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The Division 2: The Megumin Specialisation, Kenly College Expedition and The Manhunt for Hornet

“My name is Megumin, an arch wizard who commands explosion magic!” –Megumin, Konosuba

After defeating Aaron Keener in single combat, I found myself thrust into the Warlords of New York’s Second Season of Keener’s Legacy. In the days following, I spent most of my time in the streets of Lower Manhattan, with the goal of hunting down the remaining SHD caches before heading back over to Washington D.C. to begin the quest for the remaining specialisations and exotics. By sheer coincidence, the Kenly College expedition had opened up shortly after I returned. Expeditions in The Division 2 are a timed event that provides a different gameplay experience and offers unique rewards upon completion. Kenly College sent players to a segment of the Kenly College campus, which had been abandoned after the Green Poison outbreak, only for the Outcasts to take over. When the Outcasts ambushed a JFT convoy and made off with their provisions, they returned vital supplies to the college, where they were manufacturing improvised explosive devices and also had plans to turn the high grade communications technology towards causing devastation in Washington D.C. at a hitherto unprecedented scale. Fortunately, with the agent on station, the Outcasts plot is foiled, and over the course of a Saturday afternoon, I soloed my way through the three wings of Kenly College, single-handedly shutting down the IED manufacturing operation, capturing several servers and securing the subway station. Owing to the disruptive equipment employed at Kenly College, ISAC was unable to provide spatial data, and so, I found the biggest challenge to be locating all of the objectives. I have heard that the unique set-up of Kenly College meant that it would be immensely difficult to complete the expedition as a solo player, but fortunately, this was not the case; with a bit of tenacity and spatial coordination, as well as a bit of forward thinking to complete the puzzles the expedition presents players with, For my troubles, I was rewarded with the Diamondback, an exotic lever-action rifle with a very distinct look.

With Kenly College in the books, I next turned my attention to Keener’s Legacy and its manhunt objective, which seeks to bring Carter “Hornet” Leroux to justice. Defeated in a confrontation with a Division agent in the events of The Division, Hornet was brought back from the brink of death by Lori “Termite” Baker; through the events of both games, Hornet was on solid terms with Keener: listening to audio logs suggest that Keener genuinely trusted and respected Hornet, and this was mutual. As I tore through Washington D.C. and New York alike to complete the manhunt objectives, which entailed capturing control points, completing old missions and special bounty assignments, I slowly began neutralising Hornet’s lieutenants: besides Termite, there was also Luna, Huntsman and Titan. Because I’d procrastinated, it was a race against the clock to finish this manhunt before the season ended. The task of more or less going through the old missions again was daunting one: I had been just adequately equipped to deal with missions before, requiring time to remain in cover and pick off enemies in favour of the highly aggressive close-quarters techniques I employed towards the end of my time in The Division. However, a few things happened that would allow me to begin what seemed a very time-consuming task: after a chance encounter in New York resulted in my acquiring the Lady Death submachine gun, a highly customised CMMG Banshee that favours CQC, I possessed a tool that would make the manhunt far more straightforward. Besides an immensely lucky drop that gave me a Lady Death, I also switched over to the demolitionist specialisation, which gives agents a M32A multiple grenade launcher capable of dealing an absurd amount of damage. Assured of being able to swiftly down my foes in pursuit of the manhunt objectives, I was able to deal with each of Termite, Titan, Luna and Huntsman, unlocking Hornet’s location at the Tidal Basin. Hot in pursuit, I ended up defeating Hornet to secure the prize: a repair trap that scatters armour-restoring kits in a small area surrounding the deployed trap.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Expeditions were a bit of a mixed bag for players, and for good reason: with ISAC’s spatial mapping capabilities unavailable, navigating the halls and facilities of an unknown post-secondary institute was tricky. The Kenly College expedition involves three different wings of the college, each with three sets of tasks that send players through areas on certain objectives to complete. Completing all three tasks completes the wing, and finishing all three wings yields the Diamondback as the prize.

  • The library at Kenly College resembles the main library of the local polytechnic institute, which I’ve only visited before and during a winter Otafest event; in those days, I was collecting Otafest pins and decided to take advantage of the event to see if I could get one or two ultra-rare gold pins. To this end, I ended up exploring the polytechnic so I had a better idea of where everything was, and in the process, I found that the polytechnic institute has a better layout and architectural design compared to the university, featuring slick interiors and a modern construction.

  • By comparison, the university is much more drab, and even modern buildings feel quite uninspired. The university’s old library tower had been such an austere location that I avoided studying there, and I’d only ever used it once to check out Wayson Choy’s All That Matters during the summer, after reading The Jade Peony for my first year English course. This building was, as university lore goes, somehow not designed to handle the weight of books, and began sinking into its foundation once the bookshelves and books were loaded in.

  • In my first year, construction on a new library building had been under way, and finished in third year. I found the new building to be very vapid save for a brilliant space, the visualisation studio, on the fourth floor. This area, I would use for helping my lab demonstrate some of our absolute best, during open houses and the university’s fiftieth anniversary event. Here, I make my way through an eerily quiet study space that resembles the open study area in the library block of my university.

  • The expedition missions all have a similar setup: there are no enemies until one activates a terminal or begins dismantling explosives, after which the Outcasts will show up in force to stop the player. The numbers aren’t ever a problem: I had equipped the Lady Death, a superb submachine gun with enhanced critical hit chance and bonus armour damage that made it wonderful against all enemies, as well as the Stoner LAMG, whose 200-round belt allows for the longest uninterrupted firing of any gun in The Division 2.

  • The main challenge of the expeditions is the fact that it takes a little while to figure out where everything is, and there are a few places where process is deliberately obstructed by means of a puzzle where the agent will need to engage switches and fuse boxes in a certain order. Clues in the environment will help one to figure out this order (e.g. colour coded wires), but initially, it was a bit of a trial and error to figure everything out. The only consolation is that no enemies show up while one is figuring out the puzzles.

  • Once I’d finished the library block, I moved over into the student centre. Featuring restaurants, a coffee shop and lecture hall, the student centre brought back memories of my time as a university student: during my undergraduate years, I spent a great deal of spare time at the student centre, whether it be eating lunch in the hallways of the ground floor’s open areas, or else studying in a space on the top floor. As the years went by, I got my own space in the ICT building, and began spending more time here.

  • As I move through one of the restaurants at Kenly College’s student centre, it suddenly strikes me that my university’s student centre didn’t have too much in the way of dining options. There were only two restaurants, alongside a food court. With this being said, both restaurants were decent in terms of food quality. The food court’s Korean BBQ outlet stood as my favourite place on campus, offering generous portions of grilled chicken rice with honeyed potatoes for reasonable prices. We also had a poutine place, but this one only lasted a year before being replaced, to my disappointment.

  • For one reason or another, I had always imagined that the restaurant on the far side of the student centre, on the second floor, was reserved for graduate students only. However, as it turns out, this misunderstanding stems from the fact that I occasionally interpret things in a literal fashion and miss some nuance as a consequence. This restaurant had a special program for celebrating academic achievements: graduate students who’d successfully defended a thesis would be eligible for one complementary bottle of champagne. I ended up cashing mine in and celebrating with my old lab at this restaurant.

  • As I hunkered down beside a server terminal while ISAC worked its magic on it, I passed by a coffee shop. In my day, I never spent a penny on coffee, counting on a good night’s sleep and disciplined schedule to keep me awake. Conversely, my classmates and colleagues swore by coffee, counting on the stimulating effects of caffeine to give them a good boost in the morning, and each morning, the campus coffee shops would see long lineups as students awaited their cup of joe to kick-start their day. Overall, while I enjoy the taste of a properly-brewed coffee, I generally prefer tea.

  • Through snippets of audio logs and exchanges from Manny Ortega, it becomes clear that the Outcasts intend to use the Washington D.C. subway lines to deliver IEDs underneath the city. Even with Emeline Shaw’s death, the Outcasts continue to operate, having found new leadership under Carter Leroux (Hornet). They are my least favourite faction to fight, since their ideology of spreading anarchy, death and destruction as far and wide as possible means that despite lacking the discipline of the better trained factions, they possess a surprisingly diverse array of weapons and tools. Their disregard for life means they have no qualms sending in suicide bombers.

  • After Hornet assumes leadership of the Outcasts, they continue to follow a policy of laam chau, 攬炒 (jyutping laam2 caau2, literally “hug-fry”, similar to the Joker’s remark that “everything burns (together)”), the Cantonese slang for mutually assured destruction. Having seen this in practise, it’s something I’ve come to despise greatly, suggesting a complete lack of willingness to take responsibility for one’s actions and owning one’s decisions, as well as committing the effort to drive genuine, positive change. As infuriating as the Outcasts and their methods are, it gives me great satisfaction to fight them (especially the suicide bombers, who can often injure or kill their own if shot while rushing the player).

  • The fight with Spitfire and Kin proved to be even more challenging than the fight with Aaron Keener: both named elites have a special heat-based armour that melts physical bullets, rendering them impervious to conventional damage. Their ability is similar to the Scorch Titan’s thermal shield from Titanfall 2, and without knowing this ahead of time, one cannot just equip the incendiary turret or firewall specialisation to make an easy fight of the pair: only incendiary damage can cause any harm to them. Complicating things, both elites use incendiary rounds that ignite the player. Fortunately, for those caught unawares, there are boxes of incendiary rounds scattered throughout the student centre, as well as flammable containers: with these bullets and a little bit of patience, the two can be defeated.

  • The last of the assignments in the student centre involves freeing and keeping a remaining JTF engineer safe as she reroutes systems. Comparatively speaking, this is one of the easier missions, since the engineer will have a pre-programmed set of destinations to visit, and following her will allow one to wrap this one up fairly quickly. It took about three quarters of an hour to finish these two wings, and after ninety minutes, I had two of the three wings in the bag.

  • One of the aspects of Kenly College that I rather enjoyed were the various audio logs scattered around campus: it follows one of the students as she describes the return to classes, life on campus and some of the various day-to-day things she deals with, such as club activities, papers and the like. However, as the Green Poison spreads, her worries begin surrounding what the pandemic has done, and how she’s become concerned that a tickle in her throat might be the beginning of the end.

  • The last wing of Kenly College is set in their subway complex, which is a vast subterranean network of tunnels, pump rooms and HVAC machinery to rival the sewers of Enter The Matrix in size and scale. Here, the Outcasts have begun preparing their plans of exacting revenge against the world, and it’s up to the agent to stop them. Even more so than the Kenly College campus, the underground tunnels are a labyrinthine maze that is a nightmare to navigate.

  • From what I had heard online, I had been under the impression that Kenly College was impossible to do solo owing to the size of the map, and the fact that it was timed made it extremely difficult to complete. In reality, Kenly College is something that can be done solo: the challenge lies not in the strength of enemy forces, but rather, the lack of navigation ISAC typically provides, which makes it much harder to find objectives.

  • One particularly nice touch about the underground passages were the presence of various fungi that have begun growing on the floors and pillars. I’m no mycologist, and therefore, I cannot readily identify the species, but the presence of mushrooms indicates a damp environment and some sort of food source for the fungi. The presence of fungi indicates that there is excessive moisture, and left unchecked, fungi causes respiratory problems owing to the spores they produce.

