“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” ―Jenna Evans Welch
After learning that Outcasts leader Emeline Shaw had escaped the earlier assault on her stronghold on Roosevelt Island and is currently hiding out at the Manning National Zoo, the agent is sent here to deal with her. Fighting through the zoo and reactivating the monorail line, the agent ultimately reaches Shaw, who using a heavily-armoured train with a mini-gun. Using C4, the agent destroys the tracks Shaw’s train is on and forces a showdown with her. The agent will defeat Shaw and a handful of her guard, and in the aftermath, learns that Shaw had once been a prosecutor with a daughter, and the Green Poison outbreak killed her daughter, leaving her vengeful against society. Later, the JTF and Division coordinate an assault on Camp White Oak, where the traitorous President Ellis was last alleged to have been spotted. However, the Black Tusk overwhelm the JTF forces entirely, and despite the agent’s best efforts to complete their assignment, President Ellis manages to escape once again after being evacuated. These are two of the three main missions added with The Division 2‘s first major content update, which focuses on missions set outside of the central districts of Washington D.C.; two of these missions are always available be completed at the player’s discretion, whereas the third, an expedition to Kenly College, requires the mission be available to players during certain times. Besides three new missions, the first major content update to The Division 2 also added a new specialisation, providing additional materials for players to unlock and experience free of charge.
In taking players to areas outside of Washington D.C.’s central area, the new missions breathe new life into The Division 2. Manning National Zoo capitalises on the unique biomes of a zoo as its mission area, forcing players to get creative in using the landscape and cover at a zoo in order to keep alive during the onslaught from Emeline Shaw’s Outcasts. The zoo was quite unlike any mission I’d previously played, featuring much more open areas and beautifully details a zoo no longer being maintained regularly. Seeing elements of decay here brought to mind Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us. However, Manning National Zoo proved to be unexpectedly challenging, since the amount of clutter and foliage at the zoo made it difficult to spot the arrival of the Outcast suicide bombers. The layout of the zoo meant that the way one plays is changed, and one must immediately figure out how to make the most of their surroundings while at the same time, equip a good combination of close and longer range weapons. In the end, I managed to beat this one with a healthy bit of patience. Camp White Oak is the easier of the two missions, despite facing the Black Tusk; a good LMG is all it takes to keep them in check. This mission stood out for marking the first time players get to visit an area with more wilderness. Evergreen trees line steep cliffs that drop away into a river in the canyons below, and there’s a large lake surrounded by forest. Camp White Oak resembles Alan Wake in some areas, although a key difference here is that players have access to an immensely powerful arsenal that they would not have in Alan Wake. Altogether, both missions take players outside of the monotony that is the Washington streets into interesting and varied locations.
Screenshots and Commentary
- It is with the expansion episodes that The Division 2‘s endgame really begins to shine: admittedly, while Washington D.C. does offer some interesting locations, low-rise buildings aren’t really as exciting, and I preferred the wide open spaces of the National Mall in D.C. proper. The locations seen in the expansions are awesome, and right after the ride to Manning National Zoo, I found myself marvelling at the light rays streaming through the trees.
- Because extended mags offering up to 120 percent are no longer available in The Division 2, my preferred loadout will depend on what faction I’m squaring off against and what kind of map is involved. Against the Outcasts, I prefer a good assault rifle paired with a submachine gun or marksman rifle depending on the level. The AK-47 is a surprisingly fun assault rifle to run with in The Division 2: with its 7.62mm rounds, it hits harder than the 5.56 mm rifles and has a slower firing rate, so I try to pick my shots with it, whereas with higher RPM rifles, I usually end up dumping my magazine out much more quickly.
- Having gone through Manning National Zoo only once, I wonder if I would be able to fight my way through the level during the night if I came at a different time. For any given mission, I prefer fighting during the daylight hours simply because of improved visibility: enemies are a bit trickier to spot at night, and one of my biggest pet peeves in any game, single and multi-player, is poor enemy visibility. During the day, all enemies are easily spotted, making it much easier to respond and return fire. By this point in the game, I’ve begun making generous use of my special ammunition: as a sharpshooter, I love being able to one-shot even named elites with headshots that can hit for up to two million points of damage with my current loadout.
- I still have yet to unlock the green laser pointer attachment: this is supposed to be a blueprint that is randomly dropped for clearing level three capture points, but given the way I play in The Division 2, I prefer attachments that improve weapon handling characteristics (e.g. increased accuracy, increased stability, decreased reload times). Here, I make my way through one of the coolest parts of Manning National Zoo: a tunnel leading into the aquarium exhibit.
