Ah, The Division, what can I say about the Division that hasn’t already been said?
If you’ve ventured onto my Twitch channel or caught any of the YouTube videos you’ll notice that I create a lot of content regarding Tom Clancy’s The Division.
This is because it’s one of, if not the only, favourite games of mine but it’s safe to say that this wasn’t always the case. In fact, after getting the game on release day and experiencing all of the issues that came with it, I didn’t really play it much for a year and there were also times that I was going to trade in the game and use it to purchase other titles.
But there was something about The Division which had me hooked, I loved the idea of it and I kept hearing that the developers were creating fixes for the issues so I decided to five it one more chance and venture back inside the post-apocalytpic New York city one last time to see if the game could ever be fixed and, too be honest, I haven’t looked back since.
The game, for me anyway, features everything that I want in a game.
It boasts a compelling story, combines PVE with PVP in such a way that, as a fan of online games, I’m not noticing the difference when I’m taking on teams in the Dark Zone or clearing the Landmarks while still getting the sense of fear when an enemy drops high-end gear and I know I have to extract it. The different gear and build sets gives you a chance to build your character to suit whatever play style suits you best.
For example, I regularly run a Nomad build. In my team we have someone who runs D3-FNC, someone who runs Reclaimer and then one more who will swap between Predator’s Mark, Nomad, D3-FNC or other builds to suit the mission and help us complete it. Occasionally, I fancy changing my own build as well and I might run D3-FNC on a mission or take to Lone Star to run the Dark Zone as the game gives you the chance to mix things up or change your style to suit the game or vice versa.
I have also challenged myself to do tasks such as looting a purple beanie hat or running in the DZ while have a build equipped which consists of only purple gear.
Now, the downside is that the game can become repetitive. It seems harsh to say this as I’m writing in 2019 about a game that was release in 2016, but I’ve found at times that I’m getting bored of doing the same mission over and over again and, in truth, if it wasn’t for the fact that I was running in a team, I might have given up on the game a while ago and focused on something different. After all, 3-years in the gaming world is an incredibly long time and although Ubisoft have tried to smooth this over by releasing DLC content, it still becomes monogamous when you’re running the same missions over and over or fighting a team of 4 on your own in the Dark Zone and it does become tedious.
So, it will probably come as no surprise to hear that, following the announcement of The Division 2, I was sold and made the decision that Ubisoft were getting more of my money instantly and I was making the change from saving the streets of New York to fighting a new war in Washington.
While there’s still a bit of a wait (around a month), Ubisoft attempted to drum up some excitement amongst it’s regular players by offering a BETA version which was available by invitation or by pre-ordering the gold edition (or higher) of the game and I was received my invitation to download the BETA.
After downloading the 50gb download and jumping in, I was instantly impressed.
The scenery is gorgeous. The post-apocalytic streets of Washington was quite breath-taking. I was quickly reminded of I Am Legend with the empty overgrown streets and the animals running through the city and I was quite in awe of the environment when all of a sudden it came crashing down as I was kicked from the game and was placed in a queue before I was able to get back in.
Determined to play on? Yes!
After a short wait I was back in the game and I was doing the first mission of defeating enemies on the lawn of the White House and unlocking the new Base of Operations.
That’s right, in The Division 2, the new Base of Operations is the home of the President of the United States, how cool is that? I found it a genius idea and, even as someone who isn’t American, I found myself impressed and a bit inspired.
After unlocking the BoO I was assigned my first mission in which I had to make my way back through the streets of Washington and go to an encampment of survivors and interact with someone to get the mission going. Running through the streets I encountered more enemies (also known as ‘Hyenas’) and it was here that I really fell in love with the game.
The enemies no longer feel like bullet sponges, and I was able to quickly and efficiently dispatch the enemies even though I was using a white gun. The ducking and moving mechanics just felt smooth and transitioning from different covers felt nice.
But it wasn’t easy. While the enemy weren’t bullet sponges, neither was I. I found this out after someone lobbed a grenade in my direction and, after thinking I could handle it, I was quickly repairing my armour as this grenade had wiped out my armour and half of my health, but at least it helped me work out the new health mechanics.
So, instead of popping med kits when your health is low, the game now focuses on armour and you have to repair your armour after an enemy breaks it down. The real difference is that you need to make sure that you take cover while doing this because you can’t interact or continue shooting while replacing your armour. You can’t just tap left on the D-pad and instead you have to hold it down, so you can continue to get shot while doing this, so hiding is more important.
This, for me, is a welcome change as I’ve never been the best at remembering to pop a health kit when I’m engaged in battles with other players in PVP mode and often I would lose fights because they were much better at administering health than I was so this change will make a difference and, I feel, that it will make fights in PVP modes more competitive and more of an even playing field.
