For those not in tune with the gaming world, or Tom Clancy games, this is the latest in the string of titles released.
The Division 2 is a sequel (hence “2”) of the original title, Tom Clancy’s: The Division. This game series is a departure from classic First Person Shooter and Third Person Shooter styles like Ghost Recon.
Instead we are treated to a “shoot n’ loot” RPG style game where the motivation is basically -kill bad man, take his stuff to kill the next bad man, take his stuff too- “Shoot n’ Loot”.
The reward system in the game centers around acquiring more powerful versions of your favorite guns, some neat gadgets, and armor.
I love a good post apocalyptic yarn. A game that is entertaining and that I enjoy playing I can suspend A LOT of disbelief for.
But… there are limits. The Division 2 crosses those limits several times…
It is apparent to me that the writers for this game did maybe 10% of the viable research to make the game flow smoothly story wise and instead fell prey to easy troupes of both stereotypes and anti-stereotypes. They then gave themselves a hearty well done and hoped nobody would ask questions and just continue the extreme suspension of disbelief.
But again, I like this game. It’s fun. I must reiterate this point. These are just funny little plot and detail points where they could have done better very very easily.
The Plot [Spoilers]
In the very near future an insane evil virologist creates a super viral strain of many bad diseases all rolled into one. The Green Poison or Dollar Flu was spread initially on money and then like any normal hyper contagion. Lots of people died. There was panic. Quarantine was ordered at the origin point in New York City. That structure of containment and control made of government personnel and private corporations failed.
Enter -> The Division
The Division is essentially a group of special operators who only get called up in an apocalyptic emergency, like some kind of super secret squirrel national guard. They are there to assist local government structures and assist in the continuity of the United States… they also have all the extra judicial authority in the universe and are masters of body stacking turbo murder justice… very Judge Dredd.
So these ordinary citizen special operators get activated for NYC and shit goes sideways.. soooo they activate a few more.
This is where you enter in the first game. You then run around NYC dealing justice through automatic weapons fire and helping to restore something like a functioning situation in New York with the help of your Asian sidekick and New Yorker’s New Yorker Police Chief.
You fight groups of looters and rioters, a culty group of former city workers and hangers on who are trying to burn away the plague, and a PMC group turned warlord junkies. It’s actually a really fun premise and makes for a good narrative despite some of the first game’s issues (end game *cough cough* there wasn’t one).
Hooray! You saved NYC… kind of. It’s doing alright..
The Division 2 starts a few months later during the following summer. You’re a different agent of The Division’s second deployment and the U.S. has been reduced to tribal clannish enclaves of survivors nationwide.
Then your super secret extra special tech powers all go out and you have to run to Washington D.C. to basically be the heavily armed IT department.
Cool. Still tracking. Fiction requires suspension of disbelief and mine is having a great time. Roll into D.C. and get this party started.
You roll into a gunfight on the white house lawn (with the weakest baddies of the game who have laid siege to your main base, that’s how ‘bad’ things are in D.C.)
You’ve now met the first faction, “Hyenas” aka looters with a tribe. This loose group of murdery hooligans has a pretty standard motivation in the shell of The Capitol, survive and take what you want/need from everyone else.
You, shiny watch anointed citizen special operator with extra judicious shoot on sight authority, fight this band of thugs in a kind of tribal warfare counterinsurgency with the help of a terribly armed citizenry who semi-regularly take on juggernaut heavy machine gun wielding type enemies with wooden baseball bats.
At other points you roll across “public executions” happening for no apparent reason… and in front of no actual public… except you, special watch operator, who sweep in and start stacking bodies and then OH! look at that the people about to be executed pulled out their concealed carry pieces and now you’re having a merry old gunfight with somewhere between 6:1 and 10:1 odds.
Luckily you’re a Division Agent.
The RPG mechanics are not my beef here, it’s the literal random execution of random citizenry on public display but to no actual public. But hey its a random encounter, and they are fun to roll up.