- After exiting the aquarium, I enter what might’ve been a primate exhibit: I’m making this assumption based on the tire swing. Stepping out of the dark aquarium into the bright sunlight can be disorienting, and there’s a host of Outcasts here waiting to ambush the players. At these ranges, I found that the marksman rifle would be perfect for engaging them. Owing to their range, the perfect complementary weapon for a marksman rifle is a submachine gun. While assault rifles are generally superior, submachine guns in The Division 2 have an increased critical damage chance in close ranges, allowing them to hit harder.
- Marksman rifles offer excellent stopping power and can one-shot weaker enemies at the expense of a low firing rate and, in the case of the M700, a long reload time. One must be accurate in their shots, but the reward for this is that one can immediately remove a gun firing at the player per pull of the trigger. In this open area, I ended up making use of long-range fire to pick off enemies: players must defend an access point while ISAC accesses it and disables the Outcasts’ communications grid.
- By this point in The Division 2, I’ve spent enough time with the sharpshooter specialisation to have unlocked most of the perks. The TAC-50 remains my favourite special weapon owing to how much raw damage it can output, and I use it to eliminate anything that isn’t a tank, the heavily armoured enemies. While tanks can be intimidating enemies on the battlefield for how much damage they deal, and how resilient they are to damage, there is one reliable way to take them down without much hassle: sustained fire from an LMG will do the job very nicely. Concentrated fire on a weak spot will cause the armour there to fail, and hitting that point consistently will deal the damage needed to neutralise the tank.
- The narrow confines of the alligator exhibit, coupled with the fact that a tank appears, means that the time has come to put the above suggestion into practise, and the biggest challenge here isn’t the tank, but the other escorts that spawn with the tank, coupled with the fact there isn’t cover to utilise. Having an assault turret or striker drone handy to whittle away at enemies is invaluable here, although the sledgehammer-carrying tank is a slow-mover, and one can easily get rid of the others first before turning attention on the tank.
- While the Lullaby might be considered to be the worst exotic in The Division 2, I found it to be a hilariously entertaining weapon for its ability to one-shot any veteran or standard enemy with a melee attack once every fifteen seconds. As a shotgun, it is modestly powerful; weaker opponents can be taken out in a single well-placed shot if all the pellets connect, and against tougher opponents, the shotgun is surprisingly effective against their armour.
- Conservatories are always my favourite part of the zoo, as they house exotic tropical vegetation that certainly wouldn’t make it at higher latitudes, but this part of the map was quite frustrating thanks to the fact that the nooks and crannies offer the Outcasts so much cover to conceal themselves behind. Of the factions, I personally dislike the Outcasts the most: while lacking sophisticated weapons and disciplines, their suicide bombers will charge into a situation without concern for their lives and can quickly overwhelm players with their tactics. Their equivalents in other factions use melee attacks or close-quarters weapons, making them much more manageable.
- I’d have to say that of the two missions in episode one, the Manning National Zoo stronghold is a ways tougher than Camp White Oak precisely because of the suicide bombers: this was perhaps the most frustrating moment I’d seen in The Division 2, and compared to the surprise of dealing with the Outcast suicide bombers, engaging named elites in this mission is a much simpler task: they tend to fight with a more tactical approach, and so, engaging them from a distance with the TAC-50 is a straightforwards task. The TAC-50 was initially the weakest of the specialisation weapons, unfitting of its real-world reputation, but updates would make the weapon a far more viable choice.
- The fight across Manning National Zoo takes players to a bamboo garden outside of the Asian wildlife exhibit, but unlike Chinese wuxia films set in bamboo forests, there are no flying daggers or anything of that sort to contend with here. Keeping one’s distance from the Outcasts and picking them off at a range will be enough to handle them. I think this is the first time I’ve seen any game in my genres of interest portray a bamboo forest: these are Asian landscapes, and are popular scenes in wuxia films for their ethereal atmosphere: House of the Flying Daggers had a gripping fight set in one such forest.
- Of late, I’ve developed an interest in watching wuxia movies, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Hero: these Chinese films are oftentimes done in a completely different manner than my usual fare, and consequently, result in a unique experience that is quite enjoyable. With this being said, there is one film that I saw some thirteen years ago; I was on a tour in Yellowstone National Park, and the tour group had brought a bunch of films for those long stretches along the Montana plains. I’d fallen asleep during the ride and had re-awoken to a film’s ending, in which the hero was riding a horse through a gargantuan palace by sunset. I’ve been completely unsuccessful in finding that movie since, and it’s bothered me that I may not have a chance to see that film again.
