This game was reviewed on Xbox Series X
A Misfire of a Launch
Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 was released in March of 2019 to generally positive reviews. The graphics were stunning, the gameplay was top-notch, and the music was uniformly excellent. Story and voice acting wise though, things were severely lacking. While trying to be a-political it ended up hitting on multiple real-world issues in an unsettling way. The endgame content didn’t hold fan’s attention for very long, a major issue for this type of live service game. Changes from the first game’s loot system made it difficult to understand what was or wasn’t an upgrade, and the system was terribly balanced. After two years, three major free DLC episodes, and an excellent paid expansion just how has this title evolved, and how does it run on the new generation of consoles?
Games as a Service Done Right
Patches have been frequent and full of what the game severely lacked, balance and content. Many of the changes from the first game were reverted in a very Destiny 2 like set of moves. Diablo 3 style Gearsets and Exotic weapons and gear pieces that gave unique and fun mechanic changes were minimized at launch. They had become extremely popular in the first game and it was disappointing to see so few of each at launch. Over the two years though the number of each has greatly increased, along with the power and fun they can provide.
You start out as “The Agent” answering a distress call from the White House and fighting your way through a horde of enemies as America has been thrown into chaos by a viral contagion. This was of course a full year before the Coronavirus hit and changed all our lives, and thankfully we only sort of descended into the levels of anarchy this game’s world did. You fought your way through Washington D.C. taking back landmarks and important buildings through a forgettable but alright campaign. A campaign that ended with you storming the Capitol Building. Playing through that mission after the events of January 6th feels odd in a way I haven’t before in a video game. Add in the protests across the country over police brutality and my Agent who has killed tens of thousands of fellow countrymen, well yeah it really doesn’t feel great.
After killing your way through D.C. the paid expansion “Warlords of New York” takes you back to the gorgeous setting of the first game. This New York has been slammed by a hurricane before your arrival and is a stupendously good-looking disaster. Three free episode DLC’s of various size hit before this expansion and added in Camp David (called Camp White Oak), The Pentagon, and Coney Island respectively giving 1 or 2 missions in each location. The main issue at launch was a reason to keep playing after you hit the endgame. They added in a fun, though incredibly difficult to do on console, raid at an airport but the overall gear system just wasn’t enticing enough, thankfully that has been (mostly) fixed.
Gear 2.0, The Savior & My Favorite Next-Gen Upgrade Yet
Coming with the NY expansion, Gear 2.0 was a radical re-working of how the game’s loot system worked. It was a brilliant simplification of the number dense gear pieces. To put it simply things went from taking me on average 30 seconds to try and tell if something was worth keeping or not to taking 2 or 3 seconds. More defined rules, easy to read bars that filled from left to right depending on how good a piece was, and less clutter in the UI led to a much improved and generally well received system.
As this is a looter shooter, or as some call it a “shlooter”, having a good gear system to go with solid gameplay is pretty much everything. That gameplay was always good, but the move to a buttery smooth 60 frames per second on the Series and PS5 consoles not only made things look better but they control far better than ever before for us console plebs. It was not a full optimization patch but the framerate unlock is still up there for me as one of the best patches to hit a previous-gen title yet. Much like its fellow Tom Clancy game, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, The Division 2’s aiming and input lag feel incredible at twice the framerate. I immediately felt my sniping and enemy tracking improve and the thought of going back to thirty fps is the stuff of nightmares at this point.
Another area of massive improvement are the loading times on the Series consoles. Loading the game went from 2 minutes to 20 seconds. Loading into an area went from 45 seconds to 5. It is stunning how fast this game loads. It is faster on Series X|S than pretty much anywhere. Previously if you fast traveled onto a co-op partner that was running you’d be a mile behind them by the time you loaded in. Now you’re no more than 20 feet away after waiting a whole three seconds or so. With how often you want to quickly go from place to place this is a true game changer.
Many Reasons to Keep Playing
There have been so many additions to the game since launch that I doubt I could ever list them all here. The biggest for me though are the seasons. These are a combination of season passes that give you 100 levels to gain to get great loot, cosmetics, and various other items through both a free and paid tree. Alongside these are Manhunts which came in with the New York expansion. The manhunts have you travel through each area of Washington and New York hunting down Rogue Division Agents and are a satisfying re-use of older content. The end of each manhunt has you face down a powerful enemy with the last two manhunts giving you main characters from the campaign to try and take out.
This system complements well the “Watch Levels” aka the Diablo 3 Paragon leveling system that was introduced in the expansion. These are a seemingly endless set of levels you can continuously earn while playing that let you gain a sizeable increase in your various stats. After level 800 you can keep earning levels that add to your base health only and then you can choose from a list of consumable items that are used in the game’s various loot upgrade systems. Returning from the Division 1 is the ability to alter a single stat on your gear into one that you have previously found and fed into a stat “library”. It can sound convoluted, but in practice it is quite easy to use and it is great to have it back. There is also a set of 6 specializations that add greatly to the endgame fun as you get incredibly powerful weapons ranging from Flamethrowers to portable Gatling Guns and even a damned Rocket Launcher.
Finally added in is The Summit, which is The Division 2’s take on what the Underground was in the Division 1. Once again it’s something like Diablo 3 and their Nephilim Rift system. You work your way through 100 floors in a New York skyscraper and you can choose the type of gear you want to get the most through a “targeted loot” system. It has become my go-to for when I’m relaxing and killing time while watching podcasts or twitch streams.
The Division 2’s mix of gorgeous graphics, fantastic gameplay, excellent music, one of gaming’s coolest UI’s, and a progression system I truly adore makes it one of my favorite games in quite a while. Every day I find myself opening it up instead of something new and I simply had to review it to get my thoughts out there. Solo or even better with a few friends (up to 4 [more in a raid]) this is one of the most enjoyable games out there and it is on sale quite often now. This is an easy recommendation from me no matter where you want to play it, though there is no crossplay so keep that in mind. Tom Clancy’s the Division 2 is on Xbox, Playstation, PC, and Stadia (rip) and it is the best cover based shlooter I’ve ever played.
The Division 2 was reviewed on Xbox Series X