The Division 2 is an open world, third-person shooting RPG developed by Massive Entertainment. It is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Uplay. This review was conducted on a standard PlayStation 4 system by Joseph Pugh.
As I noted in my review in progress, I was very impressed with The Divisions 2’s gameplay, and not so much by its story. My biggest concern was whether or not the game would remain interesting due to the limited creativity of its setting. After reaching and playing some of the end game, I’m happy to report that it does.
On that note, the end game is a bit of a big deal and I need to talk a little bit about it. I do spoil some end game concepts in this review. You have been warned.
The story is painfully abysmal. It’s writing is bland, the characters are uninteresting and the voice acting is cringe-worthy at times. The short of it is, after the events of the first game, the world still pretty much ended and people are trying to survive. Psychopaths exist and apparently in very large numbers. For some reason they all congregate in D.C, you need to shoot them.
The Division 2 features numerous types of guns and the loot can have varying statistical enhancements and talents.
From a story standpoint, the various factions are laughable and cartoonishly evil. You come across various recordings that detail just how disgustingly evil they are. It’s over the top for the real-life inspired setting.
Bad people exist, they do, but each of the three main game factions has hundreds and hundreds of members. All of which are disgustingly awful, and have formed these huge groups in D.C without murdering each other only 7 months after the apocalyptic virus outbreak.
The voice acting doesn’t do it any favors either. One faction, called the True Sons, is supposed to be a militia of ex-military and JTF. But they completely come off as a caricature.
They sound and resemble a group of 40 to 60-year-old dudes and their wives, who never were in the military, would have never made it in the military, but always wear the paraphernalia while sitting in an armchair telling you how the military should be run. Then after the outbreak, they go off and pretend they were the actual military. It’s funny, but I don’t think it was intended to be, which is awful.
For the most part, however, the story exists only to offer a platform of reasoning for you to shoot bad guys, and that’s okay. From a gameplay standpoint, the three factions are interestingly varied. The variety between them and the various enemy classes is one of the biggest reasons The Division 2 has such good longevity.
I expected that fighting normal humans in a cover shooter would become dry quickly. I was glad to be proven wrong. Between the tight combat mechanics, agent skills and enemy variety, it manages to stay pretty fresh all the way through.
Initially, the city has three factions that you will perform main and side missions against, as well as fight for control points and random events. In fact, the city itself feels alive, thanks to both the number of details in the city and how lively it is. You come across plenty of events, such as public executions or propaganda broadcasts, as well as friendly civilians in combat, or patrolling.
You never have a shortage of things to do, and the city itself has all the character of Washinton D.C with a post-outbreak filter. The city looks lived in, but its a cleaner and more natural look than some other post-apocalyptic titles.
A pile of garbage piled up against the side of a building tells a small possible story in its details instead of simply being scattered waste because it’s post-apocalyptic. The buildings themselves feel truly tall. In many games, they can sort of feel like stand-in props or blocks, not so in The Division 2.
The real meat of the game is in its combat and RPG elements. They are both incredibly strong. At its core, it is a cover shooter and you will need to take cover to survive. The controls are responsive and the aiming is tight. The variety of guns, of which there are enough models to make a gun nut warm between the legs, all feel different to use and have varying roles in combat.
You also have eight agent skills you can unlock with several variations of each. You can, for example, have a drone that shoots, drops bombs or deflects bullets with a magnetic aura. There is a chemical launcher that sprays flammable gas, sticky foam or heals an ally.
Combining these skills with the use of cover, strategical gunplay and teamwork are the keys to success as the enemies can be pretty relentless. The AI is actually impressive and enemies will constantly attempt to flank you, avoid being flanked and run for cover. You battle quite the variety of enemy types. The Division 2 really tried as hard as it could to provide engaging battles in spite of the generic setting.
You will fight several classes of shooters, melee grunts and tough armored tanks as well some more unique classes of foes. Such as enemies that deploy RC cars that are either equipped to blow up or slice you with saw blades. There are engineers that deploy turrets and medics that revive the dead.
Soldiers with flame throwers, grenadiers, shield carriers and more. Some even have chemical launchers that can freeze you in place. The Wild Outcast group has literal kamikaze grunts that run at you with exploding vests.
Cover is your best friend in the game, luckily there is always a lot of it. But enemies are mobile, don’t expect to play whack a mole.
A slick and detailed combat system holds it all together. The enemies are very reactionary, and I can’t stress enough how important that is in a game with potential bullet sponges. They flinch and fall down when shot. You can break armor pieces off of the tough enemies to dig at the health bar beneath, so focus firing is a viable strategy. You can shoot the grenade bags they carry, or even the grenades in mid-air once thrown.
You can detonate the tanks of flamers and chemical launchers and the ammo bags of heavy gunners. Kill an engineer and his turret turns wild and attacks his own team. The battlefields are littered with explosives, gas cans and other objects that can be targeted. Everything about it just feels incredibly polished and fun.