- For now, I’ll return to The Division 2, where I turned the TAC-50 against another named elite and sent him to Davy Jones’ locker with the press of a button. While the game describes specialisation weapons as being weaker against named elites, in practise, I’m not sure how much weaker they actually are, since most go down in a single shot, and the tougher ones take at most two shots. Tanks, on the other hand, take a few shots to go down, but the hard-hitting 50-calibre bullets make short work of armour relatively quickly and render the tanks vulnerable to further damage.
- The final fight with Emeline Shaw is a thrilling one that requires extensive use of cover and good timing, but ultimately, Shaw herself is just another target. She wields a flamethrower in combat, and although I tried to maintain a healthy distance so as to use the TAC-50 and best her in a few shots, the other cronies Shaw has made that trickier, so in the end, I simply emptied an LMG belt to finish the job quickly. With this, Emeline Shaw’s story is fully resolved, and players can rest assured that she won’t be troubling Washington D.C. in the future. I thus headed back to Washington D.C. proper and began hearing up for the next mission.
- By the time I’d reached Camp White Oak, Ubisoft had done a promotional program where players would get cosmetic items for signing in during a certain period, and I received a cool-looking hat. Together with some cosmetics acquired from opening crates, I’ve decided to change my outfit somewhat, hence the difference in my character’s appearance between the Manning National Zoo and Camp White Oak missions. Like Manning National Zoo, I was blown away with the difference in landscapes between this new area and the streets of D.C.
- After clearing the Black Tusk forces out, I head into a trail that leads into the nearby forest. The area reminds me of the trails in parks just outside of down, and I am filled with a longing to go on a good hike out in the mountains again. Originally, I had planned on such an excursion for early June, but with the current situation, all excursions are indefinitely on hold. I always wondered how a shooter might go about using nature trials as maps, since their open spaces require consideration for things like cover, and The Division 2 shows that with good map design, this certainly is possible.
- In a scene that looks like it could’ve come straight out of the 2010 game Alan Wake, I look over a cliff that is adjacent to a hydroelectric plant. Unlike Alan Wake, this moment was set during the day, and there are no Taken to fight: instead, players will encounter a host of Black Tusk forces instead. Looking back, I think Alan Wake was my first time going through a proper horror game: such games create a sense of unease by limiting the resources players have and rendering them vulnerable to supernatural forces, as well as making use of suspense and jump-scares to reiterate how little control the player has.
- Darkness in Alan Wake would leave players uncertain of what they were facing, and this contributed much to the game’s atmosphere. If memory serves, I got into Alan Wake through TheRadBrad: one of my buddies was watching play-throughs of Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut, and learnt that he had gone through Alan Wake some time earlier. Intrigued, I decided to pick Alan Wake up during a Steam Sale, and found myself enjoying both the story and gameplay.
- As the forces of darkness gained strength, players must overcome increasingly difficult odds to get to the bottom of the mystery. Eventually, players arrive at the well-lit room at a hydroelectric dam, and the setting immediately reminded me of a trail in Canmore, which takes visitors by a small power station. Since then, the imagery has remained in my mind as being an integral part of the Alan Wake experience.
- Being The Division 2, there are no ghosts or supernatural forces to fight, but there are the Black Tusk: by this point in time, confronting them was a relatively straightforward endeavour. The dramatic difference between fighting the Black Tusk and Outcasts is a prime example of how a highly skilled and disciplined opponent can actually be easier to handle, since they act in a way that can be predicted. Similarly, an undisciplined and unskilled opponent might be much harder to read, since they might not act in a way that’s expected. This is the main reason why Miho is so hard to fight in Girls und Panzer, and likely the same reason behind why the low-level players of Battlefield (assuming they’re not using client-side modifications) can surprise veterans.
- I’m guessing this is Camp White Oak proper: upon reaching this complex, Black Tusk forces storm the compound, forcing players to mount a counterattack in order to progress. The goal of this mission is to locate the traitorous President Ellis, who was revealed to be aiding the Black Tusks; when the SHD discover he is hiding at Camp White Oak, a joint operation between the JTF and SHD is launched with thoughts of apprehending him on their mind.
- While I try to keep thoughts of current events out of my mind when immersed in a different world, the mission to track down a rogue president amidst a viral outbreak doesn’t seem so fictional relative to what’s happening in reality. The phrase “the truth is stranger than fiction” is therefore not without merits, as there are things that happen in reality that seems so contrived they must’ve been arranged for in advance, whereas the truth is simply that enough things lined up for certain events to happen. It is because of the tumultuous nature of reality that I enter fiction with an open mind.
