Editor’s note: Most of our gameplay footage was corrupted and useless. We will update this post as soon as we can recapture our lost footage.
Ubisoft may have learned from it’s past mistakes. It is sad to see developers ignoring past failures when they have so many reference points to look back on. The original Division launched in a broken state, Destiny has taken years to find itself, and most recently Anthem’s failures at launch meant its sales figures have been abysmal. My expectations for these so-called live games-as-a-service franchises have been set so low that I went into this review expecting the worst. It bodes well that the developers of this franchise have been updating The Division 1 since launch, and in its current state it is quite impressive. The Division 2’s beta also had some of the same bugs and issues that the original game had, but this time, the developer actually listened and took feedback from the Beta players and fixed a lot of issues.
Developed by Massive and Ubisoft, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is one of the most technically sound and fun experiences at launch that I have experienced in a long time. I feel thankful for receiving a complete game instead of yet another broken “it will be fixed” type of game. A developer who has obviously listened to the fans and learned from its past mistakes has created a great world to be in, but it’s not without its hiccups – and lootboxes.
Let’s discuss the core gameplay and see what Ubisoft has given us at the launch of their newest games-as-a-service entry in The Division 2.
Technically speaking, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 (TD2) is so well-polished the only issues we have to complain about are some audio hiccups and character model issues. The game feels similar to its predecessor but better in almost every way. Instead of focusing on revolutionizing the genre, The Division 2 has taken the original game’s strongest points and revised and fixed almost everything around it so that it feels like the perfect evolution for this franchise.
Yes, at the end of the day you are still running through long stretches of road, killing enemies with large amounts of health, looting them, and rinsing and repeating. This is the gameplay loop that keeps fans of looter shooters coming back for more. Everyone knows the formula, and if you do not like it, this type of game would be hard-pressed to win you over but they do try.
The Division 2 is a shooter at its core, and movement and gunplay are paramount. Almost every gun type feels powerful and viable, every skill is useful and fun, and the enemies are gigantic fun-sucking bullet sponges. This game finally allows you to truly tell when you are damaging stronger enemies with clear indicators of weak points to target. I really dislike games that believe “difficulty” means throwing large waves of almost unbeatable foes at you or a single large unit with endless amounts of health. These simple changes to enemy health and armor allow for teams to coordinate with much better efficiency and strategy when trying to beat these strong armored foes by shooting hunks of armor off arms or other critical places.
Movement also feels solid and responsive and the cover system is great. Although there are problems with the wonky way a character exits cover at times, overall the game feels very tight. The core mechanics are still intact but the game surprised me many times with it’s AI. Horde-style waves of enemies can only be fun for so long, but here enemies seem to actively seek you out and flank you constantly. I was never safe in any area for too long before I had to focus on an enemy beside me while another one was driving an explosive RC car to me while another had me pinned down with a mini-gun. It’s exciting and it forces the player to play an active role in every fight, making you look for new cover or to make use of one of your skills instead of just slowly picking off groups of enemies with overpowered guns behind the same cover for an entire fight.
Speaking of skills, these are mostly tech-based tools to use in The Division 2 that can help you tremendously as a solo player or in a group. TD2 introduces some great new skills which can also be modded to add a new spin and with more loot to chase such as cooldown reduction mods or other bonuses. Skills include things like Firefly which can be used to blind targets or to specifically target enemy weak spots to make fights easier. Another skill is the Turret using a sniper or a seeker mine and even a drone. There is an annoying bug a lot of users are reporting right now that makes some skills disappear almost immediately after being used but we rarely experienced it.
The various skills are generally well-designed and we went with a more team-based build using a drone that had healing capabilities and a shield that deflected bullets and various other attacks. These skills are rather useful and a combination of them, especially in groups, can be very good to have.
I can also see loadouts as being extremely useful for specific fights throughout the game. Assault rifles and shotguns for one loadout and a sniper and a sub machine gun for another; it’s all a welcome layer of customization and options that make the game feel complete instead of something to be introduced down the line as an update. This is what impressed me most. The game at launch finally feels like a complete package that will only get better with a live service plan instead of something that felt chopped up and destroyed like with Destiny 1.
Loot, loot and more loot. This is the reason so many gamers play loot shooters to being with. Finally, I actually feel rewarded for playing the game instead of grinding for hours and hours in other games which have powerful loot stuck only behind arbitrary developer imposed time gates or required upgrade item like a “masterwork core”. In a gaming genre centered around loot drop rewards, leveling up, and ultimately fun – anemic drop rates are never the answer and it has proven to piss even the most loyal of fans off like Anthem recently has. So it is a welcome and fantastic feeling to see that TD2 never really wasted my time and I was always being rewarded with tons of loot.
Of course, there are loot boxes in The Division 2 and some players will hate that. But they are buried away and not shoved in your face thankfully. TD2 does have some interesting cosmetic items like emotes, weapon skins, shirts and pants, and even some hats along with various other things for your character. I largely ignored them but did get the occasional cache to open and enjoy for free, and I got several skins and outfits without ever paying a cent for them.
