The Division 2 Private Beta opened yesterday, with higher level content available from today onwards. After visiting the post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. for some time, The Division 2 feels like an improvement over its predecessor, but with some unique additions to make the sequel stand out. Before we go on, it must be noted that this is a beta impression, and much of the story is still hidden so I will not be touching on the storyline.
The Division 2 carry’s much of the first title with it, including the UI, combat mechanics, skills and perks. However, the UI has been cleaned up and made “smaller” so that it is far less intrusive than the previous title. The inventory menu remains largely unchanged (not that it needed fixing), but with a refresh that makes it feel new. First off, the sequels loading times are far more optimised this time around, so they have improved dramatically, leading into the network improvements, which we will get to shortly.
The combat has also been revamped; where enemies no longer have continuous icons above them, making it easy to forget just how many NPC’s you are fighting, or even where they are. While this sounds negative, it actually makes the combat more engaging and more fun, because you need to be constantly aware of your surroundings, rather than simply checking off names on your screen.
Another change in combat is the fact that the enemies are a lot smarter this time around, and they have now realised that they can actually flank you. Again, this makes combat more interactive and engaging, forcing you to keep an eye out for incoming attacks, as well as planning escape routes and moving from cover-to-cover more tactically.
The addition of “Parkour Mode” allows you to move through the environment with more fluidity, making running through the streets less stilted. However, because you vault over obstacles automatically, it’s easy to vault straight into enemy crossfire rather than hunkering down for cover. Personally, I prefer the tactical, cover-to-cover running, but the parkour can make running around more entertaining.
Thankfully, one of the biggest issues that faced the original The Division game was the matchmaking and co-operation systems. This made playing with other players nearly impossible when the title launched, and while Ubisoft did eventually fix these things, it took over a year to properly do so. However, Ubisoft has really polished the networking and matchmaking systems in The Division 2, and whether you want to play with your friends or with strangers, the experience was relatively painless and smooth (there were some server issues but, once again, this is a beta build meant to stress the networks and servers – at the time of writing, The Division 2 servers were actually down for scheduled maintenance). It seems as though Ubisoft truly understand the importance of this issue, judging by their emphasis on making sure the servers are optimal.
You can take The Division 2 on solo, but you will be making your life pretty difficult. Some missions do have an AI companion, but they will not always be with you, and they are more of a distraction than actual help. However, I ran most of my missions solo, and instead of making my life hell, The Division 2 opted to simply call for aid on my behalf. I was not often saved by player characters, but it was a painless process when they did.
One thing I loved seeing an improvement on, is the impromptu matchmaking system with players while running around the world. It was easy to hop onto someone else’s mission as well, and for players to join me, giving The Division 2 a seamless multiplayer, as well as a great solo, experience. In other words, Ubisoft has paid attention to the biggest problem of the first Division and improved it. It just works, and I had no server fallouts while playing.
The other biggest improvement I felt The Division 2 made were with the weapons and combat perks. Perks have been shifted slightly to include more broad items, and we see a return of the turret and seeker mine, but I just kept deploying drones. Better still, there are new variations to each perk as well. For example, the drone can act as a mobile bomb deployment or as an aerial turret, and the seeker mine can be adjusted to set an area explosion, or have miniature explosives deploy. This accounts for even more individualised playstyles, and through a simple detail shift, they have refreshed the perk systems. Lastly, turrets and the like can have their targets adjusted if there is a particular enemy that’s pinning you down.
Weapon choice has been tweaked as well, as choosing a scout rifle, assault rifle, and even a shotgun makes a big difference in combat. The assault rifles are still effective at medium range, and while I preferred a scout rifle at long-range, you could use an assault rifle if you aimed steadily and used burst fire. However, as I said, using a scout rifle at long range felt better, and even using the iron sights wasn’t terrible for aiming.
At close range, the shotgun is a masterpiece, so when you have NPC’s running at you (which are far more aggressive and often), you can blast them away with a single round. SMG’s in the previous The Division were great, and while I haven’t played with them as yet, in the hands of the enemies, it was pretty effective.
So far, my experience with The Division 2 has been incredible; they have improved the networking issues that crippled the original title, Ubisoft has tweaked combat and the AI, and the world feels more fluid and alive. While this is the Private Beta, and I will reserve my final judgement on the game after launch, The Division 2 is shaping up to be one hell of a game.
Lynley and I played The Division 2 Private Beta, so catch us in Washington D.C. below:
Loves games with deep character development and a rich storyline. Also, shooty-shooties. Loathes microtransactions. Likes to use sarcasm and metaphors.
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