  • Having an assault turret proved immensely valuable, and at this point in The Division 2, I’ve concluded that the assault turret’s ability to lock down choke points or serve as a distraction makes it my favourite skill to equip: during a difficult fight, it can be used to provide additional firepower against a tough individual, or in situations where I am out-numbered, the turret can be used to draw aggro while I flank my enemies.

  • In the end, I completed all of the wings in a single afternoon – the experience was somewhat draining, although not quite to the same extent as Blackrock Depths and the Molten Core had been. The Diamondback is the prize for finishing all three wings, and in practise, while a fun lever-action rifle to use with a very distinct appearance, the Diamondback is not something I will be using for serious combat. With this, I’ve finished the expedition solo, and while I’m considering trying the raids solo, I have a feeling that, like Molten Core, I won’t be able to do this alone: the two raids in The Division 2 offer enticing rewards for completion, but I may have to swallow my pride and join a group to get to them.

  • Once I finished the Kenly College, I turned my attention over to the Hornet manhunt, which saw me return to familiar locations as I collected all of the requirements needed to locate each of Titan, Termite, Luna and Huntsman. Of Hornet’s lieutenants, Luna proved the most infuriating to fight owing to where she spawned: Pier 26’s final area was an open space where boats are docked, although this did nothing to diminish her range. Her investigation brings players back to Coney Island, and in this post, I opted to show off Coney Island in more detail because I was able to visit by day.

  • The Division 2 absolutely looks its best during the day, and Coney Island is no exception. By day, the area feels like a desert, giving the amusement park and its attractions a very desolate, Metro Exodus-like feeling. Observant readers will have noticed that here, I’ve changed my appearance somewhat to rock a more old-west style.

  • For most of The Division 2, I was rocking an armour piece with the “Unbreakable” talent, which instantly repairs one with around 85 percent of their armour should it break from damage. This proved to be such a powerful asset in firefights, since it would buy me time to escape a perilous situation. Properly played, having this talent meant that I technically no longer required armour kits: there’s a cooldown, but keeping out of trouble long enough means that one has more or less self-refilling armour kits. As I began collecting pieces of the Striker’s Battlegear set, I ended up accidentally selling this chest piece, so one of my short term goals will be to acquire a new chest piece with good base attributes, such that I can reapply the Unbroken talent to it.

  • We’re now nearly a week into September, and it’s the Labour Day long weekend. In years past, this was a chance to go visit the mountains ahead of winter, but present circumstances meant it was a wiser idea to stay in town. During this weekend, I finished mowing the lawn and backyard one final time: the weather yesterday was a pleasant 29°C but quite smoky, so I spent the remainder of the day pushing through The Division 2 to complete the manhunt. Today, a cold front and low pressure zone pushed grey, cool and rainy weather into the region. As has been the custom of long weekends, I enjoyed dinner from a nearby Chinese restaurant: honey-pepper beef short ribs on broccoli, clay-pot fired tofu, seafood and chicken, deep-fried prawns with Maggi sauce and stir-fried Chinese broccoli with seafood.

  • The weather today was not quite conducive for a walk, but last weekend, the skies were absolutely gorgeous: this will probably be the last walk of the year where the largest park in my region has a summer vibe to it (deep blue skies, green grass and warm air). With the last vestiges of summer on the doorstep, I imagine that the leaves will begin yellowing soon as autumn sweeps in. Here, I’ll remark that originally, I had been planning to watch and write about Fragtime for the long weekend, but since I ultimately spent far more time than I should have in THe Division 2, this weekend’s post will be a gaming one.

  • Owing to the various missions I finished en route to Hornet, I accumulated enough demolitionist points to fully spec out my specialisation tree: at full power, the demolitionist loadout is a blast (pun intended). I elected to increase the damage for light machine guns, submachine guns and assault rifles, knowing that I would primarily be fighting at close quarters to medium range. The signature weapon, the M32A MGL, is a highly effective weapon for crowd control and handling Warhounds: a single shot is enough to take one out, and having now gone through the entire demolitionist tree, I conclude that, while bonus headshot damage is nice, the M32A’s versatility makes it more useful than the TAC-50.

  • For the curious, the demolitionist’s upgrades also include a boost to explosion damage, which, combined with the M32A’s raw destructive power, means that this is the closest one can run to the Megumin loadout: unlike Megumin, I have six shots and grenades on top of my usual weapons, meaning that even though I’ve chosen to specialise in explosives, I have more than enough firepower to last in a firefight. With this being said, Megumin’s signature ex~PLOSION~! does come to mind every time I equip the M32A, and while I’ve only really been running this setup for the past two weeks, I’ve become very comfortable with the demolitionist now.

  • The Hornet manhunt concludes back at Tidal Basin, where the Outcasts’ carelessness means that entire areas are doused with the Eclipse virus, which Tchernenko had successfully developed using the Green Poison as a template. It is capable of cutting through one’s mask and kills in seconds, but the repair trap will confer temporary immunity from its effects. The end of the manhunt means destroying Hornet’s supply of Eclipse, and then squaring down against Hornet himself. Equipped with Blinder Fireflies, Stinger Hives and automatic weapons, Hornet himself isn’t a particularly tricky fight, but he has hordes of Outcasts that fill the air with hot lead, making it tougher to fight him.

  • I ended up focusing on the Outcasts first, since every Outcast killed represents one fewer gun firing on the agent. With most of the Outcasts on the hovercraft dead, I focused on Hornet. Having the Lady Death and its bonus armour damage allowed me to make short work of Hornet. Once Hornet is down for the count, the manhunt draws to a close, and I breathed a sigh of relief at having finished the manhunt with just days to spare. Next time around, I’ll do things in my usual style (i.e. incrementally and well ahead of the deadline) so things can be a little more relaxed.

  • At the end of my first manhunt event, I found myself in possession of a complete Striker’s Battlegear set. I ended up using kneepads with additional armour and the exotic BTSU Data Gloves for its skill bonuses to round things out. For weapons, the Lady Death and Stoner LAMG proved more than enough to handle anything thrown at me. This is by no means a fully-optimised loadout, but it does strike enough of a balance for me so that I can deal and absorb some damage in most fights. The Lady Death is a particularly fun weapon to run with, and as I am now, I am able to swiftly down even the elites with only one magazine, bringing back memories of my TTK from The Division.

The Division 2‘s endgame has proven itself to be leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor: besides the array of specialisations and exotics to work towards, Keener’s Legacy was a phenomenal addition to the game that provides incentive to return and complete assignments for noteworthy rewards means that there is no shortage of activity in this game well beyond the normal endgame activities of re-running old missions at high difficulties to earn improved gear. Participating in the second season of Keener’s Legacy also had one unexpected outcome: I was able to acquire a set of Striker’s Battlegear, which returns from The Division. In The Division, the Striker’s Battlegear was a damage-oriented set that conferred damage bonus per shot landed. The classified variant of the Striker’s Battlegear rendered a player a veritable one-man army, capable of dishing out and tanking an absurd amount of damage. In The Division 2, the bonuses from the Striker’s Battlegear, while toned down, remain quite potent: the complete gear set requires four pieces and allows for a 25 percent damage boost after 50 consecutive hits. With the chest piece, the stack increases to 100, doubling the damage output. Having now found a full Striker’s Battlegear set and several exotic items, The Division 2 is beginning to handle a lot like it did with The Division. One wonders if classified gear sets might make a return, although for the present, I am rather pleased to have finally put together a loadout that resembles what I’d previously found to be remarkably effectual. With a good Striker’s Battlegear set, the Lady Death submachine gun and a fully-levelled demolitionist specialisation, I am in a much better position to push forwards with both my existing goals, as well as to face off against the Summit, a 100-level event that allows players to advance up a tower in a manner reminiscent to that of Sword Art Online‘s Alucard.

The Division 2: Warlords of New York- Finding Closure in Aaron Keener’s Defeat

“You cannot change their mind even if you expose them to authentic information. Even if you prove that white is white, and black is black, you still cannot change the basic perception and the logic of behavior.” –Yuri Bezmenov

With Aaron Keener located on Liberty Island, the Agent and Kelso immediately head off to end him. However, the Black Tusk also have taken an interest in Keener and have deployed, as well. They sink the ferry that the Agent and Kelso are riding, but fortunately, both are able to escape. The Agent pushes further ahead and disables the Razorback, a mobile drone deployment platform, en route to Keener. As Black Tusk forces close in on Keener, he seizes control of one of their drones, buying himself time as the Agent is forced to destroy it. Upon entering his base of operations, the Agent finds a vast server and the technology needed to subvert the Division. After ISAC processes the information here, the Agent corners Keener, who has prepared a missile containing Tchnernenko’s upgraded virus. The Agent destroys the missile and forces Keener to come out, defeating him in a titanic battle. Keener activates his rogue agent network with his dying breath, and Faye Lau disavows the Division, joining the Black Tusk. When the Agent returns to headquarters, Rhodes expresses his thanks to the Agent, and Benitez gives the Agent the choice of returning to Washington D.C., noting they’ll always be welcome to help out in New York. However, in keeping with classic storytelling methods, Keener’s rogue network presents a new mystery to deal with, as does Faye Lau’s betrayal. The outcomes represent potential new material for either an additional season’s worth of materials, as the Division now must figure out just how extensive and serious Keener’s rogue network is, as well as what the implications of Lau’s true allegiance means for them. However, these are things that can be dealt with later; with Keener dead, the lingering mystery left behind by The Division is finally resolved, and the world rests a little easier knowing that Keener won’t be around to trouble them with his megalomaniac tendencies.

As predicted, the fight with Keener himself was absolutely gripping: with his unparalleled technical skill, the challenge in Keener’s fight lies purely in the fact that the Agent does not have access to their skills, meaning that at its core, fighting Keener is a matter of returning to the basics. Rather than any of the fancy technology the Division possesses, it’s ultimately a mastery of the essentials, simple things like staying focused, taking cover, smartly closing the distance and a sure aim, that make the difference between success and failure. In its final fight with Keener, The Division 2 seeks to tell players that at the end of the day, what one is worth, and what one is capable of, is determined not by what equipment they have access to, but how well they can use the equipment and how well they can adapt to adversity. Compared to traditional shooters, the Warlords of New York expansion to The Division 2 pushes players into a new realm, capitalising on novel mechanics to encourage increasingly flexible, creative thinking towards difficult problems, as well as reminding them that competence with the basics is a fail-safe, for when all other options fail. Aaron Keener was meant to be a challenging final fight owing to his diverse array of abilities, and the fact that his insults can be a considerable distraction on account of how amusing they are. At this point in The Division 2, players likely have become accustomed to relying on their skills to turn the odds in a difficult fight, so having that stripped away forces the player to go back to the basics. However, while Keener is tough, he isn’t invincible, and the tried-and-true technique of taking cover, evading Keener’s abilities and closing the distance enough to dump entire belts of LMG fire into him ultimately proved to be the winning combination. The ensuing victory was a thrilling experience, one that rewards persistence, ingenuity and clever thinking.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before I took on Aaron Keener, I decided to wrap up the remaining side missions in Lower Manhattan. The last mission I did sent me to Chinatown, where I was tasked with investigating a missing person. The mission ends up unsuccessful – the Cleaners got there first, and there’s nothing more I can do besides finish off the named elite, collect my prize and head for the final mission to Warlords of New York.