The fact that the local population are mostly armed this far into the badness actually makes a degree of sense, but the fact that as you progress through the game and “assist them” (mostly by viciously cutting down their enemies with gunfire) they go from packing their pistols and an occasional shotgun or rifle (realistic) to every civilian squad rocking M60E6’s with high end optics (I think I’ve personally picked up more M60’s in that game than were actually produced, glad they’re all in D.C.)
But hey, you did get that fabrication specialist. So she’s cranking out those modern Special Forces level belt feds and supporting equipment… Yeah her, the early 20’s hipster looking minority master gunsmith. She alone is cranking out high tier weapons for you and the militia. The world wide disaster is so inclusive!
You’ll also find a Brit to run your gun range (nobody else was available, I guess), also put it in the bowling alley… seems safe… good thing we have this highly sophisticated target system in the back room! The fine English gentlemen will stare disapprovingly at your targets, some of which you must deliberately shoot the ceiling ala VODA style.
The range is a cool in game feature to try gear and get DPS numbers but the explanation for “staffing” it is weak.
The staffing unlocks that follow the main storyline are an obvious nod to inclusiveness… taken just a tad too far. So far that they are using it in place of narrative instead of including it in the narrative. There is no explanation for these people, like this girl’s mom or dad was a Sig Sauer executive or something, just ‘here is your very well racially and gender balanced team to do things at the base.’
Might be an explanation in the ‘deep lore’ somewhere but literally nothing during gameplay.
Ok, next faction: The “Outcasts.”
Everyone loves an evil cult. The twist on the original in the first Division, The Cleaners, was that they wanted to burn away the Green Poison and kinda went crazy with it. Flamethrowers everywhere! Very toasty.
The Outcasts are the opposite, infected carriers who have embraced their demise and seek to keep spreading infections and bring those they blame down with them. Plague spreading hooligans!
Cool faction. Lots of fun to fight. The rusher enemies are straight up just the psychos from Borderlands but that was a good enemy type. The sledge wielding roid raged murder freight train bullet sponges are a trip too.
Anyway, second cool enemy faction with an understandable plausible motivation in our fictional D.C. and well done from a story standpoint. They’re further down the maniacal train than the Hyenas or any other faction actually, probably my narrative favorite.
Here it’s your allies who bug me. You’re operating out of a former college campus where a loudspeaker is asking for volunteers to head to the little ad hoc shooting range the compound has set up (mind you far more advanced shooting ranges just spring up randomly as friendly events for some bonus XP) because they need marksman for… deer season.
Yes, deer season. During a worldwide epidemic apparently the DNR has survived and will be checking if you bought your deer tag. Far be it from you to be collecting fresh game for a conclave of survivors. Deer are also everywhere in D.C. , like I shot 4 just outside the compound gate to see if you could collect them, nope… must not be in season.
The story here takes a hard derailment in the suspension of disbelief category and its on a stupid detail. These guys aren’t going to wait until November to grab venison! If they’re hungry it’s going to be game on. People poach today for food and yet the epidemic societal conclave is going to issue deer tags? Are you going to have to wear hunters orange too? So that the other groups bent on murdering you and taking your stuff will recognize you’re hunting deer, not people…
Massive detail fail.
Faction 3: The Last Man Battalion!
Oops, I meant True Sons. LMB was D1.
Faction 3 is a copy paste from the first game with a new tag stuck on it. Narrative wise these guys were allegedly JTF (Government Forces) who went rogue and not PMC’s (Government paid private forces helping the government forces.)
It works, group of soldiers followed a charismatic misguided criminally convicted Colonel who then styles himself a General to restore order under his watch… It’s more lazily done than in D1 and it’s more loosely explained and hinted at but it rolls through and the more active and multifront combat partially makes up for not really knowing what their motivation source is.
The True Sons just end up being another squad of baddies to engage in gunfights and don’t have the narrative gravitas the other two do. They’re definitely evil bastards, they totally gas a settlement of folks (for no discernable reason actually, just a couple of assholes with a mortar that you then go provide sweet automatic weapons justice to) and their squads are attacking and harassing your allies… But there are just holes in the motivational chain all over and are unexplained.
