STAFF REVIEW of Tom Clancy's The Division 2 (Xbox One)


Friday, March 29, 2019.
by Brent Roberts

Tom Clancy's The Division 2 Box art Years ago, Ubisoft unveiled a game that set new standards of sandbox gameplay. From exemplary combat and in-depth character customization, The Division released to critical acclaim throughout the gaming world, and now Ubisoft has released the next installment aptly titled Tom Clancy's The Division 2. Poised to set new standards and provide more of everything to the gaming community, The Division 2 just got a massive number of steroids shot into it, so let's dive right in as we see just what is going on in the streets of Washington D.C.

Yes, this time The Division 2 takes place right in the United States' capital, Washington D.C., and your base of operations is, of course, The White House. Keeping with the same theme of the original game, you're thrown right into the middle of the same type of attack but from the standpoint of the United States Government. Factions such as the Hyenas, True Suns and the Outlaws have taken hold over various outlets of the city, and it's up to you (because honestly who else would step in and help right?) to solve the city's woes and vanquish the foes and save the city from the brink of annihilation. Washington D.C. is broken up into various sections and each one of them has a designated character level range that should take notice of, since venturing into them too early will almost guarantee certain death.

Throughout Washington D.C. you'll come across various monuments and historical sites where civilians have taken up places of shelter, enemies have established control points (think of these as fast travel points to save in walking) and areas of resources that have been distributed for collection. What would such a game be without collectibles though right? In The Division 2, you'll notice that cell phone, echo and SHD collectibles return but also now you have to recover historical artifacts and paintings, of which there are quite a lot. When you think about the sheer size of the sandbox and the multiple vertical levels contained within, the total area that you have to search is actually quite immense. Ubisoft did a tremendous job incorporating Washington D.C. into the Division fold with wide and diverse environments.

In regard to the story though, there really isn't one. The overall concept is about saving the city and its people by killing bad guys, but sadly there isn't much of a plot that keeps you entertained. Let me explain why. From the beginning there's no real emotional connection to any character in the game. Understandably that reality is because it's a whole new game itself. However, any details relating to the characters comes from your ability to find things like echo recording devices that will help uncover more of a back story of some of the people you're working with. Sadly though, not you. The Division 2 does feel like they focused more on the environment and the player interaction with it, rather than any real plot of value, and you know what? That's what makes it perfect.


The Division 2's main purpose is to try and get you to band together as a group and play this game with your friends through multiplayer, and when you don't have such a strict narrative to follow, you allow the focus to be on whatever you want it to be. Don't want to play a story mission? Then go capture a control point, loot crate drops, hostage rescue mission, stop a public execution, stop a propaganda broadcast, collect resources, do a bounty hunt, complete a project or even do side missions that are separate from everything I just mentioned. This is easily The Division 2's greatest strength by a mile. The amount of content that constantly evolves and develops throughout your time spent is truly massive. Yes, the Dark Zone does exist again (this time it's divided into 3 sections), but the amount of continual content within the main sandbox will keep you locked in as the hours drift by and your days blur together.

This is due in part because the gameplay structure of The Division 2 is remarkably complex, but at the same time, just barely manageable. It's your basic cover system that we have experienced before, however at the same time, similar control glitches occur that can make the game very disorienting at times and even unplayable. Multiple times my character would try and climb down a ladder and would get stuck in the transition motion and be unable to bring up any menu or make any input. This caused me to have to restart my game completely. Other gameplay glitches include the mod section of your inventory. As you collect mods, you'll want to either sell or destroy some for resources. However, when you do that, it automatically locks you out from scrolling through your mods and instead goes section by section. To cope with this I would go into my mods section and press RT to make items my favorite and back out and continue the process (there's only a few you're really going to keep anyways), then press the Left stick in and bring up a menu which I can mark all as junk, and items that are favorited will not be marked as junk.

Another gameplay glitch comes as well as my character slides down the ladder. When my character climbs down a ladder (successfully) and it reaches the bottom, the GPS seems to know where the positioning of my character is within the world and all is well. However, should I slide down the ladder, upon impact the game doesn't know where the hell I am and instead sends my character walking in odd directions until I relinquish total control of the character and allow the game to sort itself out. Given how much of The Division 2 takes place on different levels of action, having issues traversing vertically isn't a good thing to have.

These are all types of glitches that were also apparent with the original game as well, so you get the sensation that the control scheme was carried over but only slightly tweaked (going into cover seems more responsive), but if the gameplay feels recycled, then what is actually new in The Division 2? The short answer is practically everything. One of the major reasons you'll play The Division 2 is because you love to grind for loot; it's nothing to be ashamed of, millions of others have the same symptoms. The gear in this game has changed in dramatic ways. First off, the whole "set" style returns, and as you collect more of the set you gain more bonus stats. However, this time there are actual "brands" of gear which give you unique and immediate benefit. Similar to the sets, the brands will give you more bonuses as well. Keep in mind though some of the brand bonuses require you to be wearing so many of that brand, so pay attention to your inventory because equipping that new gear may remove your bonus if you're not careful.