  • In The Division, I believe that it was possible to explore Koreatown in Midtown Manhattan if one ventured into the Dark Zone. Warlords of New York allows players to explore Chinatown, and with everything rendered in Traditional Chinese, it would feel like home. Chinatowns in a given area are typically home to Cantonese Chinese people, who came from Guangzhou province back in the late 1800s and early 1900s in pursuit of better lives overseas. These early settlers would congregate together, and the Chinatowns around the world are a testament to this era.

  • It’s been just a shade under a half-year since the global health crisis sent the world into a lockdown, and since then, I’ve not been back to Chinatown or my dōjō: on a typical Sunday morning, I wake up at seven and head in to train, as well as help provide instruction. With the pandemic, however, training at a dōjō could be a risk and we’ve suspended classes for now. I still train on my own, although it does feel that training with others is a more intense experience. From the sounds of it, the whole of Chinatown has suffered economically, and I do hope that things look up soon: our Chinatown is home to some of the best dim sum and bubble tea in the city.

  • We’ve finally come to it at last: the titanic confrontation with Aaron Keener. Since the events of Coney Island, the Black Tusk are now determined to retrieve Aaron Keener for their own end, and upon their arrival in New York, they successfully convince the Last Man Battalion remnants to join them, replenishing their ranks with new reinforcements eager to deal out death and justice against the Division.

  • Because the Black Tusk are back, I ran the final mission with a combination of weapons: the IWI Negev I picked up earlier proved to be a valuable asset. While it may not hit as hard as the other light machine guns on a per-bullet basis, it has a high firing rate and decently quick reload time, making it a major asset agains the equipment the Black Tusk deploy. By this point in time, I’ve become highly proficient with dealing with the Black Tusk’s war-hounds, and even if I don’t have an LMG equipped, I can still bring one down without wasting my ammunition.

  • I alternated between the MDR and the Socimi Type 821 (Police T821 in-game) during the mission: while I’ve traditionally not been fond of the T821 owing its resemblance to the Uzi (and associations with criminal applications), the T821 proved unexpectedly reliable as a secondary weapon. The mission to reach Aaron Keener is very familiar to all those who’ve played The Division 2: the agent must cut their way through a swath of Black Tusk units and reach the ferry. Common knowledge of sure aim, tactical use of cover and deploying all the tools needed to overcome the Black Tusk are a must in this mission, and with this in mind, it was a tough, but still manageable fight to clear each area and move ahead.

  • For the common Black Tusk, the MDR is enough to deal with them: a few good shots will put one away, and a sharp shot can down six or seven enemy before needing a reload. The Urban MDR is modelled after the Desert Tech Micro Dynamic Rifle, which is designed as a modular weapon that can be quickly modified on the fly with interchangeable parts to accommodate different calibres. Reciwers find that the MDR’s bullpup configuration makes it a compact weapon, but it still has strong accuracy at decent ranges, and it is an excellent firearm for ambidextrous users.

  • Overall, I found the MDR-T821 combo to work reasonably well in situations where the warhounds and bots weren’t deployed. At this point in time, I was also carrying an IWI Negev and the MG5, both of which are comparatively weaker light machine guns that, while still usable for situations where I needed sustained fire, wouldn’t be my go-to LMGs if I had a choice. In general, the M249 or M60 are my preferred weapons, since they hit fairly hard and have larger belts.

  • The observant reader will note that today marks the sixth anniversary to when the culture war known as #Gamergate began. Six years earlier, gaming journalists simultaneously published opinion pieces that declared the age of gaming had ended in response to the negative reception that an indie title, Depression Quest, had received after one of its creators found themselves at the centre of a controversy surrounding a relationship gone bad, and the jilted individual published a lengthy manifesto outlining their grievances (I won’t be mentioning any names here).  In the days following, Depression Quest was bombarded with negative reviews, and in response, gaming journalists sympathetic to the creator planned a counterattack by writing what would become known as the “gamers are over” articles.

  • On the morning of August 28, Gamasutra fired the opening salvos by published the now-infamous “Gamers Don’t Have To Be Your Audience: Gamers Are Over” article. This was followed in rapid succession at other websites dealing with games, all of which claimed that the era of traditional games and their players were at an end, to be displaced by games like Depression Quest. There was an immediate backlash at the suggestion that those who partake in video games were hate-filled, vile individuals. However, in singularly praising Depression Quest and its creator, these articles held a much more sinister implication – instead of proper games that promote teamwork or encourage exploration, that the world needed more games like Depression Quest, and that Depression Quest deserved every bit of praise it received.

  • These articles painted Depression Quest as an innovative masterpiece, when in reality, Depression Quest resembled something that might be hastily thrown together for a middle school health class project. In a rudimentary and primitive hypercard-like setup, “players” grapple with depression, only to learn that certain options simply are unavailable to them. In spite of lacking the elements of a video game (a clearly-defined victory state and failure conditions), Depression Quest received undeserved positive reviews for something so slipshod and low-effort. Aside from the story, which is a marginal and meagre portrayal of depression, Depression Quest lacks any mechanics that properly immerse the player, and the incidental music winds up being an annoyance. Altogether, Depression Quest is an exceedingly poor, no-effort title that speaks nothing of depression and its management.

  • The praise for Depression Quest feels artificial and forced, as though the journalists were forced to speak well of the game to please some shadowy benefactor. As it turned out, the various gaming websites who had simultaneously run these “gamers are over” pieces had known Depression Quest‘s creator to some capacity: these posts were written in response to the criticisms directed at Depression Quest in the hopes of defending it and its creator. However, the suggestion that Depression Quest‘s creator is anything approaching a software developer is nothing short of an insult: it belittles and trivialises those who have made the effort to learn how to write programs and engineer solutions. Taken together, this is why there was such extensive push-back against both Depression Quest and the positive reviews for it; the “gamers are over” articles exposed collusion between gaming outlets and some developers to push a certain agenda.

  • With this revelation, there was an opportunity here to shut down the idea that a clumsy text-based “game” should be treated with the same reverence as industry-changers like Halo: folks opposed to gaming journalism’s methods could have analysed what made Depression Quest an atrocity, and perhaps even gain access to the project files to perform a code review that backs up their claims (in turn demonstrating decisively that Depression Quest‘s creator was no software developer by any stretch). However, instead of approaching the issue from a technical, fact-based method, some people instead chose to delve into the creator’s personal life, leading to the misconception that anyone advocating for journalistic integrity were immature, maladjusted individuals when in fact, they were ordinary, rational people.

  • I don’t endorse harassment campaigns any more than I do heaping praise onto those who have not earned it – I believe that the proper way to deal with something like Depression Quest is to ignore it and allow it to be forgotten, as well as understanding that its creator is not meritorious of calling themselves a software developer. Thus, as #Gamergate raged on, I elected to simply focus on the start of a new semester instead: this wasn’t something worth getting caught up in, nor was it something worth mentioning here at the time. However, I do feel that it is important to be truthful, and this is why I’ve decide to make an aside about it, to make it known where I stand on things. Back in The Division 2, I finally arrive at Liberty Island, after the ferry the Agent and Kelso are riding is fired upon. I’d more or less single-handedly cleared the entire Black Tusk force on board, but Keener would seize control of weapon batteries and attempt to sink the ferry himself.

  • Once the Agent lands on the island, the first task is to get through the Black Tusk and shut down their machinations such that they do not get to Keener. As I picked my way across Liberty Island, it suddenly strikes me that Liberty Island as seen in Warlords of New York feels much larger than its real-world counterpart. This could be a consequence of me spending a fair bit of time being in cover as I evade enemy fire. The combination of the MDR and T281 here proved its worth against the Black Tusk: generally speaking, the weapons I run in a given mission must always have me covered for short to intermediate range combat (so either a good assault rifle or submachine gun), and then depending on what the mission needs, a light machine gun, marksman rifle or battle rifle is my secondary weapon.

  • If I find myself in a pinch, I always fall back on a good automatic weapon: The Division 2‘s enemies will occasionally rush the player, and it is the case that the accuracy of one’s shots is inversely proportional to one’s distance to an enemy. Automatic weapons are better suited for close-quarters frenzies, and upon arriving at the Razorback, I found myself staring down a foe that was as tricky as Keener himself. The DDP-52 Razorback is a mobile drone platform that manufactures and deploys assault drones. Individually, the drones are weak, but they will distract players and suppress them. As well, large numbers of drones can quickly break one’s armour.

  • In the end, it was a combination of patience and spatial awareness that allowed me to destroy the Razorback. I ended up using my assault turret to keep the Black Tusk and enemy drones occupied while I struck at the fuse-boxes on the Razorback, fell back to repair my armour, and then continued pressing forwards. After a gruelling encounter, I finally destroyed the Razorback. As it turns out, the Razorback is not a new asset: in the Washington National Airport raid, the Black Tusk deploy a Razorback, as well. I would stop briefly to take a quick breather before continuing: the Razorback fight was intense, and admittedly, not being kitted out with a larger-capacity made the fight more challenging.

  • Facing off against Keener and recalling the various audio recordings of his interactions with his subordinates offered an interesting bit of insight into how he operated: those who worked with him did not always maintain a cordial relationship with him, and Keener appeared to view them as little more than disposable tools, using fear to and manipulation to keep them in check rather than earning their trust and respect as great leaders do. This does bring to mind how Depression Quest‘s creator treated their supporters: when convenient for them, these people would become scapegoats to be thrown under the bus – a year ago, we bore witness to the depravity this individual was capable of, when they made false accusations that ultimately resulted in a suicide. As such, I never did understand why people would go to the lengths of financially supporting Depression Quest‘s creator through crowdfunding or giving them the social media support that they did.

  • Having seen how Keener persuaded reluctant agents to go rogue in The Division 2, I would imagine that Depression Quest‘s creator used a similar approach to convince others, typically insecure and isolated individuals, that their support was supposed to yield some sort of return or favour. Of course, these promises would never materialise, and by the time the truth was realised, it was too late. Much as how Depression Quest‘s creator made off with eighty-five thousand dollars from a phony kickstarter, Keener’s supporters similarly found this out the hard way when he abandoned them once the Agent was on their doorsteps. Once the Razorback is destroyed and the remaining Black Tusk are eliminated, the Agent will fight a Marauder Drone that Keener has hijacked. There is no particular strategy for beating the Marauder beyond evading its fire and hitting its propellers first, but the fight does become easier with a good LMG.

  • With another Marauder drone destroyed, I’m one step closer to stopping Keener’s reign of tyranny. Keener is aware of this, and as the player nears, he’ll get into the communications line and begins to taunt the player. Keener’s very presence infuriates Kelso – she decides to go radio silent when it turns out he’s got access to the secure comms. In listening to Keener, both over the radio and in audio logs scattered throughout New York, one gets the sense that he is an egotistical, sarcastic individual whose true intentions were never to help anyone else out.

  • Keener’s rocking quite an impressive setup, and it was from here that he orchestrated his grand plans for New York. As it turns out, he’d never left, and dedicated his time to setting up a rogue network rivalling the SHD network in sophistication. ISAC is able to intercept and download the signals, but doing so also sets off a trap – rogue equipment is deployed, and the agent must fend off this equipment while ISAC processes the data. Seeing his servers and computer systems really drove home the extent Keener was willing to go to realise his machinations, as well as just how talented of an individual he was. Keener was not above courting deception to amass followers, a common enough tactic in reality.

