Watch Us Troll a Load of Games Journos in The Division 2’s Dark Zone – Preview

Watch Us Troll a Load of Games Journos in The Division 2’s Dark Zone – Preview

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Dan Webb

When The Division launched back in March 2016, I’ve got to admit, I quite liked it. Sure, it was a bit one-dimensional in the early stages, but I enjoyed the gunplay, the Dark Zone, the loot, the location, everything… Come April 2016 though, I’d moved on, probably to my detriment as by all accounts the game only got better with time, but with The Division 2 coming out this March, I – and many others – finally get another chance to re-enter the most-realistic, post-apocalypse that exists in the video game sphere.

The Division 2 picks up seven months after the events of the original and sees us take to the streets of Washington DC this time around, instead of the sprawling metropolis that is New York. The 1:1 recreation of America’s capital is, as you’d imagine, completely transformed. Society too has collapsed, and it’s your job as agents of The Division to get in there, find civilians, help them and try to turn the tide. No biggie, y'know?

Rather than focus on the single-player with our latest hands-on, though, we were thrown knee deep into the Dark Zone, an aspect of the game that has had both some fairly subtle and substantial changes.

One of the major changes in The Division 2 is how developer Massive is treating the Dark Zone. Instead of opting for one large Dark Zone in the sequel, the Swedish studio has opted for three medium-sized ones instead – one in east Washington around Union Station; one in the south, around the Fisherman’s Wharf; and one in the West, in Georgetown. Each DZ is not only in a distinct location, but also has a specific narrative and unique feel. While you might find landmarks, open-spaces and the like in the eastern Dark Zone, in the west you’ll find European-style architecture and tiny alleys, for instance.

Another rather sizeable change for The Division 2 is the game’s rogue system, which has been fleshed out and is now far more granular, in that there are three different levels. First things first, the rogue system is now a toggle system, meaning you’ll no longer cause accidental catastrophic incidents. Instead they’ll all be initiated entirely on purpose… or at least triggered by a squad mate. The three rogue levels are thus: grey rogue, representing theft, which allows you to steal things from supply drops and gain access to the Thieves’ Den; red rogue, which is your standard rogue state for killing another agent; and yellow rogue, which represents manhunt mode, for killing a number of other agents – five in our hands-on. “We span the whole range from greed to mass murder,” Creative Director Julian Gerighty tells us.

In terms of level playing field, levels, stats, etc., for the most part all of the stats will be “normalised” in the Dark Zone in The Division 2, meaning stats are squished across the board to level the playing field, so skill and tactics matter more than ever. That said, there will be the chance to show off your stats, weapon drops and more in what Massive is calling “Occupied Dark Zones” where friendly fire is on and stats aren’t affected at all. Here is where you’ll find the biggest risks, but also gain the biggest rewards. These will appear on a “cadenced rhythm” according to Gerighty, “overtaking one of the Dark Zones, maybe weekly,” although the studio “haven’t quite determined the cadence yet.”

Other changes to the game see the proximity VOIP removed to cut down on the toxicity in the Dark Zone – a move which seems a bit of a cop-out to us – but Massive is upping the server count, adding servers in areas where they no longer had them before in the original and, of course, the PVP mode will be included as standard when The Division 2 launches. There are also a couple of tweaks to the Dark Zone loot system as well, meaning that not all your loot will be 'contaminated' – and in need of an extraction – this time around, so you can use certain weapons and other items immediately while you're still in the DZ.

How different is The Division 2 from the original then, you may ask? Well, honestly, not incredibly different, but the good news is that it’s still as fun. The core gameplay remains solid, the enemies continue to be bullet sponges and the Dark Zone is still ridiculously tense, especially if you go rogue, which is basically all we ever do (as you’ll see in our gameplay video). The new granular rogue system is a welcome addition, for sure, as is the new Specialisations system (which come in the form of power weapons like grenade launchers for the end-game).

As for splitting the Dark Zone into three distinct environments, we fear this might fracture the player-base somewhat, but only time will tell there. Anyone expecting more of the same, The Division 2 is shaping up to offer just that. A new world to explore, one to get down-and-dirty in the Dark Zone, but if you’re expecting a drastic change in the formula, you’ll be vastly disappointed. As someone that had a lot of time for the original, though, I’ve got to say I’m rather pleased.

The Division 2 is out for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC on 15th March 2019.

Comments
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  • When in manhunt mode, is there still powerful AI enemies who can also throw a spanner in the works?
  • Sorry I missed Dan saying there was npcs in there as well, but they didn't seem to be very many or much of a threat.
  • There are AI eneimes still present. There threat level depends on whether they veteran enemies, elite enemies, or they are in the occupied dark zone.
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