The gear can also be manipulated through the recalibration station. This station (which is unlocked at the White House through missions) allows you transfer a stat from one piece of gear or weapon to another. Now there are some limitations to this. First off, the item that you are pulling the stat off of will be destroyed (well you're not using it anyways, so it doesn't really matter). Another limitation is that you can only transfer the same "type" of power. So, you can't take something like a 3% chance of critical hit and replace it with +300 skill power or +1,000 health. This limitation prevents you from creating items the way you want to create them, but the limitations continue.

You can only recalibrate 1 stat EVER on an item. What this means is that you will be unable to EVER adjust a secondary stat on your item once it's been recalibrated. Then the last limitation is what makes this whole recalibration station a complete waste of time. The cap. Yes, you ARE capped as to how much you can transfer. Let me give you an example. I had a high-end chest piece which I wanted to recalibrate with a health stat which would in turn bring up all three of my character stats. I had a junked piece that had a stat bonus of +7,787 health and thought that this would be perfect to add. So, when I went to recalibrate, I see a message that states, "Capped at +1,987 Health". What? So, you can't alter other stats, the stats you want have caps on them, and you can't switch out other stat categories. So, what exactly is the point of this again? I'm sorry but this is one of the worst parts of the game because it was such an opportunity to allow you to tailor your gear how you wanted it, and now what is presented is a watered-down version of something that is supposed to resemble optimizing gear.

Another aspect that received the steroid treatment involve your skills. Now they can be customized with individual mods themselves that provide their own bonuses. Sounds good until you realize that you have to have your skill level at a certain point for the benefit to be active. With so many ways to develop your character, this directly forces you to focus on your skill level if you want to utilize them, and that I feel is another missed opportunity. You see, with your weapons, you can craft and fit various scopes, magazines, grips etc, and with your skills you don't have that luxury. I would rather want to construct items that improve my gear naturally, rather than rely on focusing some of my character's gear towards a skill level. I feel that you should be able to modify your skills just as you would a weapon because they are weapons themselves. The Division 2 attempts to rectify this situation by allowing you to unlock various versions of the same skill (so various versions of the turret for example), but the overall modification system for your skills seems lacking tremendous substance. While there are some dings and bullet holes though, The Division 2 is a game that keeps on giving.

This is because when you think you've completed everything and you've hit level 30, The Division 2 changes completely. The way you view your gear will change completely. New threats arrive. It's like you almost start over from the beginning. So, think of this time as your introduction to adulthood. This whole "shift" that the game goes through helps keep the PvE section fresh and full of challenging content that will keep you addicted for hours upon days, and during all of this you'll be loving what you look at.



This is due to the amazing graphics that permeate every aspect of The Division 2. The cut scenes look almost life like in their presentation (the actual "acting" could be done a bit better) and the environment looks like a realistic depiction of a nation's capital city trying to recover and survive after a horrible viral attack. I will admit there are definitely some recycled bits from before, but the amount of original graphic content is quite astonishing. While The Division 2 is a beautiful game to see, it's not such a beautiful game to hear. The soundtrack at times takes on this horrific style of what I would call death metal and it doesn't fit the mood of the game itself. Sadly, there isn't much in regard to any redeeming factor about the soundtrack, but the environmental sounds are astonishing. Hearing the coo of a dove, the weather crashing down with torrential rain and lightning, all of it helps you really transfer you right into the game itself. I actually turned off my music and have loved it ever since.

Now onto the Dark Zone. This area returns from the original and was one of the main reasons I quit playing the game. The Dark Zone is The Division 2's main PvPvE section and is also where the best loot in the game can be found. In the original game, players found a way to cheat their way into having overpowered weaponry that would kill you instantly. Thankfully this time Ubisoft has employed 3rd party software to severely cut back, if not eliminate all cheating. This was good, because as you would try to extract your collected gear, you would be instantly shot and killed and then your loot would be stolen and collected by others. It will be interesting to see how this battle between cheater and company will ultimately prevail, but my money is on the cheaters. If this turns out to actually work though, it'll be a blessing that keeps the game going for many years to come. Putting the Dark Zone aside, The Division 2 needed to deliver more content outside the Dark Zone, and they did exactly that.

The many teams that made The Division 2 put forth an incredible amount of work into making this sequel and it shows. Ubisoft decided to take what worked and keep it untouched, then increased the content for the main PvE section of the map and allow it to continuously update to provide more content for the gamers. Yes, there will be bugs and glitches but those can be sorted out (provided Ubisoft knows about and cares to fix them) and that doesn't take away from the crux of the game which is done to near perfection. Outside of some terrible soundtrack music and gameplay mechanic hiccups, The Division 2 is everything you hope a sequel should be. In today's world it's rare to see a sequel deliver a better experience than the original. The Division 2 does just that. So, to sum things up, buy the game. You can thank me later.


Suggestions:
Really open up the recalibration station to gamers. Please get a better soundtrack.


Overall: 8.9 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.5 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10

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