- Radio chatter provides players a bit of context as to what’s going on, and as the agent makes it further, conversations between Zach Miller and his subordinates give the hint that players will get to fight him at some point. I usually save my special weapons for boss fights, since there is something immensely satisfying about being able to take out The Division 2‘s toughest enemies with one or two well-placed shots. At least, this is the joy of running the sharpshooter specialisation: I’ve attempted running the demolitionist and their M32 MGL à la Megumin. In the open beta, a single grenade could deal up to one million points of damage and wiped bosses, but the retail game has reduced the damage considerably, and one won’t be returning to the realm of one-shotting named elites unless they invest skill points into the demolitionist tree.
- I ended up attempting the Tidal Basin again to see how the specialisation handled and found myself underwhelmed: it’s clear that I’ll need to spend some time doing other missions and accumulating points for the demolitionist perks before I can have a better understanding of how it handles. After defeating Miller, players enter a lakeside cabin. I switched over to a shotgun here with the expectation that it’d be useful for close-quarters engagements, but the cabin is deserted.
- More Black Tusk forces lie along the lakeside boardwalk, with red-tinged trees visible in the distance and a gentle mist hanging over the lake, but the idyllic setting is soon interrupted by gunfire. While I’ve been having a great deal of fun in The Division 2, players more serious than myself have expressed grievances with the rebalancing rendering their hard-earned loadouts useless. This issue comes after the Warlords of New York expansion left gear score meaningless, since level 31 common and specialised items were already superior to the best-rolled gear score 515 items, and while I’ve not experience the plight of players with level 40 items yet, I fully understand that everything I find now, including any exotics, will be superceded should I decide to go into the Warlords of New York expansion.
- Evening begins to set in, and my thoughts inevitably stray to Alan Wake: Alan Wake was a gorgeous-looking game for its time, and I very much enjoyed the daylight segments because it allowed us to really see what the game’s visuals looked like. By comparison, the night segments, while still-impressive, placed less emphasis on landscapes and focused the player’s attention to the fight against the Taken. Clever use of lighting and a steady aim was needed to make it in Alan Wake, whereas in The Division 2, good DPS is more valuable.
- Upon arriving at what is the retreat proper, the agent is welcomed by a lawn full of Black Tusk forces; rather than Taken, players simply need to clear the lawn of Black Tusk forces before moving onto the next area. I suddenly recall that since I picked up the ultimate edition of Alan Wake seven summers earlier, I have access to Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, which acts as a spinoff rather than a sequel, and features a dramatically different atmosphere, as well as new mechanics. However, in those seven years, I never once opened American Nightmare.
- The final part of the Camp White Oak mission is to fight two named elites guarding the area. There’s no sign of President Ellis anywhere, and listening to enemy communications indicate that he’s escaped yet again. I wonder if a future expansion beyond Warlords of New York, or a sequel, might be needed to address Ellis. On Warlords of New York, I feel it’s still a little early yet to be considering the expansion; with Halo 2 set to come out for The Master Chief Collection very soon, the bigger question will be how much of my spare time that will take up. I’ve definitely had fun in The Division 2, but picking up the expansion will only be justified if I can get good value from it.
- Having the TAC-50 meant beating the two remaining named elites without any difficulty, and with two of the main missions of the first episode done, I now can turn my attention towards the Pentagon missions of the second episode. Once I have the Pentagon cleared, there’ll be one more episode’s worth of content to experience before I really hit the endgame. With this post in the books, I’ll be turning my attention to Battlefield V next: the sixth Tides of War chapter has closed now, and DICE recently announced that after a final June update, support for Battlefield V will be ending. With the sixth chapter, I managed to unlock Misaki Yamashiro, my first elite cosmetic, but the conclusion of support for Battlefield V is a bittersweet event that is worth a closer look.
With the first episode’s major missions done, I now advance towards the Pentagon mission that was a part of The Division 2‘s second episode. If the first episode is to set the precedence for the remaining two episodes, I count myself as very excited to see what lies ahead: Washington D.C., while incredibly well-done for The Division 2, still lacks the atmospherics of New York in The Division, and the low-rises of the American capital are duller. To take players outside of the city centre to new locations mixes things up considerably, and also gives the Snowdrop Engine a chance to really shine. The episodic content of The Division 2 also means that, unlike The Division, where I continuously ran different missions to obtain gear at the endgame, The Division 2 provides plenty of things to explore in addition to re-running older missions; while playing through old missions in The Division was the way to obtain gear, in The Division 2, the endgame also allows players to collect parts and blueprints for exotic weapons. Naturally, I will be continuing on with my quest through The Division 2, and the next stop will be the Pentagon, a location I’ve been very excited to check out upon learning that The Division 2 did, in fact, have a mission set at one of the most iconic places in all of Washington D.C. A cursory glance shows that my opponent will be Black Tusk, and these days, I’m ever-vigilant about holding onto a good LMG, which makes things considerably more manageable.