It's been quite the fall from grace for The Division 2. After launching a year ago to widespread praise, the looter shooter all but disappeared off the face of the earth over the summer months as developer Massive Entertainment struggled to keep fans engaged with lacking content drops and controversial patches. Three minor pieces of DLC, dubbed Episodes, came and went without causing a stir, so the studio has now tried to drum up some excitement with an expansion complete with a new destination. The Division 2: Warlords of New York is its name, but it's hardly worth your time if you've already dropped off the bandwagon.
As the title would suggest, Ubisoft is taking players back to the setting of the original game. Sure, it's no longer snowing and the expansion covers four new districts which never made their way to The Division, but it's still the city that never sleeps. Complementing that further is the fact that Warlords of New York explores the single interesting narrative strand found in the 2016 debut -- Aaron Keener. The rogue agent is back on the scene after launching multiple biological attacks at various sites across the city, and it's your job to take him down for good.
In true video game fashion, however, you can't go after Keener directly and have the expansion complete in the space of an hour. Four of his henchmen need to be dealt with first, all of which come with their own set of expertise and skills. Each occupying a piece of the New York map, you'll need to make contact with the local resistance and work to taking down each and every one of them before targetting the ring leader.
In practice, this consists of visiting safe houses, talking to non-descript NPCs, following waypoints, and completing the sorts of missions you’d expect from The Division 2. The expansion is more of what you've been doing in Washington DC, devoid of any new major mechanics or features. You'll work to secure areas by killing every enemy in the vicinity, defend a computer while it downloads data, and continue to question how a human being could survive so many bullet wounds. There's nothing remotely new to see here in terms of gameplay, although the expansion has allowed the developer's level designers to once again spread their wings.
The sequel was renowned for its commitment to providing every main mission with a new location to explore, ensuring players remained engaged and interested in the sorts of environments they were helping take back from the clutches of evil. Warlords of New York replicates that pledge by supporting its handful of levels with yet more interesting places full of things to see and do. From a prison and connecting courthouse through to an underground sewer and oil tanker, the game impresses all over again with settings begging to be rummaged through and investigated to their very fullest. It's just a shame then that the sort of objectives you'll be made to complete within them can't drum up anything anywhere near the same level of excitement.
At least New York itself backs up that aforementioned commitment with a map infinitely more interesting to look at than the entirety of Washington DC. Recently ravaged by a hurricane, lower Manhattan is in ruins. The winter season may have given way to heat and sunlight but the dilapidated Christmas decorations continue to hang from its street lights while festive trees can be spotted in many a safe house. It's clear that Massive Entertainment knew it was on to a winner with The Division's original setting, and in returning to the scene of the crime, it is able to capitalise on fond memories of yesteryear.
Audio logs tell the tale of New York and what came next, rubble lines the streets while buildings have entered a state of disrepair, and famous monuments such as the Statue of Liberty serve as reminders of what once was. With environmental storytelling around almost every corner, Washington DC feels like a ghost town in comparison.
The biggest heartbreaker of all then is the fact that there isn't even a hint of atmosphere or ambient audio to go alongside that, due in part to how ridiculously glitchy and buggy The Division 2: Warlords of New York is at launch. During our playthrough of the game's main missions and bundling of side quests, we encountered numerous visual and audio flaws that seriously let the package down.
The introductory cutscene completely glitched out on us, leaving subtitles on the screen but no speech to support it. The open world consistently fails to load audio in properly, leaving you traversing an environment quite literally as if you were deaf. Gunshots support that notion further by not making a sound for the first five to ten seconds of a fight, while the enemies themselves won't actually load into a fight until you’re nearly down and out. And if fighting invisible combatants wasn't bad enough, some of them look like they’re straight out of a PSone game when they do eventually show themselves.
Textures can take up to 30 seconds to fully load in properly, occasionally leaving you chatting to an NPC who becomes clearer the more they talk. After a couple of sentences they, thankfully, could be considered PlayStation 2 quality before finally loading into the current generation. It's quite comical really, making the fact that you can sometimes see through walls upon entering a new area feel like child's play. Other flaws we encountered include enemies glitching out and proceeding to stand in a single position without shooting, while audio logs play voice lines over the top of each other and then cut out entirely before reaching their conclusion.
Massive Entertainment is more than likely in the process of fixing these problems right now, but we cannot ignore the gigantic effect they had on our playthrough. Simply put, Warlords of New York has launched in an absolutely unacceptable state. Let’s hope those patches take top priority over rolling out yet more content which feels wholly similar to everything that has come before it.
So much of what makes The Division 2 the live service game it is, however, simply cannot be judged yet. The developer has committed to new three-month seasons which are supposed to change the game on a routine basis, evolving its endgame and making way for new exotic gear and builds. That will all come in the future, hopefully building upon the new foundations of New York. What we can say for now, however, is that this is not a Destiny: The Taken King moment.
We fail to see how The Division 2: Warlords of New York is supposed to rejuvenate the looter shooter's playerbase. New York might be so much more interesting to explore while the missions themselves are smartly designed, but what you're actually doing there remains very much the same. Coupled with a copious amount of bugs and glitches, this is an expansion the vast majority of players can very safely skip.