There are plenty of online multiplayer shooters with role-playing mechanics these days. Leave it to the franchise that helped start the trend to set a new bar for all of them.
Here's what makes "Tom Clancy's The Division 2" special: It always gives you something new and ridiculously fun to do. Ubisoft's follow-up to the 2016 hit overloads you with plenty of quality content from start to finish, right down to an endgame that yields more fun than you could imagine. It does so in terrifically balanced fashion; most games in the genre are fun to play in a group, but The Division 2 works just fine whether you're a solo op or playing with friends.
The first Division dropped you in a well-realized New York City; for this go-round, you're in Washington D.C. There's very little explanation of what's going on or why, but the nation's still in a state of chaos, ravaged by the virus from the first game. The action picks up swiftly from there, as you're thrust into firefights and learn the game's mechanics.
And those mechanics are a ton of fun, thanks to smooth shooting and challenging, varied enemy types. At its core, this is a cover shooter, but "The Division 2" never lets you play robotically. A wide array of enemy tactics force you to constantly adjust and be creative, turning gunplay into plenty of fun.
You never feel outgunned, though, because you have plenty of weapons at your disposal. That includes the expected plethora of different guns with different abilities, and a series of perks, too. There are sentry guns and decoys and healing nets. There's enough here that you can wind your way through the game solo just fine, and if you ever get into a bind, easy matchmaking lets you find a teammate for tough bosses are tough battles.
Enemies aren't merely bullet sponges either. You can aim for weaknesses, and, later in the game, you'll have even more challenges targeting those weaknesses, so combat never grows boring. Even better are the Dark Zone areas, which permit player-vs.-player action. There's a tremendous amount of variety here, as you can enter with a team and join with other players to take down enemy outposts, but you must always be conscious that the players you joined with can betray you and take you down.
There are plenty of bonuses in the Dark Zones, but if they're not your thing, no pressure. The best part about "The Division 2" is that the Dark Zones are never a requirement, and you can thrive throughout the game without visiting them.
You adjust your character at your safehouse and can visit settlements, too, and none of this stays the same as you progress through the action. One of the ways "The Division 2" keeps you interested in gameplay is by having your actions lead to gradual improvement in the world in these areas; the little touches you'll see as you work through story and non-story missions helps make your success on the battlefield worthwhile. Washington D.C. feels alive with more than politics in The Division 2, and it helps make your progress feel real and satisfying.
So too does a seemingly (and expected) neverending amount of upgrades and changes to your character. Games in this genre are supposed to make their living here, and "The Division 2" makes sure to deliver. The weapons themselves are great, but the best part is how they can be taken apart and sold for even better weapons.
There are other intricacies too here: Blend gear from the same companies for bigger upgrades, or and add other perks to keep things interesting. Best of all, "The Division 2" keeps weapon upgrades from feeling boringly linear and all about power; I often played with a lower-powered weapon that offered higher experience bonuses or other useful upgrades. By and large, this all feels similar to the execution that was within the original Division, but it's still another thing to keep you going in "The Division 2."
About the only thing "The Division 2" doesn't have is story; you're dropped into this world, but unlike the original game, there's little desire to create explanation and narrative around the battling. In this way, Ubisoft follows the model of the likes of "Destiny 2," crafting a world and only the barest hints of narrative.
That's a minor downer if you're playing solo, but if you're gaming with a friend, you won't be bothered. There's so much action and movement in the game that the last thing you want is cutscenes, and your safehouse offers just enough conversation to keep the world alive, as do the other settlements.
It all adds up to one of the finest games multiplayer role-player shooters out there. This is how gaming with friends is meant to be.
Four out of Five stars
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4 Pro
Available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC
This article is written by Ebenezer Samuel from New York Daily News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.