  • I appreciate that The Division 2 is supposed to be serious business, but seeing Keener’s own system interfere with ISAC was hilarious: during the time that ISAC is interfacing with Keener’s severs, false objectives pop onto the screen. The overarching goal remains, and one must stay focused if they were to survive the waves of rogue equipment that is deployed against the agent. After what seems like an eternity, ISAC finishes its task, and it’s finally time to return to the surface and square off against the big man himself.

  • I’m not sure which of Keener’s gear this is, but it left a brilliant particle trail that gave me every indicator to stay in cover until it passed. This reminds me of the Perseids that I saw a few weeks ago, during which I managed to catch a glimpse of five fireballs. A few nights ago, I saw a conjunction between the moon, Jupiter and Saturn. While perhaps not quite as visually impressive as a comet or meteor shower, even simple astronomical events can be fun to watch, reminding us of the scale of the universe.

  • Unlike the Razorback, Keener’s cruise missile (tipped with a biological payload more lethal than the original Green Poison) is only defended by the various bits of equipment that are available to Division agents. These can be quickly destroyed, and sustained fire to fuse-boxes on the launcher will be enough to stop the missile from launching. Once the missile is stopped, Keener will finally step out onto the battlefield. Through all of the fighting, Keener will taunt the agent; I found his insults to be petty, juvenile and all the more hilarious for this.

  • Seeing one of the most brilliant villains of The Division reduced to slinging verbal barbs that really shows how much damage the agent has done to his plans. Unlike the degeneracy seen at 4chan and in Fortnite chats, Keener was written to be is smart enough to recognise that using obscure insults won’t accomplish anything. I’ve found that particularly immature individuals will often use insults sourced from 4chan memes to express their displeasure with others, but the whole point of an insult is to make sure the recipient understood the displeasure being conveyed. As it stands, if I need to visit UrbanDictionary to get what someone was saying, that insult has failed, speaking to the arrogance and/or illiteracy of the individual using said insult.

  • Fighting Keener is a tricky process; initially, I was unprepared for Keener’s style and saw myself defeated. Because he has access to all of the tools and gadgets available to the player, and will liberally use them during the fight, Keener is far more durable than previous elites. In addition, he will periodically repair his armour using his own repair kits. This therefore becomes a battle of attrition, and so, the way to prevent this from dragging out is to be forceful. The strategy I used was to first deal with the offensive gadgets Keener deploys, as well destroying the deflector drone that negates incoming damage. Fighting him at longer ranges is actually not so effective, since Keener will use the chem launcher and seeker mines on the agent in conjunction with blinder Fireflies.

  • Conversely, at close ranges, Keener becomes like any other named elite: sustained fire from an LMG will burn through his armour. As the fight wears on, Keener will hack the agent’s equipment, turning it against the user or disabling its usage. Once this happens, I switched over to a more aggressive, close-quarters attack: the key is to not let up with sustained fire. Initially, I started with a long-range strategy, since I figured the dispersed biological compounds would be dangerous, but it only prevents health regeneration. Once I realised this, I devised a new approach that proved more effective: it was possible to close the distance and damage Keener with weapon fire, taking cover to repair even in the contaminated area, and then retreat to a clean area if one needed to regenerate their health.

  • This fight thus became exhilarating once I had Keener figured out, and I note that my most effective weapons against him ended up being superior level 38 items: at this point in time, I did not have a level-appropriate LMG or assault rifle, so I fell back to weapons that had served me well in earlier missions. Altogether, the Keener mission took me an hour to complete, and once Keener is nearly down, he’ll begin to flee. Since players can’t kill him directly, I am reminded of the Flash game Commando 2, where the “Kongfu Warrior” would commit seppuku rather than let players take the kill.

  • With his dying breath, Keener activates a Rogue Agent network, stating that the Division have no idea what’s coming. In the mission’s aftermath, there still remains quite a bit to do and Faye Lau has gone rogue, as well, but with Keener eliminated, the threat he poses is no longer a threat for the present. Thus, the question I’ve had since that cold Februrary day some two-and-a-half years ago has been resolved, and for now, I can turn my attention towards properly exploring Washington D.C. and Lower Manhattan with the aim of getting more exotic gear, work towards collecting the Striker’s Battlegear and unlocking more specialisations.

  • This post on The Division 2 is very nearly done, and I do have one more post planned out for this month: I finished The Quintessential Quintuplets earlier this month and found the show to be quite enjoyable, so that’ll be getting a post soon. We are rapidly rolling towards the final few days of August, contrary to the belief that “August never ends”. The end of August is accompanied by cooling weather and golden foliage, a perfect time to enjoy the late summer air and watch the leaves turn yellow once September begins rolling around.

With the toughest boss fight in The Division 2 now in the books, I’m fully caught up with the story, and the true endgame begins as I strive to get the best possible gear items for my character. With The Division, this aspect of the game gave me untold hours of enjoyment as I explored every corner of Midtown Manhattan in pursuit of every single exotic weapon in the game and the coveted classified gear sets. For my troubles, I ended up succeeding in my quest for exotics, as well as assembling a complete classified Striker’s Battlegear collection. At present, I’m not sure if I will be taking a similar route for The Division 2, but I do know that there remain parts of the game I’ve yet to explore, including the Dark Zone, and further to this, there are some exotics that I can work towards. As well, it is high time I turned my attention towards getting used to the other specialisations and unlocking the ones that accompanied the Year One content: The Division 2 far outstrips its predecessor in terms of endgame content, and even if I do not have any present intentions to join groups and tackle the toughest of The Division 2‘s content as I did with The Division, there is still quite a bit left to do. Looking back, it would turn out that picking up The Division 2 and Warlords of New York was a good decision; the game has offered a considerable amount of value and enjoyment, and for the present, as much fun as I’ve had in Lower Manhattan, I am admittedly looking forwards going back to Washington D.C. and working towards some of the exotic blueprints, as well as exploring the specialisations that I’ve previously not run extensively with.

The Division 2: Warlords of New York- Continuing the Manhunt Amidst Manhattan’s Deserted Skyscrapers

“All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get.” –Confucius

While on Javier Kajika’s trail, the agent investigates the site where a JTF convoy that was ambushed, discovering an ECHO beacon that confirm’s Kajika’s presence. Following the data into Pathway Park, the agent pursues Kajika through a former shopping mall, abandoned train station and a massive drilling project the Cleaners had planned on using against the Lower Manhattan base of operations, Haven. The agent finally corners Kajika in his lair, and while Kajika initially has the upper hand with shock traps and steam valves concealing his position during the fight, the agent methodically and gradually disables these traps, defeating Kajika. With three of Aaron Keener’s four warlords down, the Division turns its attention to James Dragov, who had been brazenly operating out of the Wall Street stock exchange. The agent smashes through Dragov’s army of Rikers and destroys their armoured personnel carrier. Dragov brings two of his best fighters out and sets off to engage the agent on the trading floor, but are utterly decimated. With Dragov dead, the agent returns Dragov’s watch for investigation and heads off for Pier 26 to secure the remainder of the supplies Dragov had been hoarding, discovering a stockpile of chemical and biohazardous compounds. All four of Keener’s lieutenants are now dealt with, and most of the fog of war covering Lower Manhattan has been rolled back, leaving only the Big Man himself as the final, remaining target for the Warlords of New York manhunt. Travelling through Lower Manhattan’s financial district has been a visual treat: this is where all of the imposing skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan lie, and familiar landmarks, including Wall Street and the One World Trade Centre, are quite prominent. This is the side of New York that has the same aesthetic as The Division, with its high rises and narrow streets that bring back memories of the original game and Aaron Keener’s twisted machinations for the world.

Besides an impressive skyline that sets the backdrop for the second half of the manhunt, The Division 2‘s done an excellent job of exploring the lore despite the fact that Aaron Keener has yet to make an actual appearance. Through recorded conversations and ECHO beacons, Keener’s cold, sadistic, no-nonsense personality becomes apparent. In conjunction with his military training, charisma and keen intellect, Keener is an expert at manipulating those around him, supremely confident in his own abilities and when the chips are down, proves himself ruthless, casting aside even allies to fulfil his objectives. Conversations Keener has with Dragov, for instance, shows that he expects those working under him to be utterly loyal and competent, refusing to understand their circumstances if any difficulties arise. Keener has little patience for those who do not abide to his personal ideology and boasts a large superiority complex, which, in conjunction with his decaying stability and exceptional skills, make him a formidable opponent. Warlords of New York has insofar kept all of the fights with Keener’s warlords exciting, so all of this comes together to create the expectation that fighting Keener is going to be the toughest fight in The Division 2. In order to square off against Aaron Keener, however, the agent does need to hit the new level cap, and so, the goal now becomes to finish off the remaining side missions in Lower Manhattan and acquire a decent set of gear before heading into the showdown I’ve longed to have with Keener since the events of The Division.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As the morning light breaks over Lower Manhattan, and sunbeams begin illuminating the skyscrapers, I set off to continue from where I’d left off last time. By day, Lower Manhattan holds a strange beauty over it, between the deserted, overgrown buildings and deserted streets. I deliberately chose to play my missions by day: unlike The Division, New York is far too dark for decent screenshots during the night.

  • It’s been a while since I’ve headed into a vast excavation pit: The Division had several of these large scale settings that the Washington segments of The Division 2 lacked. When I think about it, the Washington D.C. side of The Division 2 generally feels a lot smaller than any of the locales in The Division, and so, it was a welcome return to form in Warlords of New York, which sends players to areas that have an aesthetic reminiscent of The Division.

  • Large open excavation pits and cranes also brings back memories of the Cleaners: one of the campaign missions in The Division had been focused on disrupting a large Cleaners operation at a construction site, with the goal of disrupting their napalm supply. This culminated in a battle with Joe Ferro, a former New York sanitation engineer who went insane after Green Poison claimed his family. The Cleaners are an interesting faction to fight, and while to players, they’re merely exploding enemies, the lore shows that all of them began with good intentions.

  • Amidst the deserted streets of Lower Manhattan, the effects of the hurricane are visibly seen. One of my favourite parts of The Division 2 was finding an audio log where Paul Rhodes is seen speaking with a peace keeper about hunkering down for the upcoming hurricane: these audio logs give characters more dimensionality, and listening to them does much for expanding the lore of The Division 2‘s world.

  • Pursuit of Kajika leads the agent to Pathway Park, a massive underground shopping complex. Christmas decorations still remain here and other parts of New York, creating an unusual juxtaposition between the season and environment, as well as reminding players of how extensive the consequences of the Green Poison outbreak had been. For the curious, the large Christmas baubles that appear in The Division can be destroyed: it is a nice touch that shows attention to detail in the game, although it should also go without saying that wasting ammunition on the scenery, however amusing it may be, is generally not the best idea in the world.

  • Pressing further into the overgrown complex, the descriptions from Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us come to mind. It’s been roughly seven months since the events of The Division, and abandoned, uninhabited structures have seen native and introduced vegetation take over. If memory serves, Manhattan was built on a forested swamp, where wildlife roamed and water flowed.

  • When Henry Hudson found Manhattan, he would have seen an estuary, for shorebirds to rest and fish to swim. Black bears would have wandered the area freely, seeking out blueberries. An outpost was established here in 1624 as New Amsterdam under Dutch control. It would become a British colony in 1665 after the Second Anglo-Dutch War and was rechristened New York. Under British control, New York expanded until the American Revolution, which expelled the British from America.

