Massive Entertainment learned a lot from The Division. The game had a rocky first few months after its launch back in 2016, and it was clear that the developer had work to do. Fortunately, it was able to make positive changes across the board, gradually transforming the title into a truly addictive and well made looter shooter. And it feels like Massive has brought all of that knowledge over to The Division 2. The sequel isn't binning the things that work and starting over -- something that Destiny 2 is often accused of doing. Instead, it appears to build upon the first game's foundations while also making specific, but still more than welcome adjustments. We spent around ten or so hours with the private beta and enjoyed a lot of what we played. In contrast to the ANTHEM beta that rolled out earlier in the month, The Division 2 immediately felt accomplished and confident in what it was doing. Obviously it's a sequel, while ANTHEM is a first attempt from an inexperienced developer, but even in their respective beta forms, there's a clear gap between the two in terms of overall quality.
Aside from some jarring texture pop-in issues, The Division 2's private beta went pretty smoothly on a technical level. Sure there were some annoying disconnects on the first day, but one quick patch later and we were playing for hours on end. The title retains that highly addictive loop that was present in its predecessor, but the key takeaway from our point of view is that the sequel simply offers a much steadier stream of stuff to do. Even as just a setting, Washington DC feels a lot more lively than The Division's snowy New York -- you can't go five minutes without running into some sort of trouble or stumbling across a new activity. We hopped from one gunfight to the next on our way to each main mission, taking out enemy control points and rescuing civilians all the while. Each encounter slots together seamlessly, and again, it feels like there's very little downtime compared to other games in the genre. The missions themselves seem to be well paced, too. Main story outings in particular were a highlight, featuring some great level design. The objective is always clear but you're constantly being asked to evaluate your options when fighting against different opposition. One minute it's dealing with foes that are more than happy to charge your location, and the next it's taking out a heavy gunner so that you're free to break from cover and push up. There's a tactical nuance to The Division that continues to set its action apart.