So, after this, and another kick, I was at the first mission and I was in a hotel trying to rescue someone’s daughter. I was running up the stairs of the hotel, entering rooms and fighting off enemies and I admit it was quite difficult. I went down a few times as I struggled to remember that I couldn’t simply tap left and instead I needed to hide and restore my armour. However, it didn’t really both me that the fact a grenade could wipe out my armour, instead I was more happen that the game offered more in the way of realism.
Too often in the Division1, I would withstand multiple grenade attacks and keep on fighting. One thing that also bothered me were my grenades were pretty much useless in PVE as I would throw a grenade, they’d see it and then dodge the grenade. That’s not the case in this one, if you’ve got an enemy pinned down and throw a grenade, the enemy is still pinned down and they can’t move and this resulted in them being killed by the grenade.
One thing I also loved was shooting the enemy resulted in them being incapacitated and unable to move until the shooting had stopped. This meant that, providing you can keep steady, you can shoot and kill an enemy and they won’t be able to duck or attack you.
Anyone who’s played the Division 1 will know that you could shoot the enemies and they would still be able to continue running or shooting you, frustrating when you were emptying magazine after magazine in them and they would casually walk over to you, slap you round the head and suddenly you were down – it seems now that this has been fixed by the new mode and it’s especially useful as some of the enemies you will encounter are the charging enemies who will proceed to layeth the smackdown on you with an electric baton or they’re suicide bombers who will charge you and then attempt to blow you, and themselves, up.
The gear drops were pretty reasonable as well. I found armour and bullets were dropped regularly so you wasn’t always having to look for a restock point but the weapons and gear that were being dropped was good as well.
My guns were upgraded fairly quickly to the MPX (the house in The Division 1) and the Police M4 – a gun I fell in love with in the Division 1 after upgrading it quite a lot, in fact it’s still a gun that I run with quite often instead of the Lightweight M4.
The sniper rifles are powerful and come with a change, now when you press aim it goes straight down the scope, it doesn’t aim and then you click the analogue stick in anymore which could be an attempt to make the game more realistic, or it could be an attempt to make it harder for the players that like to camp at the back and just aim without using the scope in PVP modes – either way, it’s a change that I liked.
One new feature is the inclusion of drones in the new game which replaces certain perks from D1. This includes a drone which provides a healing instead of the healing box, a drone which can drop grenades on the enemy and gun turrets which have sniper shots where you determine the targets and press R1 to execute. While they’re interested, they don’t really change the game that much from what I was used to, I couldn’t level up my character past level 7 so it’s hard to know if the healing drones could be used in a team or if they’re purely for solo playing, and likewise, the grenade drone was good if you can keep the enemy pinned down long enough to drop grenades on them.
In total, there are 2 playable missions and then there’s some enemy bases which you have to clear.
Clearing the enemy bases felt like a challenge, there were loads of Hyena’s inside the base and you had to try and get in, kill them all and then, once they’re all down, stop and defend the base from invading enemies who try and get it back. This included them using a gun turret which rips through your armour and also heavily armoured boss’s where you had to have sustained fire on them in order to break away their armour and be able to do any real damage to them.
This was combined with the charging enemies and those that sit back and take shots at you. Once you’ve cleared out the first lot, however, you can get on the turret and use this to take them out as it makes light work of defeating the enemies, even the heavily armoured ones. You can then provide tools to the new camp leader. I did notice that I could go back to one leader every so often and they’d request new tools, so it’s possible that the enemies could attempt to retake the bases after you’ve captured them, something that I would welcome in the game.
After completing the missions it was time to head over to the Dark Zone.
In case you didn’t know, TD2 now has 3 different Dark Zones: Dark Zone North, Dark Zone South and Dark Zone East.
In the BETA we were allowed inside the Dark Zone East and after watching the doors open in true Jurassic Park style, I felt all of the emotions that I originally felt when entering the Dark Zone for the first time, a mixture of excitement to see what’s inside and a hint of fear in knowing that I would be fighting against others who had possibly invested more time, had better weapons or might have been running around in a team and were looking for a loner like me to pick on and steal my stuff.
This didn’t happen in the start as it was more of an introduction, showing you how to go and claim some gear and then extract it before running back to a safe house.
I noticed instantly my armour shot straight up, I’m guessing providing a bit more cover in the Dark Zone to start off with to help us be able to get a good feel for what’s happening inside. I didn’t notice that the Dark Zone levels were capped and I was able to get to level 8 before the BETA had finished, and was able to extract some decent blue gear.
One interesting bit we discovered was the skulls.
When you clear a landmark, if you look around the walls you can find a skull on the wall and activate something which then sets you off as rogue. Then you have to run around the map looking for other skulls which either led to an activation terminal or a chest where you could find some decent loot.