  • By 1783, George Washington returned to New York as the British departed, and from the nineteenth century onward, as New York grew to become America’s largest city, Manhattan would see the construction of the world’s first skyscrapers as land became increasingly scarce. Today, to keep the river from reclaiming what belongs to nature, New York employs three hundred pump rooms to push water out of the subway system. Without these pumps, water would flow back in, and nature would reclaim the concrete jungle that is Manhattan.

  • In The Division 2, I’m guessing that at least some of these pumps are still operational; The Division had players go around Manhattan restoring critical services during various story and side missions, and even after the hurricane, inhabitants left on Manhattan, both the Peacekeepers and other factions, likely have continued to keep some services running to ensure the Hudson River doesn’t begin making its way underground.

  • Experts estimate that under normal conditions, the entirety of the New York subway could fill with water within a week, and heavy rain conditions could cause flooding in under thirty-six hours, if the pumps were not working normally. In the space of a few years, the water-logged earth would cause the pavement to buckle completely. Signs of this are already seen in The Division 2, but having ventured in the deep areas on the hunt for Kajika, one can surmise that at least parts of the pump network are still operational.

  • After clearing through the mall area, the agent enters a network of underground tunnels. The pursuit of Kajika leads players into a vast tunnel adjacent to the subway network, where Cleaners have been working on a massive drill with the intent of using it to breach Haven and destroy the Peacekeepers. This plot appears to have been undetected by Paul Rhodes and Roy Benitez, which leads to a sobering thought pertaining to how many other unknown plots that the Peacekeepers are unaware of.

  • The fact that the Cleaners are so intent on destroying the Peacekeepers even after the Green Poison may seem irrational, but a glance at reality shows that even during times of crisis, there are those who are so gripped by their ideology that they would refuse to set aside their differences to handle the larger problems at hand. This is admittedly disappointing, and it is outside the scope of my ability to speculate on why people might cling so desperately to their beliefs even if it becomes clear that said beliefs will bring them to harm.

  • It is fortuitous, then, that the agent stumbles upon the drill and destroys it en route to Kajika: sometimes, luck works in the good guys’ favour, and it brings to mind a curious way that I’ve heard about how luck works: with the bad guys, those who seek to cause harm and destroy, to subvert and undermine, they need to be lucky every time. For the good guys, who strive to maintain order, peace, security and safety, sometimes, all it takes is to be lucky once. For Kajika and the Cleaners, they needed to be lucky in evading the Peacekeepers until their operation could be put into play, but all it took was for the Agent to find the drill, thus putting an end to what must’ve been weeks, if not months, of planning and effort.

  • The fight with Kajika is set in several stages: initially, steam traps and shock mines prevent the agent from closing the distance. As the fight wears on, players will be able to locate and disable the steam traps, allowing them to access valves that lower the water level. During this section, it’s best to deal with the Cleaners; Kajika himself will only deploy shock traps and fire sporadically at the player. While it is possible to damage him, Kajika’s loadout (an explosive crossbow and the MP-X) means he’s more of a threat at close range.

  • Once all the traps are disabled, and players can take Kajika head on, his armour and health aren’t particularly impressive. Care must be taken to ensure Kajika doesn’t get too close: he’s equipped with an Okinawan machete that can hit quite hard. However, Kajika does not appear to have been programmed to duck for cover when rushing with a melee weapon, exposing him to fire. I dumped the remainder of my ammunition as he charged me with his machete, and in the aftermath, I collected his ability and smartwatch, as well as extracting remaining data from his quarters for investigation.

  • With Kajika down, the only warlord left on my list is Dragov. Pushing through the fog of war in Lower Manhattan means discovering activities to complete, and after a certain number of activities are completed, agents will gain access to a bounty mission, where one has fifteen minutes to locate a named elite, En route to Dragov’s hideout at Wall Street, I ended up liberating a control point and ended up facing off against a tank called “Gamer”.

  • I’ve only ever lost one bounty mission, and this was during the Warlords of New York expansion, when I had been chasing a target at Battery Park. For one reason or another, I was ambushed and died almost instantly. With that still fresh in my memories, I approached this hunt a little more cautiously and ended up chasing “Gamer” to the rooftops. After eliminating him and preparing to continue on my quest to Wall Stteet, I was met with this skyline of Lower Manhattan.

  • The financial district has the most impressive scenery anywhere of Lower Manhattan, and it was here that I found the Warlords of New York expansion at its finest, differentiating itself from the Washington D.C. content. The Division had excellent atmospherics which set the expectations for what was to come, and when I’d beaten The Division, I had voiced the hope that future instalments would happen somewhere unique like London, Shanghai or Tokyo. Looking back, since The Division deals with an American stay-behind organisation, it was logical that the sequel would be set in the United States.

  • To this end, if there ever is a The Division 3, I personally would love to see the sequel set in Chicago, which has the second largest number of skyscrapers of any American city or Seattle for striking a balance between a respectable skyline and impressive mountains. Here, I fight my way closer to Dragov, whose headquarters is inside the Wall Street Building. Besides having visited Wall Street during my trip to New York years ago, I remember Wall Street best as the filming location of the stock exchange sequence in The Dark Knight Rises, where Bane accesses the trading floor to make transactions that bankrupts Bruce Wayne.

  • Inside Wall Street, it turns out that Dragov’s been stockpiling equipment and chemicals for Keener. Ever since Larae Barrett’s death at the hands of the Division, Dragov’s taken over as the Rikers’ de facto leader. Under his command, the Rikers have begun amassing supplies and provisions for survival, which catches Keener’s eye. He offered Dragov a deal, promising to make it worthwhile, and since then, Dragov’s been working to provide provisions for Keener.

  • Because the supplies can be repurposed, the agent is tasked with securing the supplies that Dragov has stockpiled, rather than destroying them. The Rikers send out one Duchess to deal with the agent, and from the lore, Duchess was a Rikers who had nothing but respect for Dragov: as it turns out, during the prison riot, Dragov had shot the warden and personally unlocked Barrett’s cell. Having seen this for herself, Duchess felt that Dragov had the qualities of a leader and supported his leadership. For her troubles, she became Dragov’s second in command, but would die at the agent’s hands.

  • The Rikers have acquired an armoured personnel carrier somewhere along the way, and while it is immobile, its mortars can decimate the agent. I ended up staying in cover and blasting at the panels on its siding. For one reason or another, the APC explodes when the panels are destroyed, allowing one to continue to operation. Faye Lau’s remarks here are hilarious, and one sympathises; there are a handful of times where live reactions to when people received what’s coming to them on various forums and social media would’ve been worthwhile.

  • I imagine that Dragov’s feeling a combination of rage and panic simultaneously: unlike Parnell, however, Dragov is more composed, and when the agent draws near, he orders two of his remaining lieutenants to accompany him to confront the agent. With the objectives in this mission satisfied, there’s nothing left to do here but push forwards: Dragov is awaiting my challenge, and I was curious to see what his fight would entail.

  • Agents are treated to a small rave, complete with music and laser show, upon entering the stock exchange itself. Amidst flashing strobe lights and rockin’ tunes, the agent will clear out the area before heading onward to the final segment of this mission. There’s a pair of fuse boxes one will need to shoot out, which unlocks the door leading into the trading rooms. There’s a large electrical cage in the middle of this room, and for now, there’s no way to unlock it.

  • The last time I ventured into the Trading Floor of the New York Stock Exchange in a video game, I believe it was in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3‘s first mission. After the Rikers are excised from the Trading Floor, Dragov and two tanks will appear. Dragov is armed with the explosive sticky bomb and an RPK-74M, loadouts that agents from The Division will be familiar with. Facing three tanks at the same time is what constitutes this fight’s challenge, but it’s nothing new. I’ve heard that it’s possible to activate turrets in the room that make things easier, but I ended up hanging out behind a desk where racks of pork are hanging.

  • Using my assault turret, I concentrated my fire on one tank at a time, and in this way, both lieutenants went down fairly quickly. Only Dragov himself was left, but since he’s the same as the tanks, concentrating fire on one spot in his armour will break it, after which his armour plating and health can be depleted as per usual. Finishing Dragov off allows players to pick up the sticky bomb skill, which some players will certainly enjoy: the sticky bomb was a fun skill in The Division that acted as a combination grenade launcher/remote detonator.

  • While Dragov is down for the count, there is one final mission left: agents must investigate and see what Dragov had been supplying to Keener. Making their way to Pier 26, players will find an impromptu chemical weapons manufacturing lab. Keener had wanted Dragov’s considerable stockpile of stuff to manufacture a new chemical weapon of terrifying power, and the distress call that sent the Division to New York had resulted from Keener testing this new weapon.

  • Once it becomes clear what Keener had been asking of Dragov, the goal of this mission is the clear out the Rikers and secure the area before destroying the compounds that Dragov had the Rikers concoct. Listening to the audio logs, it became clear that Dragov and the Rikers, being no chemical engineers, were having trouble creating the compounds to Keener’s specifications. Dragov himself does not exactly align with Keener’s ideology, and instead, only aids him for survival reasons.

  • Before I wrap things up, there’s still the inspiration for the page quote: having seen countless agents go rogue, one would surmise that the fate each rogue agent falls to was one that came relatively easily, and that for the player, the good they try to achieve is a constant, uphill battle. The quote is sourced from the Chinese philosopher, Confucius, whose writings and way of life remained valuable. Confucius along with Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, left a lasting impact on the world for their clarity and emphasis on doing good.

  • Insofar, it’s been about a five hour journey to finish off Keener’s warlords, and with the last of the missions done, all that’s left is Keener himself. With this post in the books, I expect that I’ll be writing about Houkago Teibou Nisshi next, since we’re going to be seeing the sixth episode air tomorrow. Beyond this, I’ve also begun my journey into YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world. on the recommendation of fellow blogger Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime, and so far, I’m rather enjoying the story. My initial impressions of YU-NO are that there’s a very clean supernatural piece to it that fortunately, handles more or less the same way Rick and Morty handles alternate timelines. Coupled with the fact that Takuya Arima is a fairly likeable protagonist, and the fact that Mio Shimazu is hawt, I’ve begun making some headway into the anime.

It should be no surprise that I’ve been greatly enjoying Warlords of New York: the expansion has met expectations and given The Division 2 new life: while Lower Manhattan might be smaller, the variety that is available between New York and Washington gives players the options to explore different settings on their quest for better gear. It’s felt great to experience the levelling up process again, from thirty to forty, and while I was a little bemused that a standard piece of level 31 gear was superior to the Gear Score 515 pieces I had, this trepidation quickly became a non-issue as I equipped a range of weapons and items to build a loadout that would allow me to hold my own against Keener’s warlords. Kajika proved immensely fun to fight: his shock mines and steam traps required a bit of patience and awareness to overcome, but once players close the distance, Kajika melts away in the blink of an eye to sustained fire. By comparison, Dragov is a much more conventional fight: he uses a heavily armoured set up, and his two minions are similarly armoured. Sustained fire will bring all three down, but the challenge is keeping out of the way, since a few seconds of exposure to their guns will quickly send players back a ways. In this fight, I ended up using the turret to provide an extra bit of DPS against them, and the IWI Negev proved its worth here, allowing for a decent amount of damage to be done while providing a slightly shorter reload time compared to similar light machine guns in The Division 2. I will be returning once more to write about the titanic fight I have with Keener in the near future: I am expecting this to be a gripping mission and look forwards to finishing this fight in style.

