Revealed in March this year, The Division 2 is an online shooter that follows the events of The Division that released back in 2016. In that game you were a special agent in New York dealing with a plague that threatened to wipe out humanity. The Division 2 deals with the aftermath of the pandemic while taking the action to Washington. While the events of The Division were set in Winter, The Division 2 takes place in Summer. Aside from a visual shift, this move also impacts gameplay as Gadgets 360 discovered in our preview of the game on an Xbox One X.
The Division 2's control scheme felt similar to the last game. You can run into cover, dodge incoming fire, shoot from the hip, and aim down the sights for precise shots. And while New York in the throes of a Winter plague makes for a compelling setting, Washington in Summertime holds its own as well. It's easier to spot cover when you don't have a raging blizzard to contend with, while finding enemies and figuring out their location is just as simple. You never feel at odds with the environment, which tended to happen in The Division at times.
The move to a warmer setting also makes for a fresher looking game. Our demo had us navigating lush fields of grass, abandoned malls, and enemy encampments. Every area of The Division 2 — despite running on the same tech as the last game — has a cleaner, sharper visual identity. It also helps that there are open spaces aplenty versus its predecessor's concrete jungle. The futuristic user interface and menus of the last game have been retooled to make for easier reading as well.
What hasn't been altered, however, is the gunplay. It continues to be a weighty, solid affair. From popping an enemy soldier's head up close with a pistol to laying down suppressing fire with a machine gun, The Division 2's weaponry feels as good as it did with the last game.
Also seemingly unchanged is the flow of combat. You'll be hiding behind cover a lot, and gunning foes down from a distance. Drawing inspiration from Gears of War and every other cover-based shooter, the core of The Division 2's moment to moment gameplay is not new. Simply plant yourself behind a wall or a tree, or a road block and duck your head out every few moments to try to shoot an enemy between the eyes. Rinse and repeat.
This time around though, the enemy AI seems to be a lot smarter and adept at forcing you out of the safety of cover by lobbing grenades or flanking you. It will be interesting to see if foes are this aggressive in the full game as well.
One element of The Division 2 preview that we hope does not extend to the final version is its technical concerns. The frame rate was not up to the mark and would drop, even impacting gameplay at times. Jumping in and out of cover felt sluggish as did zooming in with a sniper rifle. Keep in mind that this was based on an early build of the game, so hopefully it would change in time for The Division 2's 15 March 2019 release date.
As it stands, The Division 2 could be an entertaining romp across post-pandemic America. The gunplay remains satisfying while the change in environments could allow for some interesting encounters. But is it enough? With a host of skills, abilities, and specialisations in the works to layer what we've played, we're intrigued to see what the full game has in store for us when it's out next year.
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