplay, I briefly mentioned how it could be best described as being more realistic even with the aim assist turned on in my preview of the game. With aim assist turned on, players aiming down the sights will put the crosshairs into the general vicinity of an enemy, but they will still have to tinker with the aim to land on an enemy most times, as opposed to most other shooters that have the aim assist rubber band to the middle of an enemy no matter what. With A LOT more time put into the game, my initial assessment still stands, but with the caveat that “mods” can make that experience a bit user-friendly. Mods are basically attachments that you would expect from shooters, like grips, scopes, and muzzle attachments, but each one has a positive and negative aspect to it and players have to take that into account to reach a balance that fits them. In the end, the gunplay is a fine middle-of-the-road style, but there could be more concise settings to dial it more into players’ preferences.
The Division 2 is not without its faults though. Right off the bat, the game has the narrator navigation turned on by default. I found this was a bit jarring, but could see how it would be appreciated for those in need of it right away. There is also the issue that the textures are blurry when spawning into certain areas, as if they took longer to fully load in than the loading screen gave them. Those loading screens may also come off as a little bland since they range from standard tips and lore when the player first loads up to just showing a map when fast traveling. The biggest flaw, though, is the fact that any progress is lost when internet connectivity is interrupted. What this means is that even when a checkpoint has been reached on a mission, if the server is taken offline, if there is an internet outage, or even if the controller is turned off, the mission will have to be completely restarted. It is baffling that the game does not save to the server at each checkpoint and just populate from there if any connectivity issues arise.
Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, at its heart, is an extremely fun game that has improved on every single facet of its predecessor. While there are some faults, they only lead to minor frustrations or immersion breaks for a game that will live for several years to come through many updates. It is rare that a looter shooter grips me as much as this game did, and that is a huge testament to the developers and the game that they have released to the masses. While the shift to “always online” has some aforementioned pitfalls, it does enhance the experience, as players can seamlessly drop in and out of matchmaking to play with friends or help strangers when they ask for backup. Any fans of looter shooters, or shooters in general, will find themselves getting fully immersed and lost in this world. (Ryan Williford; Gaming Editor)
Review copy provided by Ubisoft.