Video Game Review: ‘The Division 2’

By design or not, 'The Division 2' is political.

Julian Gerighty, Mathias Karlson
James Alexander, Sonya Balmores, Crystal Lee Brown, and Brittany Drisdelle
Release Date:
Mar 15, 2019

Updated: Played 34 hours on a PlayStation 4. Also available on Windows PC and Xbox One.

Author Tom Clancy’s name posthumously sits above “The Division 2’s” title. Yet, despite publisher Ubisoft’s denial of political themes, “Division 2” comes more from the mindset of Fox News’ primetime star Tucker Carlson than Clancy.

The Division 2” does have plenty of elements aligned with typical Clancy fiction. It’s fetishistic about weapons. There are small elements of political intrigue and absurdity – one side mission concerns the Declaration of Independence’s rescue. The setting is Washington D.C. and the President may or may not be dead.

But then comes that wave of Tucker Carlson. Carlson’s hyper-conservative ‘news’ show treats white men as victims, said gun laws represent class warfare on the day of a school shooting, and treats Republicans – positively – as ferocious tigers. Carlson’s rants appear to have inadvertently birthed the world of “Division 2.”

In “Division” lore, before he disappeared, the President signed an order activating a group of government-funded nationalists to legally gun down looters in hopes of restoring order. The White House is a base of operations, turned from an American symbol into a weapons stronghold. Subtle.

Popular on Variety

“There’s a new sheriff in town,” spouts the dialog. That’s referencing an absurdly silent protagonist draped in camo with a swelling backpack fit for anyone who religiously watched each episode of Nat Geo’s Doomsday Preppers. An opening cinematic questions where you have your gun, and notes the goal is to “unite us.” Through guns. Unite us all in guns. So, so many guns. It’s enough to have Carlson frothing on air.

“Division 2” is the worst of ‘stand your ground’ laws and ‘good guy with a gun’ beliefs. Enemies wander the streets, guns outstretched sideways as they blindly fire like Hollywood’s abysmal thug stereotypes. There’s no narrative context for their actions, or why all of them willingly die for their cause – or what their cause actually is. They just hate innocents. That makes them easy villains to conservative eyes. They’re bad guys, the lot of them, and that’s all anyone needs to know. “The Division 2” may as well be Carlson’s primetime lead.

Never mind the concept remains absurd. The fantasy is that America is overturned by capitalist desires (a flu strain coated money at Christmas, ruined the holiday, and it’s time to fight to bring capitalism back), becoming this bizarre concoction of fantasy tropes and national reclamation.

Think this through.

If the situation is so dire, it’s questionable that so many full fuel containers lie strewn around. Is fuel not important? With dwindling resources, how do the roving gangs coordinate their attire? And where do these people keep coming from? Between those joining The Division, those in the gangs, and those staying home, it’s a wonder how anyone is left after the first few gun battles. Hundreds die in these shoot-outs; if funeral homes stayed open, every one of them is nearing the value of a corporate conglomerate.

It’s pale even in the standards of video game logic. Consider the idea of applying gameplay tropes familiar to sword-and-sorcery or sci-fi epics to what’s branded as a real world, near future story. Here, guns deal damage points. A holster can deflect X amount of said damage. A better holster, more deflected damage. One headshot deals 100 points, another 500. Of course, different enemies were born with thicker skulls, so they can withstand 500-plus points. This isn’t the context for those gameplay traits, but a bigger gun deals bigger numbers logic, thus the need to hunt for new weapons.

The reasoning lies in the inherent power fantasy. Tucker Carlson empowers those sitting on their couch with Bud Light yelling at brown people. Tom Clancy lured tech-minded absolutists who see military strength above all. “The Division 2” takes from both columns, reveling in the chance to extract better performance from weapons and make each shot a kill. In context, this is all quite brutal. Sociopathic? Probably. Blood isn’t excessive, but the sheer quantity and intended thrills of it all – for the sake of Democracy – turns this into a Wild West simulator. “Division 2” just replaces Native Americans with boilerplate gangs.

It’s remorseless violence, repetitious and ingrained after only a few hours.

It’s remorseless violence, repetitious and ingrained after only a few hours. “The Division 2” becomes a passive activity, blind to basic narrative technique and crass in form. No characters stand out, no personalities prove memorable, while the ultimate purpose seems to only instill an eventual tyranny.