I really do not like loot boxes in a full-priced game, but they are here but can be ignored for the most part since you already get some rewarded to you by just playing the game. For now it is just cosmetic.
Let’s take a deeper look at the open-world of The Division 2’s Washington D.C.
D.C.’s weather, color palate, sound design, and enemy encounters feel fresh and fun compared to the original game. While I miss the New York setting, the open-world of D.C.’s The Division 2 is teeming with life. Whether it’s a random dog roaming the war-torn streets or a new historical area we visit, it always felt new and exciting. In the first hours, I visited the White House, the American History Museum, the Smithsonian Castle, a science lab, battled next to Air Force one, a subway, and other interesting locations.
You also have settlements, safe houses, outposts, and various open areas to visit with many things to do and upgrade. Various NPCs give you quests, upgrades to complete, and its all done in real-time as you complete “projects.” This helps make the game come alive and it is rewarding. For instance, in one mission, I collected enough resources that had me retake some important batteries the enemies had stolen, and those batteries were then shown as being used by everyone in the settlement. I actually improved the “lives” of the NPCs in front of me and it was great to see
The Division 2 is rather overwhelming with so much to do. I never felt like I had nothing to do because there are main missions, side stories, control points to take over, collectibles, SHD tech to gather (upgrade points), and much more. It’s a huge game and the single player campaign missions alone before the end game has about 30-40 hours worth of content if you rush through it.
The Division 2’s story is pretty standard fare but much improved from the original game. The game’s opening sequence is kind of bland and does not do an amazing job of setting the game up as a new entry, but that was our only complaint. The story took me to enough unique locations to keep me engaged and having a lot of fun without much backtracking or any boring filler. The Division 2’s story does not need you to have played the original to get into because it’s basically this: the enemy attacked us, you are a silent guy for no reason, and you help us build the world back up again. Thankfully, it moved away from being too generic since the locations, the enemy encounters, and the fun useful loot kept me exploring and wanting more.
You can also matchmake at any time, whether it be free-roam, missions, control points, or any other mode. I suggest that you matchmake because it makes the experience much better. I feel it is necessary to mention that most of the side missions are not just boring fetch quests or defend-a-spot horde mode. Instead, side quests are actually interesting and worthy additions to the game. Ubisoft did a good job of filling the world up with life and things to do but I do suggest waiting to complete the side missions. Leveling after you reach 20 or so begins to slow down and side missions scale up to your level after you are done with the main story and these are good sources of XP to use for reaching max level.
Speaking of maxing out your level, let’s discuss the most important part of any looter shooter, the endgame.
End Game from the Ground Up
I do not want to spoil too much so I will leave some things out, but the endgame of TD2 is very well-designed. The Division 2 was built around the endgame with developer designing it first and the rest of the world later. The endgame starts almost immediately after beating the final mission and reaching Level 30. The most exciting part is that you can unlock three specializations to choose from: Sharpshooter, Survivalist, or Demolitionist which can be freely switched around. Each specialization comes with a signature weapon such as a crossbow, an ability tree, and access to a special side arm. Most guns can be modded and recalibrated to change a perk once to try to improve its stats or usefulness as well. Gun mods also allow you to attack grips, change a weapons sights, or add a muzzle break or other attachments.
The world also changes dramatically once you reach the endgame with a new faction, Black Tusk, coming to D.C. to fight you. World events like Black Tusk laying siege to your settlements, replaying missions with Black Tusk enemies in them, occupied dark zones with powerful enemies, all of which are pretty hard solo and almost require matchmaking to enjoy. Tough bounties and a map that comes to life makes it an ongoing struggle and a game that never feels like you have won but it keeps you coming back for more to fend off the new enemy.
There is a large amount of content to enjoy and you can easily put in a huge amount of time into the endgame to experience everything that is new at least once. I only hope Ubisoft remains an active part of the discussion with the community and continues to expand on the universe and update it like they did with The Division 1.
Ultimately, you will create a powerful solider who will be enticed to try out the PvP modes this game has to offer.
PvP and Dark Zones
In order to unlock the 3 Dark Zones of The Division 2, you have to do an introductory mission and then you will be granted access to this most interesting part of the game. Dark Zones in the Division 1 were pretty toxic with level and stat differences that made new players nothing but cannon fodder. Now the new zones in TD2 are a hybrid PvEvP (player vs. enemy vs. player) experience with strong AI enemies to defeat for powerful rewards and normalization of stats across the board for player vs. player combat.
Ubisoft focused on player accessibility, so skill is the most important part of any Dark Zone and not just for those who grind to max level to became unbeatable killing machines. Dark Zones are very interesting because while you can just roam around doing PvE content, you really have to remember the human element. There is always someone who will shoot you in the back the moment they can to steal your loot. It’s pretty rewarding to those who come prepared, and matchmaking solo players and groups together ensures that a player is not overwhelmed constantly by large groups.
