- “The Division 2” is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.
- The third-person loot-shooter is set in Washington D.C., in the wake of a pandemic wiping out much of society.
- From storytelling to gameplay, “The Division 2” distinguishes itself from the competition – especially compared to 2019’s biggest flop, “Anthem.”
There’s no getting around it: “The Division 2” stands out as an especially good game because of a very similar, significantly less good game that just launched.
That game is “Anthem,” of course – the long-hyped loot-shooter from EA’s BioWare studio. By most considerations, “Anthem” is a bit of a mess.
“The Division 2,” however, is a polished, rich game that’s part of the same genre occupied by “Anthem” and “Destiny 2.” And it’s specifically because of the genre it belongs to that “The Division 2” stands out as especially good.
What is “The Division 2”?
At its heart, just like the “Destiny” franchise and the recently released “Anthem,” “The Division 2” is a game about shooting enemies and collecting loot. It’s a kind of hybrid combination of the shooter genre with the loot gathering mechanics typically found in series like “Diablo.”
This emergent game genre is known as either “loot shooter,” or, if you’re feeling feisty, “shlooter.”
These type of games, including “The Division 2,” are played online, primarily as cooperative experiences with other players. It’s you and your squad of friends against the world. In the case of “The Division 2,” that means you’re taking down the roving gangs of heavily armed bad guys who’ve popped up all over Washington D.C. in the wake of a devastating pandemic.
There’s a story, but it’s loose and mostly there to serve as structure for the gameplay.
Why is it so good?
“The Division 2” is an extremely accommodating game, and it’s focused on getting you into the action.
A primer video runs before the game starts that lays out all the story beats you’ll need to understand its world. After a brief stop at character customization, “The Division 2” whisked me right into the action – a thrilling, multi-path shootout in the immediate vicinity of The White House.
Should I run in guns blazing, or flank the enemies? Do I just make a run for it? That first intro mission offers a look at the type of tactics-based shooting that “The Division 2” focuses on.
There’s a level of detail up front that makes it feel like a fully fleshed-out world. Characters are believable, and the ruins of Washington D.C. are lovingly rendered.
From the very first encounter to the initial explorations of The White House – which has become a temporary base of operations for the remaining military – there’s a cohesion that makes “The Division 2” feel alive.
Why is it so much better than “Anthem”?
In nearly every mission I played in “Anthem,” I did the same thing: Fly to an objective marker and shoot everything until the mission was complete. Sometimes I had to collect a set number of objects, or solve a simple puzzle, but it was almost always some variation on that formula.
In the first major story mission in “The Division 2,” I went on a hostage rescue mission that involved a multi-stage shootout with enemies that took cover and flanked me, several major setpiece moments that fundamentally altered the environment, and a co-op partner who did her fair share of work.
After I finished the mission, I watched a cutscene between two relatively believable characters that helped establish the game’s plot.
There is a massive difference between the two games, despite being direct competitors in the same relatively small genre of loot shooters. It’s genuinely staggering how incomplete “Anthem” feels in comparison to “The Division 2,” right from the start.
Yes: There’s plenty of loot and it’s really easy to use.
Stop worrying: There is a ton of loot in “The Division 2” for you to find. Maybe even more importantly, you’re able to easily check its worth against what you’ve got equipped and then equip it as you wish – on the fly.
Again, this may sound totally normal, but in “Anthem” the loot system is only accessible after sitting through a series of loading screens. By contrast, the loot system in “The Division 2” feels like a massive step forward.
The game offers a wealth of information about each equippable item, but it also includes the straightforward up or down arrows to tell you if it’s better than what you’ve got.
Also of note: I never felt overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I was getting. In so many words, I didn’t spend all my time in menus going through the stuff I picked up. Instead, I was out in the ruins of D.C. taking down terrorist cells.
If you’re looking for a huge new game to explore with friends, “The Division 2” is almost certainly right up your alley.
You’d think that the game where you and your friends pilot Iron Man-style robot suits on a gorgeous alien planet would be the game to play with friends in 2019.
Nope! It’s actually the one where you play a relatively generic militia fighter in a (yawn) post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. Who’d have thought?
Honestly, going into 2019, I’d have bet $10 that “Anthem” would be a much more interesting game than “The Division 2.” It’s a totally new game from EA’s celebrated BioWare studio! It’s got flying! How could that not be interesting?!
Instead, “The Division 2” is clearly the much better game. From mission variety to storytelling to game systems to quality of life, “The Division 2” sticks out by comparison as the far more polished product. If “The Division 2” had launched in a reality where “Anthem” didn’t exist, it would still be a great game – but it looks even greater by comparison to this year’s biggest disappointment.
“The Division 2” is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. Check out the game in action right here: