Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 (hereafter The Division 2, or TD2, or the game) carries with it some pedigree. This much is obvious from the name. It has added pressure to perform, too; the original Division was considered, by many, to be something of a let down in certain ways - most notable of which was what happened when you go to the “endgame” after you’d completed all of the story stuff.
This article is not, in any way, a final review of The Division 2’s endgame. It would be if I were that far through the game, but I’m not, so it would be silly of me to discuss what I think of it.
Instead, this is one of those reviews in progress in which we strive to get something up while the game is still minty fresh and also accept that completing the thing and getting all definitive on it is going to take some time (the review guide suggests I spend some 50-60 hours on it, all up, before deciding which number should forever be allocated in its direction).
So, the story so far…
The Division 2 is set in Washington DC, seven months after the outbreak of a toxic variant of smallpox that ends up wiping out the bulk of civilization. You play as an agent in the post-apocalyptic super police force that’s known as The Division. Your badassery knows no bounds and your one-woman (or man, if you’re that way inclined) force is capable of eviscerating all manner of entrenched bad guys that are using the apocalypse as an opportunity to seize power and resources wherever they can.
This pretty generic premise is incredibly well executed in a number of key ways. Firstly, the world feels incredibly run-down; the streets and buildings are littered with all manner of societal detritus as if nature had been granted free-reign to muck about with them. The level of detail is staggering to behold - there’s just so much stuff everywhere and all of it combines to sell this idea that the power to build these monuments to capitalism is gone; those that remain are squatting, hardly able to keep the place clean - let alone prevent the rampant expansion of mother nature into the once pristine concrete jungle of DC.
Secondly, the idea that a certain portion of humanity’s remainder would use the collapse of society as an opportunity to grab power for themselves is all too easy to believe. Sure enough, TD2 has several factions of deprived, easily-hated enemy factions lining up for you to take pot-shots at, and the activities they engage in are suitably designed to engender precisely the kind of holy anger society’s protector (that’s you) will need if they’re to set about protecting the fragile population that clings precipitously to the edge of what remains of civilization.
You can play the game in a very singleplayer way, and that’s largely what I’ve done so far. I did spend a while in the company of a group of random other folks, and the nature of the game does change quite substantially when you do. Instead of creeping around, trying to pick off bad guys, for example, our squad of four was somewhat more systematic and performant at rooting out even quite large packs by keeping the enemy AI occupied with multiple assailants.
That AI is good, too; the combination of intelligent action - suppressing and flanking you, sending in grenades or drones, etc. - and straight up charging or walking up to you like a gangster means you can’t take any fight for granted. Even a little street skirmish on the way to the real fight can see you dead in the gutter; walking back from a respawn point is typically a huge pain in the ass, too, so death is both hard to avoid and also something you really don’t want to have happen to you - the exact combination of incentives that will keep you focused and careful when going to work. It’s hard but here hard is good.
Now the slightly weird bit that is sure to get people concerned about “virtue signalling” and such, but really it can’t go unsaid. Christchurch changed things for me. I’ve been playing this before and after that un-namable asshole set about his evil work and I found my attitude and emotional response to the game changed by what happened on that dark day. Yes, it’s a gun game, and no, I don’t think gun games are bad; in TD2, however, you are frequently greeted with the sights and sounds of the murder of innocent people. Think corpses on the ground; stacked up in some case; used as target practice in others. People in civilian clothes. I hope, unlike me, you haven’t seen any of “the footage” that I was randomly subjected to in my social media feed; if you have, the chances are that, like me, some of the scenes in TD2 will remind you of the material in that video (I only saw a few frames before I figured out what it was and scrolled away, but I doubt I’ll ever forget it). Is it this game’s fault? No of course not. Was this material included specifically to revile and disgust? I don’t know - but possibly. Does that matter? That’s a discussion we should probably have - but this isn’t the time or place for that, so I’m leaving it there.
So. Is The Division 2 fun to play? Aside from the stuff mentioned above, which is infrequent - if not rare, hell yes it is. The gunplay is excellent, the difficulty rewarding, and levelling up to unlock better perks - let alone finding a sweet upgrade to your gear - is precisely the kind of hook that grabs me at my core. Exploring the world is fantastic, and the incidental storytelling (little radios and other bits you find help to fill in the rich narrative) rewards carefully picking through the beautiful, sad remains of Washington DC.
The game is going to have to go downhill real fast for this to not be a very, very high-scoring review when all is said and done. Stay tuned for more as I continue to explore - and please, if you’re also playing, let us know how you’re getting on in the comments.
Editor's Note: We'll continue to update this article as Alan makes his way through the rest of the game. Once he is confident he has seen everything it has to offer, we'll allocate a final score.