Rogue actions are all about greed. You can steal from anyone, pick locked chests, hijack extractions, steal dropped loot, access SHD terminals, and steal Dark Zone drops with the goal of entering a special Thieves’ Den to reset Rogue status back to normal. You can also become disavowed after killing agents creating a large timer and a bounty on your head. Live and you win the bounty, or you can kill enough agents to go into Manhunt status with no timer. The only way to clear manhunt status and get your rewards is to go a special terminal.
Extractions are also a huge piece of the mode because of contaminated gear. This is powerful and high-value loot that can only be yours if you reach an extraction point, call a helicopter, secure your loot to the chopper, and defend the point from scavengers that are hoping to kill you before the loot can be taken away. Its crazy fun and an adrenaline rush every time. There also perks to use the unlock with progression to get an edge over everyone to entice people to progress and keep enjoying this mode. All 3 zones are focused and interesting areas that all have their own unique strategies with fun to be had. It is all a rewarding grind with enough small quality of life refinements has made this a very fun PvP mode.
However, not everyone will be a fan of the Dark Zones with these changes so Ubisoft and Massive have also designed “Conflict” as a PvP mode. These are held in their own unique locations with head-to-head PvP with normalized stats. There are two modes you can launch at any time once the mode is unlocked: Skirmish and Domination.
Skirmish is The Division 2’s version of Team Deathmatch with everyone fighting and respawning until a set timer counts down to zero. The team with the most respawns left wins. There are some interesting chests that you can find during a match with special ammo and buffs to use as well. Domination is just like most other modes of the same name – your team must capture 3 locations on the map, and the first to capture enough points and hold them long enough until they reach 750 points first will win. Special ammo and buffs are also available here.
Conflict is a fantastic concept and I hope more modes are added down the line to break up the time between other endgame content and grinding for loot in the Dark Zone. Modes like rumble, or something ultra-competitive like Destiny 2’s Trials of Osiris, might be a great way to make The Division 2 even better.
The visual experience in a post-apocalyptic Washington D.C is a welcome change from the streets of New York in The Division 1, and a dynamic weather system without snow looked great. I did have some weird “tunnel” issues when entering and exiting an open area with a roof on it when it was blasting rain outside. One second there was loud thunder and rain, and the next it was like someone had thrown me into a sound-proof room and closed the all the windows and doors so I could only hear the ambient noises inside the room. It felt strange but it was a rare occurrence.
The soundtrack of TD2 is very good but the shining stars of the game are everything else around it. The game is at its best in a full squad with all the various skills deployed with sniper shots ringing out alongside shotguns and various rifles. It is designed so well that its great music is often forgotten in the background, but as a total package it is very well-designed. I could always tell exactly from where I was being shot at or flanked from and even the type of gun the enemy was using after enough experience.
I experienced some pretty nasty bugs at the onset of the game that almost ruined my entire experience. The first cut scenes and dialogue were unbearable with several pieces of audio missing and weird static. With the March 15th launch day update, my issues went away so it may have just been some residual issues left over from the beta.
Overall, The Division 2 is a pretty decent-looking game, but the facial animations and lighting on some characters is pretty awful as seen below. I laughed at some of the introduction sequences of new characters because of how awkward the dialogue was with your silent-for-no-reason protagonist staring blankly back at the other person. It somehow felt off and can hopefully be improved with some updates.
Framerates on our RTX 2070 at 4K and 1440p felt fluid. We also benched a large of cards on BTR’s test bench and saw some pretty good performance numbers. The game is very well-optimized, and besides the weird audio bug and facial animation issues, we experience almost no graphical glitches or bugs during our playtime.
Here are our Win 10 performance numbers from the built-in benchmark using the Ultra DX12 preset with a Core i7 8700K at 4.7GHz, 16GB of HyperX 3333MHz DDR4 on a EVGA Z370 FTW motherboard:
Post launch and Conclusion
Ubisoft has already laid out its future content plans promising a large 8-man Raid soon, and ongoing updates are already planned.
We can honestly recommend this game for anyone who is even remotely a shooter fan. Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 should be the blueprint for anyone looking to launch a similar game in the future. It is a technically sound complete experience filled with life and bursting at the seams with content to the point of even feeling overwhelming at times. We did experience some audio issues that were thankfully fixed with a patch and the only major issue remaining is the facial animation of many characters you interact with. Post-launch plans include introducing raids, new loot to chase, more specializations and other content.
I am excited to see what the future holds if this is the base game and the foundation of The Division 2. I spent almost a thousand hours in the Destiny universe over the years, and I struggled to continue suffering through Anthem’s anemic and broken launch state, so its crazy to me just how important more improvements and additions to the game can make. Far too often now, loyal fans have to continuously defend titles in the hopes that “updates are coming” that will vastly change the experience for the better. But why, when a game like The Division 2 can launch so strongly instead?
The Division 2’s loot drops are fun, every gun is viable, skills are fun and varied, enemies feel engaging and challenging without feeling like huge bullet sponges, and the world just feels alive. Ubisoft and Massive have clearly learned from their previous mistakes and have presented a compelling package teeming with fun hour-eating content. The Division 2 is available now for PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. See you in the Dark Zone!