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Tom Clancy’s The Division 2
Meta scores and external review links will be updated after the game is released and has had time to simmer in the wild. Go, be free Division 2.
PS4: N/A | PC: N/A | Xbox: N/A
As someone who logged more than 530 hours taking back New York in “Tom Clancy’s The Division,” I approached the sequel with an equal mix of trepidation and excitement.
While the possibility of running around my hometown was a major attraction, I wasn’t sure Massive could recapture the epic feeling of the original game, in which players felt they were a vital part of resolving a high-stakes crisis far bigger than themselves. It didn’t help that Washington’s generic summer setting was a far cry from the visually inspiring wintry backdrop that made the first game unique. Everything about the new game’s marketing screamed “over-the-top action.” But what grabbed in the first moments of the 2013 E3 cinematic trailer for the original was a quiet, confident storytelling style that wasn’t afraid to visit humanity’s darkest moments — the what-ifs we only explore in our inner monologues.
I still miss the snow. But within the first couple of hours, “The Division 2” does an admirable job persuading you that the crisis is still very real, six months after the events of the first game. Of course, the very first thing I had to do was make the commute to my office and ensure The Post was still standing. Democracy Dies in Darkness, y’all.
- The game looks gorgeous in HDR. On PC, performance was buttery smooth — playing on ultra settings at 1080p with an Intel i5-8600K and an Nvidia 1080 Ti, I was consistently getting 80 to 100 frames a second.
- There’s more than enough loot to go around, and pretty early on (at level 4 out of max 30) I even came across a purple-quality backpack that I was still using at level 6.
- The one complaint that remains from the open beta — agents who lurk on the subreddit for “The Division” will know what I’m talking about — are the weapon mods. Many of them still apply a damage debuff in exchange for improved handling. It’s an awful design that will end up discouraging players from using mods at all, particularly at higher levels when extra damage to elite enemies becomes vital.
Massive should consider a reworked mod system that retains the concept of trade-offs but changes what attributes you’re being asked to select.
For example, magazine mods should not be applying debuffs to your critical hits. Instead, every magazine mod should sit somewhere along a spectrum: At one end is the mod that gives you the biggest possible magazine size, at the cost of slower reload speed. At the other end is the mod that accelerates your reload speed to the greatest extent possible but the magazine capacity is tiny by comparison. Then you could have a range of mods in between that offer a mix of those attributes to varying degrees.
Other mods would follow a similar logic. Tossing on an ironsight could reduce the time it takes to aim down the sights, but it would offer a more limited buff to accuracy than, say, a 4x scope. By the same token, the 4x scope’s bigger accuracy boost could be offset by increasing your ADS speed compared with the ironsights.
It’s worth it even if you’re only interested in exploring the most detailed digital version of the nation’s capital — post-apocalypse, albeit — outside of Google Street View.
Amateur advice: If you’re playing solo, the uber-powerful turret is indispensable. Use it to lay down suppressing fire from one position while you flank the enemy and attack from another sector.
Wish I had known before I played ... There is definitely a logic to which perks you should spend your points on first. I blew most of them on weapon mods, but you’re better off applying them toward XP boosts, so that you can earn XP more quickly and thus unlock everything else that much faster.
Playing “The Division 2” as a Washington resident is like playing “Resident Evil” and finding your actual home in the game. It’s even eerier than it sounds.
Unlike my workaholic colleague Brian, I marched right over to my favorite cigar shop in the District, W. Curtis Draper Tobacconist on 15th Street, right by the White House. Sure enough, it was there, complete with the gaudy red, white and blue awning decor from the gift shop next door.
Ubisoft is really pushing reviewers to get to the endgame, presumably because it wants to show off how much the series has improved since the original’s 2016 launch. This is, after all, the same week of the “Anthem” boycott, in which players of Bioware’s similar but embattled game are not playing in protest of a stingy endgame.
I’ll get there eventually. With less than a day with the game (I’m only level 7), it’s clear how much developer Massive front-loaded content at the beginning. Each subdivision of Washington has settlements, which all host their own missions and submissions.
Enemy artificial intelligence is aggressive, and there are different behaviors for different “gangs” that have taken over Washington, from untrained street soldiers to the more organized group of former paramilitary warlords. Everyone moves differently, keeping things unpredictable.
Let’s be real: This game didn’t need to do a lot to please me, as I’m still so fresh out of dealing with “Anthem” drama, which you can get caught up with here. If I were going to give an honest breakdown of my first impressions, they go:
- Hey! I can go outside without a loading screen? (Hey, I can even go inside without a loading screen!) In fact, there’s only one loading screen to start the game.
- Enemies just don’t stand and stare at walls. Refreshing!
- When I find a new weapon, I can do things such as 1) see what it is and 2) use it. This can be done in a matter of seconds, like a normal video game, and not at all like “Anthem," where those two actions could take you up to several minutes.
- I can customize my soldier’s appearance in five different ways, all using items I found while playing the game. None were purchased.