The Division 2: Warlords of New York- Opening Salvos, Gaining a Foothold On The Return to Manhattan

“There’s a wonderful phrase: ‘the fog of war.’ What ‘the fog of war’ means is: war is so complex it’s beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend all the variables. Our judgment, our understanding, are not adequate. And we kill people unnecessarily.” –Robert McNamara

When requests come out from New York for all available agents to deploy and assist following a biological weapons attack, the player accompanies Kelso to Lower Manhattan, landing near the city hall and clearing the area of hostiles. Upon arrival, agent Fay Lau greets them, noting that Paul Rhodes, the leader of the Lower Manhattan settlement, is unwilling to have Division agents around. Security chief Roy Benitez convinces Rhodes to keep the Agent around long enough to figure out what’s been happening, and as it turns out, rogue Agent Aaron Keener had been behind the latest attack. He has four lieutenants, each controlling a quadrant of Lower Manhattan, that are affecting survival of hostile forces. Because each of these lieutenants, these warlords, operate with Keener, it is suggested that going after these warlords will help the Division locate Keener and bring him to justice, as well as appropriate or disrupt operations in Lower Manhattan. The agent begins by going after Theo Parnell, a former agent who is an expert engineer and hacker who disavowed the Division after believing it corrupt and decided to work for Keener. When the Agent enters Parnell’s compound and decimates all of the Rikers protecting him, Keener finally severs ties with Parnell after the latter desperately requests an extraction. In a last bid to stay alive, Parnell uses a sophisticated hologram system and deploys it in the fight against the Agent, but is ultimately defeated. The Agent then turns their attention towards Vivian Conley, who is a chemical engineer and runs an oil refining operation to keep the Cleaners and rouge factions operational. The Agent eventually smashes the Cleaners protecting Conley and disrupts her oil operation, redirecting gas pipes to create an explosion that forces her to come into the open. Conley is defeated, and in a final act of flippancy, sets off explosives that vapourises her body, leaving her SHD terminal behind. This is Warlords of New York at the halfway point, the continuation of the story that picks up after the events of Coney Island.

Warlords of New York is a proper expansion for The Division 2, bringing back the Manhattan setting and allowing players to push onward to level forty. Immediately after returning to New York, the differences between the atmosphere of New York and Washington become apparent; whereas Washington had felt languid, Lower Manhattan feels chaotic, having come out decidedly worse for wear after a hurricane tore through the area. It is amidst the skyscraper-lined streets that Agents return to, and seeing Lower Manhattan during the summer, overgrown and water-logged, was a breath of fresh air from the sights of Washington D.C., which had admittedly, became quite dull with its endless low-rise lined streets. However, while the aesthetics of Lower Manhattan are impressive and well-done, the true joy in Warlords of New York come in the form of the fight with each of Keener’s lieutenants. When I reached Parnell, his usage of holograms were completely different than any fight I had previously encountered; projecting fakes of both himself and the Riker thugs during the fight, fighting Parnell meant taking a pot-shot at his suspected positions to see if any damage was dealt, and only then was it a good idea to break out the TAC-50 to wear his armour and health down. Similarly, one needed to fire a few rounds at an enemy to ascertain whether or not one should proceed to open up or move onto another target. The unexpectedness of the fight kept things engaging, and it was with great satisfaction to finally beat Parnell. The engagement with Conley was similarly fun: Conley’s incendiary sticky-bomb launcher created new hazards on the map, and it was only a combination of evasion, accurate fire and being mindful of openings that I finally put an end to the second of Keener’s warlords. Warlords of New York has insofar been remarkably engaging; the setting’s been great, but the true highlight of the expansion has definitely been the boss fights, which are all unique and provide a refreshing new challenge for players.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • With a summer sale and Ubisoft Points bringing the price of Warlords of New York to a range considered reasonable, I finally continue my adventure and are able to start my road to level forty. It’s not a smooth arrival, though: as soon as the helicopter touches down, the Agent and Kelso find themselves under fire. However, the enemy strength is not overwhelming, and after a brief firefight, the pair continue on towards the main settlement in Manhattan: for the first few activities, the level thirty weapons will hold their own.

  • The moment I switched off my old gear pieces, my armour bar went back to where it was when I began my journey in The Division 2, but since the standard level 31 gear actually has superior stats than even the best-rolled level 30 gear, it is prudent to begin switching over. Shortly after I picked up Warlords of New York, I went to my re-calibration table and broke down all of the gear I had for talents and attributes, leaving myself with only the items I had been running with since the Coney Island content. There was no point in keeping the old stuff, and this is where things get a little contentious: players who spent a great deal of time prior to the expansion doubtlessly would’ve spent a lot of time improving their loadout for Washington D.C., only for this effort to go to waste when Warlords of New York released.

  • I ended up deciding to Listening to the dialogue between Lau, Rhodes and Benitez, it becomes clear that in the time since The Division, things have only been marginally holding together, and upon arriving in the haven, things do feel tense even as I see the return of the original characters. However, Jessica Kandel, the virologist who had been working towards a vaccine in the original, is noticeably absent, and I’ve not yet gotten far enough to learn of her ultimate fate.

  • While a fog of war obscures the map, it is rolled back as the Agent explores the streets of lower Manhattan. I’ve chosen to take on Keener’s crew in the order that they were presented and so, went after Parnell first. He’s holed up in a prison controlled by the Rikers, escaped convicts who united under Larae Barrett. The Division saw players square off against and defeat Barrett in the Lexington Event Centre, a mission that I found quite challenging during my first play-through thanks to the two tanks guarding her. However, as I optimised my equipment, I had no trouble melting both tanks and Barrett herself. This mission was rather well-known for being a fun way to farm for gear.

  • While The Division had more colourful interiors, The Division 2‘s interiors definitely feel more moody and monotonous in their design even as I returned to New York. However, unlike Washington D.C., there are subtle details in New York that add to the city’s aura of menace: entire buildings are sealed off with CERA wrap and biohazard symbols. This is something that was missing in Washington D.C., and while The Division 2 is generally superior to the original in terms of gameplay, the atmosphere and tone of the original are unparalleled.

  • Even after Barrett’s death, one of Keener’s lieutenants, Dragov, has taken over, transforming them back into an organised terror machine. Fighting the Rikers was a welcome return to form for me: originally, they represented a foe that was tougher than the common rioters and posed a greater challenge to engage, but did not have access to the Cleaners’ flamethrowers, which removed the risk of being set on fire. This would prevent one from firing their weapons for a few crucial moments, and while it’s normally a minor inconvenience, being swarmed by enemies made this particularly dangerous.

  • Because the Rikers don’t have access to the Black Tusk’s heavy equipment, I found that for the most part, an assault rifle and submachine gun, or semi-automatic rifle, would be more than sufficient to deal with them. Returning to New York meant being able to experiment with a wider range of weapon types – since hitting the endgame for The Division 2, my primary loadout consisted of a light machine gun and then whatever was best suited for the mission, whether it be an assault rifle or submachine gun. Since I run with the sharpshooter specialisation, I’m always covered for long-range combat, so my secondary weapon was usually an automatic rifle.

  • Owing to the way the drop system has worked for me, Warlords of New York allowed me to pick up some weapons, like the FN F2000 and G36, that I’ve not seen since making my way up the ranks. Levelling up, I’ve never been too attached with the weapons and gear I’ve found – it is advisable to continue swapping things out as one gets increasingly better gear and weapons. With this being said, while the standard and specialised (greens and blues) items are more powerful than anything one carried into New York, they only will really stand up against enemies a level or two higher than oneself. The superior (purple) items can hold out up to three levels higher, but for now, since gear quickly becomes obsolete, the best course of action would be to keep items in one’s inventory and equip the best possible items.

  • Rather than selling obsolete gear or breaking it down for parts, I prefer to periodically hit the recalibration bench and extract weapon talents. A poorly-rolled drop might still have a valuable talent, allowing one to fine-tune higher-level weapons later down the line. Advancing into the prison block, all of the cells are open, speaking to the scale of the situation on the JTF’s hands after the Green Poison outbreak in The Division. I’ve heard that The Division 2 scales mission difficulty to the number of players much more aggressively than its predecessor, and so, a solo experience is actually easier despite the risks of being flanked and in the absence of any squad revives.

  • In the prison’s dark hallways, one cannot help but feel they’ll run into an onryō worthy of Koji Suzuki’s The Ring. A few weeks ago, I picked up the Ring trilogy and read through it: while Suzuki lacks the finesse of Clancy or Tolkien in his prose, he does excel at creating feelings of loneliness, desperation and dread. While I’m deathly afraid of horror movies, I’ve found that I have no trouble with horror novels. There is a reason why this holds true: in a book, as the reader, I’m in control of the imagery in my head, and the pace at which things progress. Since I’m in control, nothing is truly terrifying, since I can always adjust what I see in my mind’s eye. By comparison, in a movie, I do not have that control.

  • Horror is characterised by taking control from a reader or viewer: for humanity, the greatest fear is the fear of things that we cannot control. This is why in horror movies, the protagonists are rendered in such a way so that they are unable to take control of their situation, and this helplessness is then conveyed to viewers. An ineffective horror movie, then, is one where the viewer thinks to themselves, if you gave the protagonist a good rifle and they got the drop on the antagonist, they’d be able to turn the tables. A truly effective horror movie comes from characters dealing with intangible fears, like separation and isolation, where one’s worst enemies are their own memories and regrets. It is for this reason that The Ring and Dark Water are effective as horror movies, since the foe is more the characters’ internal problems. From this perspective, the ghosts are simply external manifestations of the character’s troubles.

  • Pushing further into the building, I engage hostiles in a courtroom that looks identical to those seen in various legal dramas that show up on prime time television. For Western dramas, I’ve found that the ones I most enjoy tend to deal with crime scene investigations, efforts to counter domestic terrorism and the like, striking a balance between character growth and more action-packed sequences. By comparison, while legal dramas and romance tend to focus on character development, I’ve never really connected with those quite as well as I do with their anime equivalents.

  • Being an electrical engineer, rather than a disciplined soldier, Parnell begins to panic when the Agent moves closer to his position, having slaughtered an entire regiment’s worth of Rikers. Parnell begs Keener to prepare an extract him, but Keener only orders Parnell to “clean up his own mess”. Radio chatter in The Division 2 augments the story of a mission, and hearing Keener’s callous treatment of his lieutenants serves to reinforce the idea that the events of The Division and The Division 2 happened owing as a result of his own ego and deluded desires to rebuild the world in his image.

  • After coming into the courtyard, the Agent is confronted with Parnell himself, along with his doppelgängers – using his hologram ability, Parnell can create duplicates of himself that serve to confuse the Agent. As well, fakes of the Rikers are also present: they won’t fire back at the Agent, but one might waste a few seconds and bullets on them, distracting them from the real fight. The best approach to this fight is to engage the Rikers up close and personal, and then using an automatic weapon, burst fire at Parnell to determine which is the real one. The use of holograms signifies Parnell’s exceptional technical knowledge and a disinclination to fight.

