The Division left gamers, well, divided.
On one hand, it ticked a lot of boxes. Huge arsenal of weapons? Check. A vast open world? Check.
On the other, The Division was punishingly difficult if played solo offline.
Enemies wearing mere T-shirts took hundreds of rounds to bring down, while the snow-covered Manhattan environment became drab and uninviting after a few hours.
Thankfully, fast forward two years and The Division 2 seems to have addressed nearly all of these points.
The result is a more well-rounded, balanced shooter that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
For one, the visuals have received a welcome boost in fidelity.
Gone are the dark, dreary streets replaced with lush greenery and a far brighter colour palette.
A lot of this is down to the setting, which takes place in Washington DC, some seven months after the viral outbreak in the first game.
The city has been taken over by three main factions – the Hyenas, the Outcasts and the True Sons. All of them are nasty pieces of work armed to the teeth.
In motion, The Division 2 is very impressive indeed. During most intense shootouts, framerates remained around 30FPS.
Only during mass-scale fire-fights, of which there are plenty towards the end of a mission, did we see the FPS take a hit on the Xbox One X.
However, this is still a work-in-progress build, so expect performance to be optimised ahead of launch in March.
Thanks to the Snowdrop Engine, which returns with aplomb, there are plenty of cool effects, too.
Depth of field, global volumetric lighting and an advanced particle system are but a few of the features that help bring the world to life – as well as making gunfights real spectacles.
In fact, it’s here that has perhaps seen the biggest improvement.
Enemy AI has been tweaked, meaning they will lob grenades and flank you should you remain behind cover for too long.
Weaker foes also take less damage to bring them down.
Now, while this is very much a ‘points based’ hit system – to work in parallel with the weapon upgrade and loot mechanic – shooting feels much more akin to a sublime cover shooter Gears of War, which is only a good thing.
Mission structure usually sees you roam through a level taking on waves of foes – but multiple paths – including high ground, help to add a tactical element to the chaos.
Harder enemies, sometimes carrying shields, need to be flanked. While huge mini gun-wielding brutes take what seems like thousands of bullets to bring down.
This works fine in co-operative but can prove a real challenge if playing solo. Still, it’s far easier than the last game.
Thankfully, you’ll have hundreds of weapons to choose from – each with customisable skins and attachments.
Technology, from drones to mini-mounted turrets and grenades are also available – essential should you tackle missions solo.
Main missions may prove too difficult for those going alone, but side-missions are far more accessible.
Get them right and you’ll feel like a sort of John Wick – dodging and weaving, setting up turrets and quickly switching from primary weapon to sidearm.
Thanks to a detailed customisation system, you can even make your character look like the Baba Yaga.
Weapons range from rifles, that offer stopping power at mid-long range, to shotguns and LMGs.
All boast plenty of feel apart from the SPAS shotgun, which didn’t pack the oomph we’d expect from one of the most powerful guns in the game.
The best thing about the 2016 original actually took place once you finished the campaign.
Here, you’d be treated to various harder missions that would reward you with the best loot upon completion.
This returns in The Division 2 – which sees DC overrun by a highly skilled force called Black Tusk. They are essentially super-soldiers, trained to kill ruthlessly and are kitted out with the best gear.
We won’t give too much away, but if you’re to have any chance against them, you’ll need some serious firepower and a very, very good squad.
Anything else I should know?
Yes, The Divison 2 beta takes place between Thursday, February 7th to Monday, February 11th on all platforms. You can sign up here
Ubisoft has outlined the following content for The Division 2 beta:
- Two main story missions (available in Normal and Hard difficulty)
- Five side missions and other activities in the open world
- One out of the three Dark Zones playable
- PvP in Conflict mode Skirmish
- One Invaded mission (end-game content) and a level cap of 30 with new Survivalist, Sharpshooter and Demolitionist specialisations from Friday, February 8th from 4pm GMT
The Division 2 lands on Xbox One, PS4 and PC on March 15.