- I’m not getting disconnected and I’m connecting with others — ideal for a multiplayer game!
- There are numbers to tell me if I’m getting stronger, which, if you’ll recall my recent experience with “Anthem,” isn’t always the case.
Out the gate, the game gets so many simple things right. Ironic that it took a game about a systemic breakdown of government to give us a game where all the systems are in working order.
Also, bonus points to the designers for assuming our streets would run wild with red pandas escaped from the National Zoo.
It’s easy to mock Ubisoft’s assembly-line approach to creating open-world experiences. But the fact remains that they’re incredibly efficient at creating high-tier experiences packed with content. It’s hard to say how strong the endgame is, but “Tom Clancy’s The Division 2” is front-loaded with enough things to do to make it worth a dive right out the gate.
Amateur advice: Farm all the side content for “tech” supplies early. These are easier, relatively quick missions that will help you upgrade your skills and perks. I have a drone, and now it can do small bombing runs. Plus, I upgraded my backpack so I can carry more stuff.
Wish I had known before I played ... Nothing. Ubisoft has been more transparent than usual about what’s going to be in the game. They knew what the stakes were in making sure players aren’t surprised by anything.
- I am really into RPGs and action/adventure games, so being introduced to characters so quickly and with such little development left me feeling cold. In opening scenes, we’re under attack by a massive combat ship when my character gets a distress call from Washington. I was forced to leave my friend behind. Is she still there? Is the ship still sailing toward the bay? I seriously doubt I’ll ever return to find out.
- I played on Xbox One X and got significant frame rate and rendering issues. Sometimes items would pop in mid-fight, and it was pretty distracting.
- The game is focused on solid multiplayer missions, but I started my first couple missions with players who were one level higher than me. That small difference affected the loot that dropped — it was all one level too high for me to equip at the time.
- The shooting mechanics made me feel as though I had to put in work, which is realistic. When I did eventually pick up my MDR and AK, I got into a groove. I appreciated the variety of weapons that allow certain party members to focus on certain attributes. If you are truly a run-and-gunner, you can put all your focus into high-damage weapons to best fit that style.
- Exploring Washington gave me the most joy. The amount of detail the developers put into the maps was stunning. Because I was exploring so much, I was pleased to have my exploration rewarded with random loot caches around the cities. The “Admiral Burger” restaurant in the game is a McDonald’s in real life.
This is obviously a great game for those who love games like “Destiny 2” in which you can grind levels out to improve your character. But if you enjoy action with storylines and characters you care about, then “The Division 2” will leave you wanting more.
Amateur advice: Do not buy anything from the vendor for your first five levels. You will quickly find better loot on enemies and around town, and it will just end up being wasted money in the long run.
Wish I had known before I played ... The enemies get tough quick. I was feeling so confident in the beginning hours that I invested my first two skill points in offensive skills. After getting surrounded by multiple Hyenas wielding batons I realized maybe I should have invested in some healing skills instead.
I never played the original game. So my review will probably be most helpful if you’re flying blind, too.
- The game opens right where I used to play soccer on the National Mall. I grew up outside of Washington, and “The Division 2” puts forth a valiant effort capturing the capital in the summer. The swampy weather, the brutalist architecture; it’s wild turning the corner to find myself on my old walk into The Washington Post, right pass the same church on New York Ave., I walked past almost every day.
- The story, at least so far, is murky at best. It’s not why I would buy the game. What I do love so far is the world exploration. I mean, I’m never going to fast travel. It reminds me of Horizon: Zero Dawn. The best part of the game is allowing random events sweep you into action.
- I’m running the game on a base Playstation 4, and you can tell. Environments take a few moments to render. The sign on a truck looks like an impressionist painting until it eventually smooths out. If you have a console that’s long in the tooth, you may run into the same issues. At one point the gameplay became so choppy, I had to reset the entire system. All that said, I don’t think people are playing this game for hyper-realistic graphics.
- My biggest gripe: I don’t understand why this game lacks a stealth component. You are a lone agent traversing a city filled with people who want to kill you. I’d appreciate a few gadgets or tools to clear out enemies without drawing attention. I get there are silencers but, I mean, I’m looking for some close-quarters options. A tomahawk? Something.
This game was worth it to me because I’m a D.C. native. That being said, I think the average player should wait to see how people enjoy the endgame. I find it fascinating that The Division took so much time to develop a smart endgame (all triple-A games should). If this truly is an endgame where you can sink dozens of hours into it -- a la Grand Theft Auto V -- sure, pull out your wallet and pay full price. If not, you might wait for it to go on sale.
Oh, by the way, this game only gets better if you have friends who are playing it. I’d say that should be a huge factor in whether you buy.
Amateur advice: Buy the turret. It’s over-powered and my best friend. Brian told me to buy the turret and he was correct.
Wish I had known before I played … Again, I never played the first game. I’m still surprised there’s no stealth component and I think it’s a wasted opportunity. I wanted to sneak around Smithsonian museums like Batman.