  • While Parnell may be panicking, he’s still very much a threat to deal with. Fighting Parnell turned out to be much more engaging than I expected, and it was remarkably thrilling to play a sort of shell game as I fought to keep the Rikers off my back long enough to neutralise Parnell. Once he’s defeated, the Agent will be able to acquire his hologram skill for their own use. I’m not too sure I’ll equip this one, since the utility of being able to create images of myself feels like it has the most use in a PvP context, and being able to distract enemies in PvE isn’t particularly useful: once I fire, the enemy will be alerted to my real position.

  • Outside of the main missions, there’s plenty to do in Lower Manhattan; like Washington D.C., there are various activities and control points scattered in each of the four quadrants of Lower Manhattan, and completing them will award gear pieces or weapons that will be level-relevant. While this is a very nice way to ensure players are assured of having reasonable gear for their missions, Warlords of New York scales every quadrant of Lower Manhattan so that enemies will always be a similar level to the player. This allows players to take on the quadrants in any order they choose.

  • Control points in Warlords of New York function as they did in The Division 2, except they lack the refilling supply crates. One of the first control points I cleared had corpses hung upside-down from a girder above. The Division and The Division 2 are not afraid of using vivid imagery to depict the savagery of a nation gripped with anarchy. However, while the various factions commit atrocities that can be gut-wrenching, the Division itself has been presented as a questionable extra-judicial entity, as well. This is what prompted Keener to go rogue, and this is why Rhodes is so reluctant to trust the Agent upon their arrival.

  • The blurring boundary between order and chaos is very much a concern in The Division 2, where it becomes tricky to discern whether or not the Strategic Homeland Division (SHD) are a legitimate organisation. The doubt that Keener’s actions, corroborated by the mistrust Rhodes has for them, creates this sense that there is something much more sinister at work, mirroring the complexity of real-world systems, whose operators have dubious motives. Again, these sorts of back-door dealings appear to permeate more aspects of society than just government, and even something as simple as an anime website can have drama of its own. For instance, thanks to the excellent metrics WordPress provides, I recently learnt that MyAnimeList joined Anime News Network in issuing bans to anyone who links to my blog anywhere on their site.

  • This means that the folks who linked to my Koisuru Asteroid post would’ve likely received a permanent ban for their trouble. Because my post did appear to have a tangible impact on Koisuru Asteroid, resulting in negative reviews becoming out-voted by other reviews, this feels like a Pyrrhic victory. On one hand, the work was done, and positive perspectives prevailed over the negative ones, but on the flip-side, individuals defending a show they liked using my blog post have essentially given up their access to an anime community they may enjoy using. I admit that this turn of events is a little disappointing: I was hoping for a constructive conversation, to learn the thinking behind why it’s a good idea to tear down a series that didn’t meet one’s expectations and imploring others not to watch it.

  • Because of how things turned out, I feel obligated to write one more post on Koisuru Asteroid in the near future, one that is not mired in controversy. This time, the post will be to celebrate the Koisuru Asteroid once more for its excellent portrayal of the sciences. Back in The Division, the SHD’s actual goals remain concealed in shadow, and for the time being, the Agent has little choice but to trust their own judgement and complete the task at hand: having level forty equipment and weapons becomes the priority.

  • In a scene taken straight out of Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, the Brooklyn Bridge of Warlords of New York has collapsed thanks to the erosion of the iron cables keeping the bridge up, leaving the stone towers standing. Weisman predicted that the bridge could last about three centuries without maintenance, but this supposes the absence of extreme weather events like hurricanes. The Division 2 supposes that in the event of a hurricane and a lack of human work on the bridge, the main span of the Brooklyn Bridge would collapse outright.

  • The second area of Lower Manhattan is Vivian Conley’s oil operation, a vast complex sprawling over several warehouses and a crashed oil tanker. Since the Agent of The Division destroyed the Cleaner’s napalm manufacturing, the Conley had created a new source of fuel for them using her operation. Like The Division, shooting at Cleaners armed with flamethrowers are immensely satisfying, creating a massive explosion that one-shots any Cleaner irrespective of health and dealing area-of-effect damage to nearby enemies, as well.

  • Given that Conley is leading the Cleaners, and Conley answers to Keener, since the Cleaners assaulted the Black Tusk forces during the events of Coney Island, it stands to reason that Keener and the Black Tusk are at odds with one another. It suddenly strikes me that Keener’s motivations are a lot clearer than those of the Black Tusk, and so, while Keener might be a larger immediate threat to the world, the fact that so much of the Black Tusk remain shrouded in mystery: like the SHD, it would appear that things aren’t as so black-and-white as they seem.

  • During the pursuit of Conley, I ended up picking up an AK-M. This modernised AK-47 is a reliable weapon firing the hard-hitting 7.62 mm rounds, and while having a slower rate of fire than the average 5.56 mm assault rifle, makes up for it with damage. It occupies the niche between the 5.56 mm assault rifles and the semi-automatic rifles, being a versatile weapon that is capable of holding its own at close quarters and longer ranges, being a favourite of mine in The Division 2: I tend to hang onto AK-M rifles that I find for longer than the other assault rifles.

  • Pushing further into Conley’s installation, one finds a vast collection of intricate, if crude, processing equipment. Owing to the volatility of the fuels being processed, the entire area is a powder keg, and shooting at critical infrastructure to stop the processing creates massive explosions that are visually stunning. The setup of such facilities in Manhattan gives an idea of how much time has passed since The Division, and how much as how society has begun shifting towards a new equilibrium in settlements, the bad guys have also begun building increasingly complex setups that could threaten the security and safety of those trying to survive.

  • The introduction of tank-class enemies means that it’s good to have a light machine gun handy at all times, even if they are somewhat unwieldy: tanks have several weak points that can usually be exploited to quickly damage them, but there’s no substitute for sustained fire to a single point. This weakens enemy armour and eventually destroys it, after which continued fire to this spot will tear through their health. The Division 2‘s damage models are more sophisticated than anything in its predecessor, and for this, engaging tougher enemies becomes a matter of good aim on top of strategy.

  • Pushing into the cavernous interior of the tanker, I made my way over several perilous catwalks and deep pits. As the Agent draws closer to Conley, her confidence gives way to uncertainty: a recurring theme in Warlords of New York thus far is that each of Keener’s warlords, accustomed to ruling their own little empires and being in control, are taken completely by surprise when a determined and dedicated foe manages to single-handedly dismantle their work. There are, of course, parallels to those in reality who engage in online shaming (commonly known as “cancel culture” or “callout culture”): behind the comfort and security of a screen, they presume to dole out their own twisted interpretation of justice onto others.

  • However, such individuals also live in constant fear that their allies now might be potential enemies later: I imagine that, were one to really take the fight to proponents of “cancel culture”, they would lose their composure at least as badly as Conley when the Agent arrives. Conley’s loadout is better suited for combat than Parnell’s: she’s rocking an incendiary sticky bomb that can adhere to the Agent and deal massive damage. The device has an impressive range, and so, my usual preference for sniping was not particularly viable. I ended up switching over to the old standby of using a light machine gun, which follows the DOOM strategy of “shoot until enemy dies”.

  • With this, I’ve now rolled back the fog of war to the northern half of Lower Manhattan, and look forwards to clearing the rest of Keener’s warlords. Admittedly, July’s been a bit busy, and I had originally intended on finishing Warlords of New York for August, but with Halo 3‘s release, I’ve admittedly been spending more time with a friend doing the co-op missions, and I’d actually just finished the final mission yesterday. With this in mind, I’ll be looking to get back into Warlords of New York once I make more progress in SUPERHOT: Mind Control Delete, and for readers wondering about how the remainder of July looks, the next posts on the horizon will be for Oregairu Kan and a post for Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s return.

Before I reach the titanic fight with Keener himself, I have two more warlords left to deal with, as well as the task of reaching level forty. Upon arriving in New York, it was a little disheartening to learn that the weapons and gear that had served me reasonably well in Washington D.C. was now obsolete: the basic level 31 items have superior stats to the best-rolled gear score 515 items I had previously, and so, the biggest challenge in Warlords of New York was getting comfortable with swapping off my high end items (and their bonuses) for new gear, much as I had done back when I had been playing through The Division 2‘s campaign en route to level thirty. Along the way, I’ve encountered weapons that I’ve not seen for quite some time, including the FN F2000 and variations of the Heckler and Koch G36 rifle. It’s been fun to be levelling up again, even if this process is going to be short-lived (or at least, not quite as long as going from level seventy to eighty in World of Warcraft after the Wrath of the Lich King expansion released). Having now smashed up two of Keener’s warlords and rolled back the fog of war to Lower Manhattan’s northern edge, which features lower-rise buildings and a stunning view of the collapsed Brooklyn Bridge, I turn my attention towards Lower Manhattan’s southern half, which I expect to look even more visually impressive, as this is where New York’s main financial district, and the accompanying skyscrapers, are situated. I am looking forwards to seeing how the remaining fights with Javier Kajika and James Dragov unfold: if the first two fights are anything to go by, I can expect a thrilling battle ahead.

Call of Duty Black Ops: WMD and Memories of a Long Past Summer

“You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.”
“What mood is that?”
“Last-minute panic.”

–Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson

On a muggy summer day in New York State, I found myself at Woodbury Premium Outlets, located in a small town some eighty kilometres north of Manhattan. We had been travelling the Eastern Seaboard, and this short excursion represented a bit of a chance to break and explore. At this point during my vacation, I had already visited major points of interest such as Washington D.C.’s White House and Capitol Building, Manhattan and the Smithsonian Museum in New York, as well as Niagra Falls’ American side. Woodbury represented was a break in the itinerary, and with a few hours to kill, I set about exploring the outdoor outlet mall. A Sony Store caught my eye, and I browsed through their electronics, including a demonstration Play Station 3 that had a first person shooter on display. The previous player left the mission on a snowy mountain forest, and after picking off several patrols on the edge of a cliff with a suppressed AUG A1, I guided the soldier through a rappel animation. I ended up rappelling down too quickly; my avatar slipped off the edge of the cliff and fell to a swift death. At this point in time, I was set to depart and head back to New York for the last day of my trip, so I left the mission there, but my curiosity had been piqued. When I returned back home, I would learn that this game was Call of Duty: Black Ops, and the mission was WMD, the eleventh mission that sees a flashback in which Jason Hudson is sent out to the Yamantau Complex on a search and destroy mission. The mission opens with a SR-71 surveillance crew, Big-Eye Six, taking position over the Soviet Union and relaying information to Kilo team on the ground during a blizzard. The blizzard recedes, and Big-Eye Six departs to refuel, leaving Kilo team finish disabling the early-warning system up on the mountain. After parachuting off the side of the mountain and landing in the main facilities below, Hudson and Kilo team find the Soviets attempting to sanitise the area of any evidence of work into the chemical weapon, Nova Six. They are locked into the control room, learn of Dragovich’s plans to use sleeper agents to disperse Nova Six and barely manage to escape on the back of a truck before an avalanche buries the area.

