The Division 2 full review

When Ubisoft launched The Division the game showed a lot of potential that wasn’t realised until quite a while after the official launch. With that in mind, you can be sure that the company wants The Division 2, unveiled at E3 2018, to impress right out of the gate.

You can get your hands on The Division 2 right now and we've been putting it through its paces for the last few days, stalking through the streets of Washington DC to give you our impressions of the game thus far.

The Division 2 release date and platforms

The Division 2 released on 15 March 2019 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, and can be purchased via Amazon (£49.99) and GAME (£49.99) in the UK, and Amazon ($59.99) in the US.

There’s also a Special Edition of the game available from GAME (£57.99) in the UK, and for die-hard fans, there’s an Ultimate Edition (£99.99/$99.99) containing a 30cm Figurine of Heather Ward and a Lithograph book and the game’s soundtrack too.

Despite the release of The Division 2, the first Division game is still going to be subject to updates. But with that being said, expect the better part of the updates to be directed towards The Division 2 going forward. What more could the sit-at-home Division agents ask for?

The Division 2 preview

Like the first in the series, The Division 2 is based in a post-apocalyptic doomsday setting created by the endowment of man and a pathological virus, with a band of sleeper agents known as The Division fight to make America great again.

After spending 10 hours playing the Division 2's release over the past few days we're not overly impressed. It's a perfectly serviceable third-person looter-shooter, but if not for the scenery you could be forgiven for thinking you're still playing the original Division game. Having said that, a lot of the more impressive content may come later down the line with the introduction of PvP battlegrounds and improved raids, but if a game doesn't grab you in the first 10 hours it's usually in trouble - and this game didn't grab us.

The map is sprawling and beautifully detailed to be sure which is a testament to the level designers. It's one of the most immersive and realistic multiplayer worlds I have seen in a long time with a whole bunch of it being interactive. However,  while we're much further south than the original's setting of New York - I can't help but feel like you're just wondering around yet another city's broad streets surrounded by buildings.

Landmark locations are The Division 2’s saviour, with the addition of a handful of popular DC landmarks that gives the game some level of identity separate from the original game. Some of these landmarks are home to side missions and other events that give additional depth to the areas and help make them stand out as more than just a part of the scenery. The landmarks have a more linear feel, so stage reruns will feel the same - with the exception of stronger foes, of course.

The NPC AI feels more advanced than the first game, making battles feel more challenging and dynamic as enemies will actively seek out different ways to flank you and attack from different angles. The introduction of technology like turrets forces you to think tactically to defend yourself to the onslaught of angry gun-wielding citizens.

The part of the game that really grinds my gears is the combat and movement.

You can run or sprint and that's about it for movement. No sliding, crouching or anything interesting to the way the game allows you to control your character. The rest of the time you're artificially glued to cover, be that a pillar or a waist-high barricade - you can use a button to move between cover which your character will do for you, but that's about it. This makes the gameplay feel very slow and unresponsive, stifling any creativity or interesting ways to play the game because you know when a fight breaks out you're going to glue yourself behind the first bit of cover you can see and start shooting everything that moves.

When you're in cover, you're popping up and down firing at enemies who are also doing the same thing - you're all bobbing up and down like you're practising squats on leg day, waiting for someone to stay up long enough to finish them off. Grenades and gadgets do break up this gameplay nicely but they're fairly limited in their use.

I was weirdly reminded of playing Time Crisis, or an arcade shooter game which (for those of you too young to recall) was a shooter on rails that allowed you to duck into cover, and pop up and fire against enemies that were doing the same.

This combat started to actually change my perception of the world around me because everything, in combat terms, is a waist-high barricade or a pillar to hide behind. The entire combat zone of the world has to fit into this very specific format which makes the world feel less like a world, and more like a game - the combat design was really showing through the cracks.

The gunplay is also nothing to write home about. A lot of the guns I found felt very similar just with different recoil strengths and bullet spreads baked down into a few simple stats that strictly tell you 'this gun is better than that gun'. Not much room for personal preference if you want to try and make your character as strong as possible.

The gadgets and drones are an interesting addition to the game. The remote turret I used could be thrown a good distance and thinking about the best place to put it as I advanced through a level was rewarding, but it just automatically kills a bunch of enemies which removes combat content that I could be doing myself - content that I'm supposed to be enjoying.

Like the first Division title, there’s a lot for players to do once the main campaign has been completed. The endgame is where you utilise your strongest gear and weapons, finding the right build and class to enhance your personal play style. Whether you are the kind to run-and-gun while taking out enemies with speed and precision, or whether you like to set up and unleash rounds from a distance, you’re spoilt for choice.

And with Ubisoft confirming a year of free content updates for all players, we’re excited to see what the future of The Division 2 will offer.

It wouldn’t be The Division 2 without the Darkzone. For the uninitiated, this is where all of the PvP action and high-level gear looting takes place. You can take on other online players as well as mobs of NPC enemies for the chance to grab some legendary drops.

That’s only half the job, however, as once you loot something in the dark zone you must get it decontaminated by taking it to an evac point and waiting for a chopper to come and pick it up. You'd better keep your eye out for other online players too, as they'll be coming for you and your sweet, sweet loot. 

Verdict

The Division 2 is a very safe game. It's a little too similar to The Division 1 and the combat feels very basic and lacking at least at the earlier levels - this may well improve as you progress through the game and unlock additional abilities to customise your Agent - but that is 30+ hours down the road.

The promised end-game content does look good though and playing this with a bunch of friends will always be fun. Ubisoft has worked on the complaints of the last game, mostly around the lack of end-game content, which is great to see for long-term fans of the series.