Once you’ve activated all of the skulls you’re then invited into a thief’s den where you will find more loot that you’re able to extract. A nice touch which will give you some decent gear and provides a reason for going rogue, something that I didn’t do all that often in TD1.
I don’t know if it was the group that I was with, or if something has changed, but I only saw one rogue who I was able to dispatch of before extracting my gear and then leaving the Dark Zone but there’s a new feature with gun turrets around the safe houses in an attempt to stop those who go rogue and wait by the respawn points to get as many kills as possible.
Instead, you can activate the turrets which will rip through the enemies if they get too close, giving you time to respawn and escape and stop the spawn campers that happened in TD1.
All in all, with the Dark Zone and the Light Zone, it seems like Ubisoft have listened to the players and made changes which will be positive for the gamers who love the Division but were having issues with certain points. These changes, for me, made the game feel more enjoyable and it created a better experience. One person who I run with usually in TD1 who wasn’t a fan of the Dark Zone, suddenly fell in love with TD2’s version of the Dark Zone and we made a few runs in there clearing the Landmarks and was on the search for decent gear.
It no longer felt like a chore, instead it felt more enjoyable and, I guess being back in the starting levels helped, it felt more worthwhile running there. Whether this will be the same when we reach the end game remains to be seen.
Speaking of the end game, once you have got to entering the Dark Zone and completing the missions set inside there, the game then opened up some end game content and we got a chance to test out the 3 builds that the Division 2 offers once you’ve cleared level 30. These 3 builds are the sniper, demolition and survivor builds and each one comes with it’s own signature weapon.
At first I chose the Survivor build and got my chance to test out the crossbow which I found quite fun to use. Without realising that the crossbow came with explosive tips, I was expecting more of a sniper weapon and was trying to aim for the heads hoping for quick kills and then, after seeing the enemies explode, I was incredibly impressed with the weapon and thought I had found my final build until I got to the demolition build which I had a lot of fun with.
The builds themselves were good, with mixtures of purple and gold gear and weapons, ranging from close quarter combat with shotguns and the MPX, to getting the Famas and assault rifles each build felt like it was offering something, a big plus from Ubisoft is that no build felt rushed or like it was better or worse than the others.
The grenade launcher from the demolition build was as much fun to use as the sniper or the crossbow and every bit as powerful.
Testing the 3 characters came in the form of running one of the final missions as a level 30 character, which gave us level 30 enemies and it was fun. The issue I had was we couldn’t enter as a team, instead it went on to matchmaking for each person, but I was paired with a member of my team and we found a way around it by getting one of us to enter the mission and then the others joining the game from the Playstation menu as opposed to the Division 2 menu.
The mission was fun, hard, but definitely fun and we went through it a number of times with the different builds to test the characters and the signature weapons. We got to test out the new enemies, the Black Tusk, and got to experience how they’re different from the standard Hyenas.
The shotgunners were hilarious, saying and shouting things at you as they tried to blast their way through you, but they didn’t feel as powerful and as hard to dispatch as before, they wasn’t easy by any means, but with the suppression fire and the them being stunned, unable to move if you managed to keep steady while aiming on them, they was so difficult.
Rather than throw boxes down, the medics were able to heal and revive the enemies by running to them, which meant that killing the medics became a priority but it wasn’t impossible to kill them unless you took out the box, which made it more fun without being overly difficult.
There was also an inclusion of different robots such as one that was like a robotic dog which ran around shooting at you, and one which looked like Johnny 5. They were equally difficult to kill but fun and a nice change in the game, preparing tactics to take them out before going down, which we failed at a few times, was a nice change of pace and added a new difficulty to the game without making it too challenging or impossible to complete.
If you’ve been following the Division 2 and watched any of the videos previously, nothing in this article might sound new to you. However, as someone who has invested a lot of hours in the game without being a professional player, I can say that the game features changes that are well welcomed and definitely well received.
It’s perfect for those, like me, who have invested a lot of hours in TD1 while remaining new and exciting for new players to come in and learn about the game without feeling too “new”.
It also creates a more level playing field in terms of PVP while keeping the difficulty and adding more to make it less of a chore and more exciting to run in the Dark Zone and the changes to the game mechanics and the way that you can take out the enemies feels much, much better as you’re not using all of your ammo on sponges and instead engaging in good battles with enemies that feel the right power level.
The BETA version has definitely got my excited for the Division 2 and, whereas I might have been a bit more open to wait the month that I have left before TD2, I’m now getting impatient and I’m genuinely disappointed that the BETA is over, even if it only consisted of 2 missions a few enemy bases, 1 of TD2’s 3 Dark Zones and an end game mission.
Ubisoft, you’ve well and truly earned my money this time round, now if you can make sure that the crashing and the loss of sound during the BETA is restricted to the BETA then the Division 2 will definitely be a winner.