Monday, June 18, 2018
The snow has melted and we’ve moved our post-apocalyptic urban US jaunt to the nation’s capital, Washington DC for The Division 2. Ubisoft studio Massive Entertainment returns to helm this sequel, and is bringing with it a lot of updates to make fans of the original happy – or at least happier – as well as offering up a tantalising platter of co-op combat for the newcomers of the world.
While the first game’s setting came not long after the collapse of civilisation and so dealt with things like the chaos of that whole situation, bodies in the street and a general ‘oh bugger we have to survive now’ ethos, The Divison 2 goes for a more established, this-is-the-way-it-is attitude – humanity is rebuilding, and a new era of civilised humanity is starting to emerge.
That doesn’t mean the game is a farming simulator though, no matter how much greenery they put in the trailers. The Division 2 still sees players joining in with squads of agents to tackle missions big and small, usually involving both shooting those who don’t hold the same beliefs and core values as you do in the face, and then looting their corpses for fancier weapons and armour.
What we played was very much the essence of The Division 2, in that respect. A 15-minute mission to gain influence over a control point by assaulting its defending force, things began with a training-like firefight in a pretty, but nondescript building – which was very good for introducing our new character class-specific powers and signature weapons.
Now, it should be pointed out that these specialisations, as they’re known in-game, don’t unlock until you reach level 30 – but Ubisoft wanted us to see what the fuss was about so unlocked them for our playthrough. There’s three of them, each with different weapons and abilities to... well, specialise in. The clue’s in the name.
The survivalist uses a crossbow and can set traps, the demolitionist rocks the party with a grenade launcher, and the sharpshooter shoots things from really far away, shockingly enough. There are also gadgets to play about with, like seeker mines (mines that seek) and combat drones, which hover about finding things to harass with sky-bullets.
We played as a demolitionist and quickly found our signature weapon – the just-mentioned grenade launcher – an invaluable tool in the fight against crafty enemies hiding in cover, or the ideal weapon to start a fight when a bunch of enemies are grouped together. Our three teammates seemed to get on nicely with their specific talents, too, showing The Division 2 is a game it’s easy to get straight into even with high level characters.
Back in the initial firefight and we quickly encountered a new enemy type – one with a foam-firing gun which, if they get close enough to you, can stick you in place with what is essentially a tool for insulating a loft. Having said that, a swift few bullets to the tank on their back and you’ve got yourself a stuck enemy and an easy target.
Your bog standard enemies haven’t changed hugely, but their behaviour is far more naturalistic this time around – smarter, you could say. AI groups work together to suppress players while other members of their squads get around the sides and flank – it genuinely took some getting used to the fact that we were being outsmarted by the computer.
And that ties in quite well with the fact that The Division 2 is just really quite punishing. Okay, it’s not the Dark Souls of co-op shooters or anything as daft as that, but it is a game that encourages – or demands – you use and stay in cover, while also paying attention to this rather popular behaviour known as flanking.
If peppered with a few shots, you’ll notice your armour level - a white bar above the orange health indicator – goes down. What it does not do is go back up again. No, you have to instead find relative safety and apply a health pack, which restores both health and armour, in order to be able to carry on fighting. It made for some close calls in our game, even if you are still able to revive downed teammates.
It’s not just the players who are able to revive teammates though, as The Division 2 introduces medics for the AI side too. These fleet-footed sods run around healing and reviving enemy troops, and need to be stopped quickly before they allow more damage to be done by healing the damage you’ve done.
While we’re trying to pick off one particularly nimble medic, the first of two (both of the same kind) bosses makes its appearance – a large person in an armour plated suit, lobbing explosives around and machine gunning everyone in view. We are quickly wiped out as a squad, because we’ve not coordinated effectively. It seems The Division 2 is good at doing that.
Respawning and trying again, we find a combination of concentrated fire from intelligent positions (i.e. ‘spread out’) and the help of NPC reinforcements we’re able to call in – another new feature – soon has the boss breathing their last. At least until the next identikit boss appears a wave or two later.
Soon enough, the control point is ours, the dozens of enemies are dead, and the desire to launch more grenades into more embedded positions is strong. We’ve won, and it’s been a good amount of fun going about that winning.
It’s about nine months until The Division 2 releases, so we have plenty of time to learn more about the specifics like eight-player endgame raids and what’s to become of the dark zone (it’s returning, but will it be the same?), as well as more specifics on characters, classes, and future content down the line.
But from what we know now and what we’ve seen, it’s looking like The Division 2 will be a step in the right direction for many fans of the original. Those wanting wholesale changes aren’t going to find them here, mind, and those who were put off by the original certainly won’t have their mind changed by the sequel.
But for those of us who fell in love with Massive’s initial take on post-apocalyptic squad shooty action, The Division 2 feels like it’s on the right track.
Tuesday, June 19, 2018 @ 01:29 AM
Tuesday, June 19, 2018 @ 02:26 AM
Tuesday, June 19, 2018 @ 08:22 AM