The Division 2 Feels Familiar But Looks Radically Different [E3 2018 Preview]

If Destiny 2 has taught us anything, it’s that creating a shared world sequel like The Division 2 is tough as you have to balance between catering to both newcomers and veterans. My 20-minute hands-on preview of the game at E3 2018 didn’t answer whether or not it will strike that balance, but it did prove that it plays the same while looking way more stunning than the original.

The Division 2 demo I played took our team of four through a challenging mission in the new locale of Washington, DC. For such an online-centric game, it looks far better than it has any right to. Most of this comes from the location switch. The first game was pretty dull in color and featured a lot of snow, making for a rather uninteresting playground visually.

However, Washington feels like a direct statement against that. The area that I played through alongside two strangers and one of the level designers from the game was lush and vibrant, with bright green foliage and rays of sunshine beaming down on everything.

The Division 2 Preview: War Never Changes

The Division 2 E3 2018 Preview

If it wasn’t for the mostly unchanged UI, I wouldn’t have believed that it’s really The Division 2. But let’s talk less about the visuals and about the gameplay. Unfortunately, not a whole lot has changed from what I’ve seen thus far. You still control a Division agent from the third-person perspective, utilizing cover and skills to strategically take out enemies in combat. The only real change at all is the addition of specializations. Don’t make the mistake that I did and call them “classes” as I was quickly corrected by the developer, though, that’s essentially what they are from what I’ve experienced. Our team of four were broken down into one of three specializations.

The three specializations that we could check out in The Division 2‘s E3 2018 demo were the Demolitionist, Sharpshooter, and Survivalist. Our team of four was composed of one Demolitionist, two Sharpshooters, and a Survivalist. Of the three options, the only one I wouldn’t have picked would have been the Demolitionist. Guess which one I ended up with? Yep, the Demolitionist. This class is one that focuses on heavier weapons but not necessarily as much as other games like Battlefield. The most important part of my specialization was the role I played and the unique legendary weapon I could get.

The Division 2 Preview: Find Your Specialty

The Division 2 E3 2018 Preview

For a Demolitionist, the signature weapon is a grenade launcher. Acquiring that weapon for your specialization means that you must pick up this new blue ammo drop that enemies will release. It is extremely limited like the heavy weapons in Destiny 2, so it’s necessary to use your specialization’s weapon with care.

As the Demolitionist, I was the frontman for our group strangely enough. Leading the group wasn’t something I was used to but it was an experience. The Division 2 remains a cooperative-focused experience and the challenge of this mission absolutely required communication as a team.

At the end of the level, our squad encountered about a dozen enemies held up in an abandoned plane. It was here that our greatest challenge awaited. It was also where the monotony of running to a new location, taking out opponents, and then moving on was turned on its head. What seemed like a simple finale quickly escalated. From the beginning of the final section, we knew that there were a couple of medics and armored enemies. Those two enemy types were obviously our first targets in order to weaken the other soldiers.

The medics could revive fallen comrades while the armored soldier was a real nuisance. Once we took out the medics, we focused fire on the main baddie while one Sharpshooter suppressed the normal soldiers. This is where my grenade launcher finally had its moment to shine. Legendary specialization weapons are your best bet at knocking off the armor bar so you can actually whittle away his health. Once he was almost defeated, we thought it was going to be over but then enemies surrounded us from all sides and attacked as we fought him.

This created a few moments of absolute chaos and confusion as we scrambled to figure out what to do. In the process, two teammates were knocked out. We were, thankfully, able to regroup and recover enough to narrowly complete the mission. It was that moment alone, coupled with the stunning visuals, that showed me that The Division 2 has immense potential.