From Paris, the home of Ubisoft, I recently got to go hands-on with Massive's upcoming looter shooter sequel, Tom Clancy's The Division 2. After a late night with other journalists and then an early start the next morning, we were whisked away to a top secret location to see what was in store for us in the chaotic world of Washington D.C.
On the menu for attendees was a taste of the PvE open world which included main missions, side missions, activities, all of these with optional co-op. Then after a break, we would be grouped up into teams of four with level 30 agents decked out with high-end gear for a sample of the end game content.
The fun kicked off a bit after the true opening of the game as Ubisoft is keeping some story details hidden until launch. Straight away, the graphics and visuals were noticeably improved. Visually, the game is brighter, warmer, and much more colourful than Tom Clancy's The Division. This wasn't massively surprising though as the first game was set around Christmas with almost all of the surroundings covered in snow. Washington is without the snow and instead comes with much warmer weather. This allows for the capital of the United States to be showcased in all of its post-post-apocalyptic glory. There's plenty of green to be seen from the grassy pathways, gardens and fields to the vegetation being maintained and grown by survivors just trying to make it day to day.
Before my adventure began, I needed to decide how my agent was going to look. I didn't want to overdo it on the customising side of things and waste too much time so I just randomised a female character who ended up with tinted shades, a horrible sun hat, facial tattoos and green-blue shoulder length hair. There were many more customization options this time around.
For the keen explorers and adventurers, you'll be getting side-tracked plenty as there's always that alternative path, side alley, or open door that will be tempting you to check it out. Sometimes it can be for nothing but sometimes the curiosity pays off. Especially when you're in need of an armour kit or you find a weapon or piece of gear that improves your arsenal. You might even get to see a raccoon diving into a bin or a deer quickly dashing away from you. Life is slowly returning to the world of The Division.
I was exploring the world with confidence, not really worrying about enemies too much at first until I spotted that my armour wasn't regenerating after being hit. This is an interesting change to the health mechanic for The Division 2. Unlike in The Division where your health was expressed in just one meter, you will now be protected by a certain amount of armour which, once depleted, can't be regenerated until you use an armour kit. Once your armour's gone, you will be down to just your health which depletes very quickly but will regenerate if you can stay out of the line of fire. The healing ability didn't seem to be an option at all in my time with the game. but during my endgame demo, one of the agents was able to use a drone that repaired armour over time.
With the health being the way it was, it made me more mindful of my agent's well-being, even against level 1 enemies. I played it safe, stuck to cover and fired back at the enemies when the best opportunities came about after I realised I needed to look after my armour more. The enemies came across as a bit tougher due to the health set up although they still weren't the smartest and most tactical enemies when in battle.
Once I'd made it to the Base of Operations and then left, it was time to explore the areas of D.C. available to me in the preview build. ISAC was on hand to assist again and would notify me of particular enemy threats, valuable intel nearby, mission objectives, and pretty much anything I needed to be aware of. Enemies would be lurking the streets but there were also friendly NPCs wandering around too. Some would be returning food to settlements, some wouldn't be doing much, and some would be on watch while guarding an area or settlement.
A particular NPC feature that impressed me was during a mission where I was fighting alongside another agent but who was being controlled by the computer. This was something we never had in the first game of the series so I was pretty chuffed to see my AI teammate actually providing me with decent assistance and even sending her own drone out to lay down fire on the enemy. There wasn't any way for me to order my teammate about or anything like that but she was handling her own pretty well so I was happy either way.
The Division 2 still wasn't really thriving with life with NPCs and enemies around every corner but the interactions seemed a touch more real and that much more interesting and actually having NPCs that provide efficient assistance was a big plus for me. Hopefully, once the full product is available, there will be more in the way of civilians, comrades, and enemies in the open world.
Continuing my exploration of the world, I encountered various different side missions. One of the more interesting side missions was taking over a specifically controlled area from the enemy. The area was very well defended by enemies using the usual array of automatic weapons as well as grenade launchers and even a stationary turret. I had the option to fire my flare, the same way you can fire your flare to call for an extraction out of the Dark Zone in The Division, and call for backup. Once I'd taken over the control point, NPCs would move in to hold the area down and I was rewarded with a kind of supply room where I could restock on ammo and also check for gear in what was kind of like a scavenger box.
I also managed to reach a friendly settlement which was heavily fortified and lead by a "main character." This particular settlement started off on the ground and a ramp/stairs had been built to scale between the large apartment blocks. When I accessed the roof, there were custom-made walkways and bridges connecting these blocks with the whole area buzzing with life. After I completed the mission tied to this settlement, it received a few upgrades which improved life and, in turn, benefited me with different types of rewards.
Sadly, as I made my way to check out another main mission on the map, my hands-on time had come to an end. All-in-all, I was impressed with what I had played. With how much I was sucked into the world of The Division I was pretty confident I'd be happy with what I checked out in the sequel. It's fair to say on the surface it's more of the same loop, exploring, looting, killing enemies, travelling, upgrading skills, weapons, gear, but on a bigger and better scale, the kind of improvements you'd rightly expect to see in a big budget sequel to a hugely popular game. If you've got the time and you enjoyed the first title, then you're definitely going to be interested in this new world that The Division 2 has to offer.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the next part of the preview where I got to grips with a specialised level 30 agent and had a sample of the end game with better weapons, better skills, tougher gear, smarter and deadlier enemies, and three other players as we attempted two different missions which were exclusive to the preview event.
The private beta for The Division 2 begins this week on February 7th. The full version of the game is scheduled to release on March 15th.
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