Have you ever wanted to steal the Declaration of Independence? Nicolas Cage has, and it seems Ubisoft is also keen to get its hands on the archaic document. During the opening hours of The Division 2 you’ll be sent on this quest of freedom, infiltrating a museum crawling with gun-toting fascists feeding off the scraps of society.
What follows is a series of intense encounters where myself and a stranger were pushed through winding corridors and dense atriums, leaving corpses as we went. Eventually, we reach the vault and take our spoils. It just so happens that right next to the declaration is a chest holding an AK-47 and a sweet pair of knee-pads. Just what I needed!
The Division 2 is a tonally anachronous affair, clearly bathing in the flaming political climate as a backdrop, without ever daring to tackle any of the debate its inspiration will inevitably bring up. And that’s mostly fine, especially when it quickly becomes clear the characters and dialogue never take themselves too seriously. Enemies sprint at you yelling curses before succumbing to certain death, while audio logs are filled with cheesy, somewhat self-aware dialogue about the downfall of Washington D.C.
This won’t be for everyone, especially those looking for a broken society to explore ripe with anecdotes that emphasise the plight of its downfall. However, at the core of The Division 2 lies a wonderfully responsive multiplayer shooter with plenty going for it, addressing an abundance of issues that held the original back from greatness.
Related: Upcoming PS4 games
The private beta gave players a generous chunk of content to explore, spanning the game’s opening hours and descending right into the ambitious end-game. I spent hours exploring the ruins of America’s capital in search of new equipment and resources for my growing base of operations. Things begin with you storming The White House, a stronghold for the growing number of resistance fighters.
It becomes immediately clear The Division 2 doesn’t mess around, imploring you to take cover and flank unsuspecting foes whenever you can. It’s unwise to stay in the same place for too long, as someone will inevitable break from cover and charge at you like a machete-wielding sailor. I’ll be honest, this opening encounter saw me dying quite a few times, as I adjusted to the surprisingly lightweight gunplay.
Firearms lack the weight of those in games such as Gears of War or Destiny, opting for a snappier, more arcade-y model that reflects the fast movement and endless swarms of foes with whom you’ll often contend. It felt strange at first, but I quickly came to love the lightweight responsiveness as I pulled off headshots with ease. It’s fluid and satisfying, with each weapon possessing uniquely explosive feedback upon hitting your adversaries.
The beta also has a healthy variety of firearms to collect across the broken city. But while Ubisoft aims for a modern, realistic arsenal of firearms, it’s opted to stretch the truth with its absurd number of upgradeable gadgets. Drones, Seeker Mines, Disposable Turrets. Name the gadget and there’s probably some sort of iteration stuffed inside The Division 2. Given you’re pretty much a Sleeper Agent Power Ranger, the fantasy depicted here is more than welcome.
My favourite moments in The Division 2 come in the form of joyful co-operation. I wasn’t alone on my mission to steal The Declaration of Independence. Taking cover outside the armoured vault, sadly I fell victim to a hailstorm of bullets.
Seconds before I hit the respawn button a stranger sprinted into view, obliterating bandits with a shotgun before rushing to my side. Popping a turret atop a nearby wall, she began reviving me. In a couple of seconds, we were raiding the vault and living out our Nicolas Cage fantasies.
Related: Best Xbox One games
After a few brief encounters, I finally settled into my base of operations. This acts as a hub area filled with characters and store fronts, many of which play some purpose in the wider world. The Division 2 is immediately responding to the player’s actions with satisfactory rewards that reflect the objectives you’re completing, and I love it for that.
Within just a few short hours I was making my presence known, whether it be through subtle improvements to my base or lethal new equipment to deploy on the field. It’s just unfortunate that Washington D.C. doesn’t quite have the personality of Destiny or similar loot-driven shooters.
Instead, you’re drawn into the world by the people within it, whether this be determined figureheads of the resistance or the trio of rivalling factions in a dramatic tug-of-war for the city’s control. The struggling civilization is no longer silent, as I frequently stumbled upon citizens returning home with resources, or finding an opportunity to help them along the way.
Interactions such as these are minimal, and you’ll seldom befriend NPCs in a way that feels truly meaningful. However, knowing they’ll lend a potential helping hand amidst firefights not only makes a hard situation easier, it makes the broken society you’re trying to save a feel a little more alive. Much of this hope disappears, though, as you venture into The Dark Zone.
Related: Best Nintendo Switch games
Just like its predecessor, The Dark Zone is a dangerous, high-level area ripe with exclusive treasures to be uncovered. Those willing to take a risk and brave the depths of Washington D.C. will potentially come away with plentiful rewards. Atmosphere is immediately palpable, the threat of PvP combat making it abundantly clear that nobody is safe.
Do you skulk through allies silently taking out small groups of enemies or become the hunter yourself, pouncing on a rival player seconds before they’re about to escape with legendary loot? Once extraction starts, people will be alerted to your presence, meaning it’s a fight for survival until a saviour finally arrives. It’s undeniably tense, showcasing The Division 2’s tight, team-based gunplay at its finest.
Things are shaken up with Occupied Dark Zones. With player statistics no longer being normalised and checkpoints posing additional threats, you’ll have a chance to reap even greater rewards if you aren’t gunned down in a matter of minutes. The Division 2 presents a number of awesome end-game possibilities this time around, especially since Ubisoft has promised free content updates for all.
With a month or so until release, it’s worth noting I stumbled upon a few strange audio bugs in my time with The Division 2 beta. During some missions audio would cut out entirely, making them feel like ultra-violent silent films. That did mean I was spared some of the repetitive screams of enemies, though, so it could be positive in the eyes of some.
The very best moments in The Division 2 come from co-operation. Stealing the Declaration of Independence with a crew of strangers and facing the barrage of enemy gunfire head first was a thrilling experience I’m unlikely to forget anytime soon.
Tight gunplay, excellent customisation and tantalising end-game possibilities paint a pretty picture for The Division 2, although it will have plenty of competitors to fend off in the coming months. From what I’ve played, it definitely stands a chance of being something great.