We’re a good twenty plus hours into the The Division 2 now and while the size and scale of the game means we’re still a good way away from our full review, but we can already see some big ways that this sequel has improved compared to its predecessor.
Once again, society is on the brink of collapse off the back of a mutated smallpox gene. As an activated agent of Strategic Homeland Division, you must fight to protect the last pockets of society from the numerous criminal gangs that dominate the city and emerging forces that threaten the future of the country. There’s also lots of loot to be had.
So what’s changed and what’s better this time around?
The Big City
This really surprised me. I’ll admit I was initially skeptical of the move away from a snow-covered New York, but Washington D.C has honestly surpassed what I expected of it. It’s maybe not as distinctive as the first game, but the world is incredibly dense and there’s a much higher number of landmarks and unique areas to visit that make it feel more engaging.
The juxtaposition of one of the world’s most democratic cities into being in a state of lawlessness is a really nice touch and one that feels like a natural progression from the first game. While I do miss the snow a little bit, the thunderstorms that can roll in definitely make up for it.
The Weapon Feel
This is hard to quantify because it ultimately comes down to personal preference, but weapon feel is notably improved in The Division 2. Where weapons felt flat and flimsy in the first game, they now feel much weightier and crunchier.
This is doubled up by the fact that enemies are less spongy than they were before. Not only do they take less damage before dying, but they also react more noticeably to your gunshots, stumbling from a well placed shot. While it’s still clearly a hit point counting shooter, the mixture of these to different changes makes The Division 2 more enjoyable as an action game.
Though I already mentioned the standout thunderstorms, the weather as a whole has received a major overhaul. It goes from sun and rain to thunderstorms at night, but but the most impressive so far has to be the fog that can envelop the city.
Thanks to the game’s exceptional volumetric lighting, ingame fog provides an eerie and unsettling experience that completely alters the flow of combat. With next to no visibility, I found myself genuinely unsure where enemies were during firefights, causing me to play much more defensively.
More Dynamic Missions
By far the biggest improvement in The Division 2 as a game is the more intricate and varied level structure and mission design. Where the moment to moment loop of going somewhere and hooting bad people, saving a person or collecting a particular item remains at the core of The Division 2, it’s taken me through a number of unique and genuinely interesting locations.
Heading into the end game, we might be asked to repeat these missions time and again to loot, but they’re given a fresh lick of paint with new and more imposing enemies to battle against.
Call for Backup
A new matchmaking system allows players to search for co-op partners at any point during gameplay, and you can even send a request for help if you die, pinging nearby agents with a call for backup. The Division 2 will regularly gesture you during gameplay to help an agent in need – this can be turned off, if you wish – improving the accessibility of cooperative play. It’s a cooperative game, after all!
That’s just a quick look at some of the ways we feel The Division 2 compares to its predecessor, but let us know in the comments what’s stood out for you since the game’s launch last week? We’ll have our full review out soon, so keep an eye out for that in the coming days.