Bring extra bullets.
For better or for worse, playing The Division 2 doesn’t immediately feel that different from the first game. The sound effects on kills remain intact, the cover system, the core mechanics and modes are all there. And it turns out that this familiar feeling is because the development team at Massive is beginning with the huge patch 1.8 from the original and using it as the bedrock of the sequel.
This similarity will be incredible news if you’re already a fan of The Division, and it gets better as they plan to launch with an endgame focus and some Dark Zone and Organized PVP changes. In addition to everything in 1.8, they promise weekly missions, strongholds, and clans which will be important for the team-based activities. Especially because the eight-player raids were teased again, though no further details were shown as of yet.
We did get to play some endgame though, but first we had to get our bearings by storming the White House in the first hours of Division 2 so we could set up a base of operations. After liberating the iconic beacon in this near-1:1 recreation of Washington DC, we headed off to save a kidnapped girl, and it gave a great impression of the story beats you’ll get to play. It also immediately kicked off that excellent gameplay loop where you do a few story missions and liberate a section of the map. This gives you side missions and random world events where you’ll find propaganda towers to liberate or innocent civilians to protect from bad guys.
After running through these early moments – which are great to do if you’re a solo player – we teamed up in co-op, and that is of course where The Division 2 really shines. It was at this point we could begin clearing side quests, picking up SHD Caches to unlock new perks, or just shooting some bad guys in the face as we encountered them and their evil deeds.
In the late-game missions, we had a chance to experience the truly difficult and team-focused challenges. One had us enter a federal emergency bunker. The second had us take on the Aerospace Museum overrun by Black Tusk mercenaries. Massive’s Julian Gerighty told us that he expects players to hit this point after about 48 hours of game time.
Both of these offered us the challenge most Division players thrive in, keeping us coordinating damage toward high-value targets and pulling out our new signature weapons when it was practical to do so. It was also fun getting to see the Aerospace Museum in a post-virus Washington DC, as the mix of a star-covered planetarium alongside robots who will eviscerate your shields makes for a comedic (but strategic) encounter you have to pull together on in order to complete.
The one aspect I was concerned by was just how spongy everything felt. While I realize the new armor system has pieces break off exposing weak points, it still took a very long time to make a dent in any tougher enemy. For example, in one encounter, I shot Mr. Boss man in the groin with about 60 rounds of an LMG at point blank range, only to see just a few armor chunks disappear from his hefty life pool. And while it could be that his crotch armor was just extra strong, I also encountered this high time-to-kill on purple enemies, lower-tier gold bar enemies, and to some extent, even the common red bar bad guy. If you’re okay with that feeling from the original that’s great, but if you expected a major change it doesn’t appear you’ll get one.
At least the spongy enemies should be a little less challenging due to the fun new abilities. You’re going to need them to combat those heavily armored foes with your turrets, seeker mines, or by keeping the team alive while using healing abilities. In this build, the turret seemed to be the most effective, with the seeker bomb coming in a close second. They’re all fun to execute, but because of the increased difficulty our team leaned more into damage-dealing options with fewer healing abilities as the waves of opponents were constant.
After a number of hours with The Division 2, here’s the conclusion I came to: the game world looks mostly gorgeous and I still have a good time in this gameplay loop, but I just wish it felt like a bit newer of an experience. Also, my supposed super-power weapon turned out to be surprisingly underwhelming, as it couldn’t even kill a single target. Still, The Division is all about min-maxing your gear and finding ways to steamroll your opponents. We look forward to doing more of that and telling you about it when The Division 2 hits next month. For more keep it here on IGN.
Destin Legarie is a Senior Features Producer at IGN. You can follow him on Twitter or watch him stream regularly on Twitch