For me, WMD represents one of Call of Duty: Black Ops‘ finest missions, being a perfect combination of gameplay and cinematics: right from the moment Captain Mosely and Major Neitsch board the SR-71, to the transition to Hudson and his team, WMD creates a sense of urgency as players experience and drive the actions needed to figure out what Nova Six was about. Of all the missions in the Call of Duty franchise, WMD is a forgotten mission, but for me, I found it to be memorable, right up with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare‘s All Ghillied Up in terms of engagement and immersion. In this one mission, the entire tenour of Black Ops is captured: the first Black Ops game was set almost entirely in the Cold War, an era of history that still remains relatively unexplored in games because aside from proxy conflicts, the Cold War (thankfully) never went hot into either a nuclear exchange or full-scale conventional warfare. As such, games that cover this era of history find it tricky to properly write a compelling story; Call of Duty: Black Ops was able to do so, and reception to the game was generally positive, with praise directed at the campaign (especially for its atmosphere). Since then, the Black Ops spin-off franchise has evolved in its own direction, taking things right back into present-day and the near-future. For its setting and period, then, the original Black Ops remains unique for being able to so vividly portray the atmosphere and tone surrounding the Cold War era. I originally finished Call of Duty: Black Ops some four-and-a-half years earlier, having picked up the game during a Steam Sale, and found the game particularly stand-out for its premise.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • On a cold, brisk winter morning six-and-a-half years earlier, I stepped out into the dark and made to board a plane that would take me to Taiwan. This was the first time I’d ever travelled during the winter, and the resulting vacation was quite enjoyable, although lacking the means to do so then, I did not document things quite so extensively back then. At that time, I did not yet have Black Ops in my Steam library, but I was familiar with the game and its music: WMD opens with Melville, a tense song that accompanies Captain Mosely and Major Neitsch as they board a SR-71 for a recon and support mission.

  • WMD begins from Mosely’s perspective, and once in the air, perspective switches over to that of Neitsch’s, who’s running the TRP screen to direct Kilo squad during a whiteout below. I do not believe the SR-71 was ever involved in a support mission of this sort: designed to replace the U-2, the SR-71 was superior in every way, boasting a longer range, greater maximum speed and operational ceiling. They were intended to be used for overflight missions over the Soviet Union, but as satellites became more commonplace, the SR-71 was retired. Once the blizzard on the ground clears, perspective of the mission permanently switches to that of Jason Hudson’s.

  • For the duration of my trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong, I would enjoy comfortable winter air, and it was only upon return home that the bitterly cold weather became the norm again: I still remember just how cold -16ºC felt after getting off the flight and making the drive back home, when normally, -16ºC is something I consider to be very balmy. Of course, these temperatures pale in comparison to those of Mount Yamantau: this mountain, located deep in the Ural Mountains, is speculated to be the site of a vast Russian military bunker equivalent to the American’s Mount Cheyenne complex in Colorado.

  • I’ve visited Mount Yamantau in one other game: Metro: Exodus had taken Artyom, Anna and Captain Miller to the Urals in search of a viable home, and while Miller had been enthusiastic to reach the site, it turns out that, while there had been a military bunker here, all of the crew had devolved into cannibals, luring victims here with false messages that they were the government remnants. Call of Duty: Black Ops presents a different kind of terror: Mount Yamantau is allegedly the site of Nova Six’s development.

  • On the ground, Hudson starts out with the variable-zoom crossbow, an excellent stealth weapon that is superbly lethal – a single bolt will be enough to deal with any enemy soldier. Aside from standard arrow-heads, Hudson also has explosive bolts available to him. The explosive tips are decidedly less conducive for stealth, but in a pinch, can be used to deal a good amount of damage. A maximum of twenty bolts can be carried in reserve, in addition to the bolt that is already loaded into the crossbow.

  • Besides the crossbow, Hudson also has a suppressed AUG A1 with a Swarovski 1.5x Scope: this weapon is better suited for dealing with large groups of enemies, and Hudson starts out with 630 rounds (twenty-one extra magazines on top of the magazine already in the weapon). With its high rate of fire in Call of Duty: Black Ops, this is a popular weapon, although it takes a modicum of skill to properly use it in the multiplayer, where the weapon’s recoil is quite noticeable.

  • This is the rappelling section of the mission I found myself starting at while I was messing with the demonstration PS3 console at Woodbury nine years earlier. I remember playing around with the controls, trying to strike a balance between a speedy descent and not hitting the bottom with enough force to result in death. Woodbury came as a bit of a break in a packed itinerary: during that particular vacation, I traveled through Manhattan, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. Along the way, I had a chance to visit the observation deck of the Empire State Building, took a boat over the Hudson River to see the State of Liberty, went to Central Park, the Smithsonian Museum, the National Mall, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and a handful of unique stops like the Corning Glass Museum and Hershey Factory.

  • This vacation was a rather fun one, and aside from the destinations, my favourite memory would’ve been being able to have a whole steamed lobster for dinner while in Boston, and then the next day, a lobster roll made with fresh Atlantic lobster the next day. This trip also took us to the American side of the Niagara Falls, where we went on a boat ride that brought us close to the falls. I think the part of that vacation I was least fond of was the traffic jams along one of the interstate freeways, and how humid it was inside the One Niagara Visitor Centre.

  • When I returned home from this vacation, I revelled in the cool, dry mountain air of my area, and promptly set about trying to learn of what game I had tried out at Woodbury. I would find my answer fairly quickly: a search for PlayStation 3 first-person shooters where one rappels down the side of a mountain yielded Call of Duty: Black Ops on very short order, and although I did possess a PC powerful enough to run the game at the time, I had no interest in the franchise at the time. I only developed a curiosity for Call of Duty after reading about All Ghillied Up and then playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare at a friend’s place.

  • Five years after visiting the Eastern Seaboard, I ended up buying a copy during a September sale and immediately enjoyed the purchase – Call of Duty: Black Ops has a fun campaigns that take players to a variety of locations and gives one a chance to fire a range of interesting weapons, including an AK-47 with an under-barrel flamethrower. For me, WMD had some of the best visuals and atmosphere of any level, even in a game where each and every mission is highly engaging.

  • Whereas I played through WMD at Woodbury some nine years earlier, ten years ago, I was doing a tour of Eastern China, which entailed visiting Beijing, Wuxi, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai. On this vacation, I remember arriving in a smoggy Beijing, travelling to famous attractions like Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven, watched a Chinese version of the Cirque du Soleil perform and walked the Great Wall of China. Because this was two years after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, I also had a chance to check out the Bird’s Nest Stadium. If memory serves, we then flew to Wuxi in Jiangsu Province.

  • From there, we took a tour of the area surrounding Lake Tai, went on more boat tours than I could remember of all the canals and lakes in Wuxi and Suzhou, and ended the tour in Hangzhou, which I remember best for a massive thunderstorm that shook the area the evening I arrived. The final leg of the journey was in Shanghai, during their 2010 Expo. With the China leg of the journey over, I flew to Hong Kong for another week before returning home.

  • In the years following, I traveled less as university started getting busier, spending my summers studying or doing summer research. By the time I had the chance to play through Black Ops, I had already finished my undergraduate degree, and during my last year of graduate school, I would finally set foot on the WMD mission. The atmosphere of the mission immediately reminded me of the Christmas break season; since I picked up Black Ops, it’s been something of a New Year’s Day tradition to play through the mission after lunch, when the sun is at its highest and the snow on the ground creates a feeling very similar to the one seen in WMD.

  • I had originally intended to write this post in 2016, having taken the screenshots for it in January, but never got around to writing it. Instead, I came across the screenshots in the August two years later, created a draft for the post and then found it immensely difficult to write something coherent. This post has, until today, been sitting in my “drafts” section, untouched. This is what prompts the choice of quote for the post; I didn’t really find the motivation to write it until I’d realised how long the post has been a draft for.

  • One of the biggest joys about Black Ops was the fact that so many Cold War-era weapons are available. However, the game occasionally takes liberties: the Steyr AUG (Armee Universal Gewehr, “Universal Army Rifle”) that Hudson starts WMD with, is a weapon that was designed in the 1960s to replace the FN FAL. The AUG entered service in 1977, and WMD is supposed to have taken place in 1968: at that time, the SR-71 was two years old, but the AUG would not have been in service just yet.

  • Once Hudson and Kilo team breaches the windows of the substation, it’s a thrilling firefight: despite the AUG being weaker on a per-bullet basis and having a considerable recoil, the weapon does perform quite well, and for me, the proper WMD experience is to go through the entire mission without once switching out the starting loadout for any other weapon. The Famas, HK-21, SK-23, Skorpion and CZ75 are also found in the mission, but there’s something about the AUG that makes it particularly well-suited for this mission.

  • The most terrifying segment of WMD comes when an avalanche is triggered: players must follow Kilo team across an icy path before parachuting into the valley below, where the Nova Six facility is located. The vertical scale of WMD is impressive, bringing to mind the five hundred metre base jump made in Battlefield 3‘s Damavand Peak map as a part of the rush game mode. As Battlefield 3 came a year after Black Ops, it is conceivable that DICE took inspiration from the WMD mission in Black Ops.

  • The firefight down at the Nova Six research site is rather less inspired, but represents a short, closing act to the mission. Hudson and Kilo team make their way into the facility, find a series of containers all wired together, and a computer terminal. One of the recurring themes in Black Ops is the unknown sequence of numbers that protagonist Mason struggles to remember during an interrogation: it turns out that Mason is integral to stopping a chemical weapons attack with Nova 6.

  • I greatly enjoyed Black Ops, and personally found that there was enough in common between Black Ops and Higurashi: When They Cry that a crossover would not be outside the realm of possibility. Of course, with the amount of firepower available to the playable characters in Black Ops, it would be possible for Mason and Kilo team to trivially solo the whole of Miyo, the Yamainu and Banken, save Rika and the others, and be back just in time for tea.

  • After getting stuck in one of the numbers rooms, Hudson and the others beat a narrow escape on the back of a truck with a mounted DShK machine gun. This brings my recollections of what is my second favourite mission in the Call of Duty franchise to a close, and with it, I finally have no more drafts in my WordPress for the first time in two years. With this post in the books, I remark that I will be writing about games for the next little while, and then do an after-three talk on Oregairu. I’m currently still deciding whether to write about Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out or Kanojo, Okarishimasu.

I remark here that this post actually has one of the most unusual properties of any that I’d previously written: I’d originally intended to write and post about WMD on a New Year’s Day, since the atmosphere of the mission reminded me of a cold winter afternoon, and so, the screenshots I had taken for this post were taken on New Year’s Day of 2016, when I was entering my final term of graduate school. Back then, I had just finished doing an episodic review for Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? and was looking to start 2016 strong to finish off my Master’s Degree. However, procrastination meant I never got around to starting the post until two-and-a-half years later: in August 2018, I decided it was time to write about WMD in some capacity, but when the time came to write for the mission and how I first came upon Call of Duty: Black Ops, I found myself drawing blanks. This post, then, holds the distinct infamy of being the longest post I’ve ever held a draft on this blog: with this post done, I finally have a clean slate and no drafts older than a week remaining. It was a bit surprising to see how long I’ve procrastinated on this post; WMD was a fun mission, and my vacation to the Eastern Seaboard was similarly enjoyable (my favourite memory of that trip was the stop in Boston, where I had both whole steamed lobster for dinner and then an authentic East Coast lobster roll the next day). This post goes to show that procrastinating on a post can result in it being increasingly difficult to write for, and for those of my readers who also run a blog, the lesson to be learnt here is to not do what I did with this Call of Duty: Black Ops post; namely, have a plan to finish posts off when one’s schedule allows, or else remove posts from drafts if one is not confident in writing them out in a timely fashion.