Yes, the bad guys gassed the settlement… but why? Because they’re “bad?” This was a group of soldiers, cops, firefighters, and paramedics who are allegedly still trying to beat the infection and restore order in just a twisted despot survivalist sort of manner. But they keep just doing “bad” things with no narrative motivation.
Game writers just making up tid bits of things the hero should fight against and stop but there’s nothing in the general gameplay to link them.
Maybe it’s buried in ‘deep lore’ but it shouldn’t be! I should clearly understand why I’m running in with an M249 to blast belts of ammunition into these red, purple, and gold health bar enemies. A little more effort into connecting the narrative. It feels increasingly lazy and like the focus at this point was entirely on the loot table (which still had/has issues)
Faction 4: Random Archer Guys
Completely random groups of compound bow armed black clad folk who just need killing. I have no idea if they are in with The Outcasts or not. There’s no intel or motivation for these guys except wanting to try and turn you into an archery target… Maybe more on them comes later?
Faction 5: BLACK TUSK
I assume the conversation for the Black Tusk PMC’s (Hey! Here come the evil mercenaries! I missed them) went something like this.
GameDev 1: We need another bad guy faction for the end game. Some real hardasses.
GameDev 2: Mercenaries?
GameDev 1: Okay, cool. How do we introduce them?
GameDev 2: Have the narrator guy say, “Hey look, mercenaries.”
GameDev 1: After a huge cutscene which takes a giant steaming dump on all the work the character just completed?
GameDev 2: Oh yeah! Hell… Wait, why are these guys here? Who’s paying the near future tech mech armed mercs? They look super expensive and the world probably doesn’t have a functioning economy 7 months after a viral disaster.
GameDev 1: Carl, don’t ask silly questions. We have them hooked on loot drops at this point.
Some nuts and bolts items. (a tradable currency in the game for XP by the way)
Obviously the game is an RPG style which means numbers based damage in place of more “realism” in anatomy when engaging enemies. A head shot won’t drop most bad guys. That’s fine.
They actually do a fair job of keeping the enemies from feeling like bullet sponges even on the high health bad guys. Blazing well aimed shots into a threat will drop them reasonably and you cannot sit in the open taking endless damage yourself.
A significant improvement of note: the accessory system. Instead of acquiring a pile of guns and then a far more substantial pile of accessories for those guns, seeking ever slightly better RNG’d versions of your favorites, once you have an ACOG its accessible for any gun it is compatible with and provides a set bonus. Way less junk management and RNG grinding.
But the guns… for a franchise known for its attention to detail they goofed up a few. The venerable M16A2 is placed in the category ‘Rifle’ and fires 3 round burst. The M4 is in the assault rifle category and fires full auto.
This wouldn’t be a problem if they drew ammo from the same ammo pool (like in real life) but they don’t. The game does a poor job compensating mathematically for it too.
But that isn’t the most confusing one. The single most confusing is the USC…
The goofy neutered version of the UMP (also in the game a submachine gun) is also in the ‘Rifle’ category and draws from that ammo pool. None of it makes sense and the guns do not balance well. The majority of the guns in the game feel like they fit where they sit but these generate just enough cognitive dissonance that it breaks down the suspension of disbelief. If they were good guns in the game, in their categories, they would actually play out alright. But they aren’t.
Not only are they a testament to sloppy detail work by being out of category (the M16A2 could rock in the AR category) but their subpar game performance makes them throwaway items in addition to being totally wrong on details.
I’d be on board with a SMG category semi-auto with high individual round damage and pulling from the SMG ammo pool. Having the USC pull ‘rifle ammo’ from what are largely .308’s (the best performing guns in the category), .300 BLK, and 5.56 SPR type rifles relegates the USC to the trash heap over and over again.
Both the weapons could be good in game but they are in the wrong pile, making them trash and failures in attention to detail analysis.
Am I being harsh on a game too many steps from real as is?
I don’t believe so. Again, I enjoy this game overall. I’m just commenting on a few of the less pleasing details that break me out of the game immersion because they’re just so lazily wrong.