You of course level up and acquire various loot, most of which carry a variety of stat bonuses. Higher level gear even carries special talents that can drastically affect your play styles. The guns are moddable with a variety of attachments and you can even mod all your different armor pieces and skills. The whole system is super flexible and a lot of fun.
It does run into an issue in the early game where your constantly picking up loot better than what you have, thus giving you little reason to put much time or thought into your load outs. It does even out nicely later.
Player Vs Player combat returns in three forms; dark zones, conflicts, and occupied dark zones. The two former feature normalized stats, meaning that players of any level can jump in and fight on even ground, the latter which is not available until the end game, removes that restriction. You have the option of either.
You have access to eight skll platforms, and several variants of each. They can be modded alongside gear and weapons.
Dark zones give you the opportunity to obtain powerful loot by finding contaminated items. These items need to leave the zone via evac and you drop them if you die in the dark zone. You have to beware of possible rogue agents, other players who are hell bent on robbing you, or you can become one yourself. Dark zones also have their own level progressions that are separate from your standard one, complete with perks.
Conflicts are a drop in and drop out mode of control point capturing and death matches. They are simple to get in and out of and feel surprisingly fresh since you take in your own weapons and agent skills. Most importantly, like the dark zone, you earn rewards that can carry over to your main game. The continuity is great.
The game can be played solo but is best played with friends and honestly, the game is pretty challenging, but really, it should be. It’s a cover shooter where you need to take cover, if you didn’t have to play tactically and methodically I’d consider it to be a design failure. But you can very much feel the difficulty solo, it is doable though.
The difficulty never really feels unfair, even alone. It’s one of few games where the AI really pressures you as much as statistics do and I’d love to see that kind of challenge more often in games.
The game is still fun solo, but its best experienced with other players and makes it very easy to squad up if your real life friends aren’t playing.
If you don’t have friends, the game provides you with ample opportunity to make some new ones by not only providing matchmaking for nearly every activity. But allowing you to call for back up at nearly anytime with a button push alerting nearby players that someone needs help. You will also receive notification when someone else needs the help. A simple button push and you can hop into that agent’s game.
The game also intelligently scales to the highest player, while boosting the stats of lower players to compensate. Meaning there are no barriers to being able to play together.
One gripe I do have is that you have very little control over the difficulty in general, the overworld has set zones that have varying enemy levels and the main missions actually have difficulty settings. But only when replaying a mission, you can’t change it your first time through. That seems to be a needless restriction.
Another strange design choice is the various ammo types. You can pick up ammo such as explosive or flaming rounds but you don’t choose when to use them. They are applied to your weapon as soon as they are picked up and last for 30 shots. They feel like an odd arcade game power up and honestly feel out of place. I would have rather seen some player agency with when and where to switch ammo types.
The game is lengthy with a massive amount of content, but once you reach max level and beat the final campaign mission, the end game opens up with brand new experiences. It is the best iteration of the idea I’ve seen in a game as a service title to date. A brand new faction joins the fray and takes over the map. The technological Black Tusks.
The endgame black tusks push the setting to its limits by introducing drones, including large ones with heavy guns like this one, and robotic foes such as a canine like robot.
From here the world levels up in tiers and by playing you can raise it up, increasing the challenge but also the rewards. Other factions now move and try to take back outposts. You are given new main missions in the same locations as the old main missions, but they play out differently and are against the Black Tusks. The game also introduces specializations at this point. Each one granting you a new perk tree, a special signature weapon, new skill variants, and grenade types.
Its an unprecedented amount of content that begins just as most games would end completely. The specializations give you new toys to play with, the map becomes an evolving playground and the Black Tusks prove to be a very unique faction. They utilize drones, emp grenades, and four-legged legged walking robots. It should keep you plenty busy until even more content is added.
In closing The Division 2 is pretty to look at, detailed and mechanically strong. It’s extremely content heavy to the end and more importantly beyond the end. It is the top of the line looter shooter of choice right now and it raises the bar for the genre. Its story and voice acting are disappointing and it has a couple of small design flaws, but they hardly make a dent in an otherwise brilliant game.
A copy of the game was provided to GideonsGaming by Ubisoft for the purposes of reviewing it. Check out my FAQ for information on my process.
I am an independent games journalist. If you find my work informative or helpful, consider checking out my Patreon.
- A detailed world that feels alive and lived in
- The large variety of enemy types split between four factions
- Steller and reactive combat
- Competent and satisfying enemy AI
- Interesting, fun and moddable loot
- Lots of agent skills.
- Tons of content
- Fantastic end game scenario
- Very poor storyline and writing
- Bad voice acting
- Can’t change the difficulty of missions unless you replay them, cant change open world difficulty up or down.
- Ammo types have been regulated to one use power-ups that take effect right away, it’s weird.
- Lots of dogs roam D.C, you can’t pet them.