Previews

The Division 2 Private Beta Impressions - Gameplay

Massive Entertainment
Picture of an agent hiding behind a Humvee in The Division 2
The Division 2

The Division 2 gameplay consists of two parts. One part is where Massive Entertainment and Ubisoft listened to The Division players and implemented appropriate changes and the other is where they kept some old elements, like bullet sponges.

When the original The Division came out, people immediately started complaining about bullet sponges and the problem persists to this day. Massive Entertainment went to great lengths to curb the issue in The Division 2, but they had to keep bullet sponging in some elements, to preserve the looter shooter feel.

First, let's address the gameplay changes that happened as a direct result of community demand. Bullet sponges are out of a good chunk of the game, even though they are not entirely gone. For example, in the original The Division, once you saw an enemy with a purple or God forbid, a yellow health bar, you would immediately need to check if you have three million spare rounds in your gun.

This is not the case in The Division 2, for the most part. Going through story missions will introduce you to various enemies, some of which have armour. These enemies will be tougher to kill, but the moment you penetrate through the armour, their health will melt with just a few bullets. 

Massive Entertainment have managed to make engaging content, in a multiplayer game that is all about getting that sweet powerful loot, without resorting to abnormally high amounts of health on enemies. Combat feels satisfying, you can drop three to four enemies in a single magazine and it doesn't feel like you are shooting peas anymore.

That is, until you group up. Considering that one agent is enough to mow down all the enemies in a mission, it wouldn't make much sense to keep the difficulty level the same when they group up with three other agents. Therefore, enemy health will scale accordingly, but it starts to become egregious as soon as you have three agents in a group. A group of four further increases enemy health pools.

This specific mechanic is the reason why the whole argument about bullet sponges' existence in The Division 2 is confusing. In essence, you will not run into bullet sponges as long as you play solo or with one agent in your team. If you group up with two or three agents, The Division 2 will turn into a bullet sponge galore.

Massive EntertainmentPicture of an agent shooting some Hyenas in The Division 2Bullet sponges need not apply. At least in solo or due playthroughs

The good news is that agents are no longer bullet sponges themselves, meaning PvP should be more fun than ever. Gone are the days of instant healing through skills, medkits, Nomad's set and the signature ability. Players now need a few seconds to replace their broken armour plate and getting caught by a flanker usually means certain death.

Agents move slightly slower in The Division 2 so chicken dancing is off the table as players can no longer instantly switch their running direction. PvP firefights should, in general, feel more tactical now, with skill and proper decision making having more impact than before, as a firefight can be done in a matter of seconds.

One major issue remains unfixed though, and everyone who played The Division will hate it. Grenades in both games stagger anyone they affect, except some heavy enemies, which is a good thing in itself. The bad part is that the pre-stagger glitch is still present. For those who didn't play The Division or are otherwise unacquainted with it, the glitch makes players go into stagger animation before an enemy grenade explodes or even reaches the impact point, therefore reducing their chances of escaping the blast.

Massive Entertainment have changed many systems for The Division 2, and so far it looks like they made the right moves. Players who want to avoid bullet sponges can now do so by venturing into the Dark Zone more often, while those who don't mind them can simply focus on higher tier PvE content. Raids were not shown yet, but are expected to be filled to the brim with bullet sponges, as they will be eight-player instances.

It is not hard to see that the studio gave a lot of thought to The Division 2, and not only through the mechanics changes. They have also added loot caches all over the place, and it's not that hard to find them, as long as you're not staying on the beaten path, meaning the path shown by the GPS system. Exploration is rewarded and those who pay attention to detail will find faction loot caches that award higher grade items.

Speaking of detail, The Division 2 is filled with smaller things that offer either fan service mini stories of themselves, such as the picture below, showing a sad part in this particular husky's life.

Massive EntertainmentPicture of a husky and his dead friend in The Division 2The Division 2

It is important to note that the Private Beta didn't allow players to unlock Pulse, which reveals all enemies around an agent, and most players saw this as a positive thing. Having to focus on battlefield awareness brought another layer of depth to The Division 2 and players are now even asking Massive Entertainment not to include the skill in the final version of the game.