This year has been a disaster for shooters and many Western published games in general. Following the collapse of Anthem and Crackdown 3, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 feels like a breath of fresh air. It is one of the better developed root-based shooter and an improvement over its predecessor in every way. It is a large game with this much content which as you dig deeper, so it starts to feel overwhelming that the more you sink time into it. The game keeps throwing new content and interesting mechanics as you spend some time with it, trying to keep everything new.
Right from the beginning, The Section 2 doesn’t waste any time in setting up the narrative. Character creation is back and greatly expanded for the sequel. Your custom character takes the lead role in the conflict just like the first game but there is a distinct lack of storyline this time around. The Division 2’s narrative is rather lackluster and hard to wrap your mind around if you start it like a newcomer. The backdrop here is set seven months after the events at the first The Section, but in case you have not played it, the intro video attempts to create some of the ground facts but it still fails to install everything properly.
The gist of the story this time is that your main character, who is a Strategic Homeland Division (SHD) agent, has to leave for Washington D.C in the middle of a mission after receiving a distress call from there. Upon arriving there, the player is immediately thrust into an attack on the White House by the rival factions and after defending it, the game explains that the country is now in chaos because of the lack of leadership, who is either missing or presumed dead. It sets the ground for an all-out war between factions in the Washington D.C which works well with how the developers have approached the game design here.
To begin with, there are many bases of operations in Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 and the map is massive enough without feeling bloated. Every part of the map offers something interesting for you to explore around and discover on your own, from the question marks that uncover as you find them on the map to the control points and hideouts to unlock for a checkpoint that makes it easier to travel for your agent. Travelling is a little easier with the fast travel option but you still have to run around a lot which can feel like a chore at times. The load times also feel inconsistent which adds to the feeling that it takes too long to reach your destination.
Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is exceptional in one key aspect and it is the loot itself. The progression system is really refreshing for this loot-based shooter as you unlock new perks, skills, and spend points on them to make your character get more out of a difficult situation. There is a lot of cover-based shooting in most missions and the emphasis here is on the cover. It is basically the core of every major combat face-off in the game where you spend more time behind cover than running into enemies to shoot and kill them. Getting in and out of cover is relatively smooth and looks great in action. Pulling off headshots is satisfying and the gunplay and weapons are amazing to handle with solid feedback.
I do feel that while the first The Division was fun, it took the enemies health too far and made them feel like bullet sponges. It is reduced to some extent in The Division 2 but it still starts to feel like that especially when you are making your way through a difficult boss fight with multiple health bars, shield, and other defense measures. You have to do a lot of damage to the boss during which time it feels like they don’t even flinch. It is usually possible to stun them though depending on weapon arsenal but in fights where you are under-leveled, it can take a long time.
There is a lengthy story mode to tackle in The Division 2 but the plot details are murky and barely presented in there, so most of your missions will just take you to locations to complete a set of objectives after which you just move to the next one. The lack of proper story beats hurts the narrative a lot here making it feel like you are just playing another multiplayer-focused game, but fortunately, the gunplay and exploration is quite fun, more so if you are playing it in co-op with friends which makes it the ideal way to experience The Division 2.
Ultimately, it is the progression in the game that ends up making you continue to play it despite the lack of interesting characters or story elements. The loot that you can collect leads to a worthwhile experience with every new mission adding new items to your stash. You end up going to your base of operations to use your newly acquired skills, unlock mods, or craft new items. It is a fun side activity to the main story content which feels nicely balanced with every mission. Leveling up through killing enemies is fun but the bigger level boost with experience points is only given when you complete a mission, which is why it is best to avoid the random fights in the open streets and focus on the objectives of every main or side mission first.
The journey to end game in The Division 2 is long and quite hard with some tough battles, but there is a generous checkpoint system for the missions that can make it easier to attempt them even if you are under the level requirements for it. I thought the added difficulty in such cases improved the experience and made it more fun as it encourages you to play more strategically instead of going all in guns blazing to kill your enemies. It can take you more than 30 to 40 hours give or take, depending on how many side missions you can attempt along with the main story missions.
Dark Zones are back in this sequel and this time they get divided between a level range for three different regions on the map. Depending on your level, you can run into any of them to enjoy some PvPvE content that was one of the most memorable moments of the first The Division. There are some tweaks made to how the rules work in these new Dark Zones making it feel more hostile than ever for players. As the game just launched and due to the length of the story itself, there is a lack of endgame players now but I do see plenty of potential in them as more people get to play it.
Lastly, the visuals in The Division 2 are honestly disappointing. They suffer from a major technical issue with how assets stream into the game. Fast travel will happen a lot since the world map is huge and going between different points of interest takes time, but if you do it, then you will end up seeing low-resolution textures as the game struggles to load the assets in place. This happens often that it can become distracting. You will see the same effect when running around in the open world. The performance is pretty decent though and I never noticed any issues with the frame rate even when things get hectic.