The routine repeats with such infinity, and the death count so high, there’s no value here. Head to a location marked on a map, shoot, do a thing (blow something up, find an object, rescue civilians; all the same in application), then escape while readying for a few counter-attacks. There’s no variation in theme, style, or substance, and it is torturously overlong.

One of the common missions is to override propaganda, the same thing seen in the recent “Crackdown 3,” with the same ludicrous result – swap gang propaganda broadcasts for Division broadcasts. Put down your guns to pick up a gun and use guns against other people who won’t put down their guns. There’s a lot of guns, if the theme (again: non-political according to Ubisoft’s public statements) wasn’t already apparent.

Ubisoft’s prior Tom Clancy-licensed output consisted of “Splinter Cell’s” Sam Fisher or the international exploits of the Ghost Recon team. “Hawx” too, a wild, pure-Clancy flight combat sim with the explosive mark of Michael Bay. By comparison, “The Division 2” has no legacy. It exists because modern video games do this specific thing.

For Ubisoft, “The Division 2” is but a checkmark to compete against names like Activision’s “Destiny” or EA’s “Anthem.” Ubisoft cares not for the Clancy name (aside from market value), and although the author’s unflinching devotion to military intervention posed an issue, at least he established an identity. “The Division 2” represents the hyper-blandness of Tucker Carlson, a generic white guy spouting about how everyone hates you, making things great for themselves, and finding the absolutist solution to fix it all. With guns, primarily.

Tom Clancy's The Division® 2_20190324134928

Video Game Review: 'The Division 2'

Cast: James Alexander, Sonya Balmores, Crystal Lee Brown, and Brittany Drisdelle

More Gaming

  • Riot Games

    Riot Games to Pay $10 Million to Settle Gender-Discrimination Lawsuit

    Riot Games, developer of “League of Legends,” will fork over at least $10 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of women employees alleging the company’s “bro culture” resulted in systemic gender discrimination. Terms of the settlement in the case, reached in August, were revealed in court documents filed last week in California [...]

  • Dreamscape_Dragon vr

    Dreamscape Gets ‘DreamWorks Dragons Flight Academy’ VR Experience (EXCLUSIVE)

    Location-based virtual reality (VR) startup Dreamscape has teamed up with DreamWorks Animation to launch a new “How to Train Your Dragons” experience at its flagship Westfield Century City VR center in Los Angeles later this month. The 11-minute “DreamWorks Dragons Flight Academy” experience allows up to 8 participants to hone their dragon-flying skills together, and [...]

  • YouTube logo

    YouTube Eases Restrictions on 'Simulated' Violence in Gaming Content

    YouTube announced a change to its content guidelines that will be more permissive in allowing depictions of violence in video-game content — as long as it’s not the sole focus of a video. Starting on Dec. 2, YouTube said, scripted or simulated violent content found in video games will be treated the same as scripted [...]

  • Disney’s Frozen 2 and Laika’s Missing

    'Frozen 2,' 'Missing Link' Lead 47th Annie Award Nominations

    Disney’s “Frozen 2” and Laika’s “Missing Link” led the 47th Annie Award nominations Dec. 2 with eight each and will battle it out for best animated feature along with DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” Netflix’s “Klaus” and Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” when the ceremony is held on Jan. 25 at [...]

  • Black Friday Deals: Oculus Rift, PlayStation

    The Best Black Friday Deals for VR Headsets, Apps & Games

    Getting your own virtual reality (VR) setup at home used to be costly, requiring not only an expensive headset but also a full-blown gaming PC. Not anymore: The latest generation of all-in-one devices has made VR a lot more affordable, and deep discounts for the holiday season serve as another incentive to finally make the [...]

  • Beat Saber Acquired by Facebook, Company

    Facebook Buys the Maker of the Popular VR Game 'Beat Saber'

    Facebook has acquired Beat Games, the maker of the popular virtual reality (VR) music game “Beat Saber”, the social media giant announced Tuesday. Beat Games will operate as an independent studio under Oculus Studios, and continue to support “Beat Saber” on all existing platforms, according to a blog post penned by Facebook AR/VR director of [...]

  • Kris Bowers, Alan Silvestri, and Catherine

    Alan Silvestri, Cynthia Erivo, Bebe Rexha Among Hollywood Music in Media Award Winners

    The 10th annual Hollywood Music in Media Awards rewarded a diverse crop of composers, songwriters and music supervisors who contributed to film, TV and videogames over the last year, from scorers Alan Silvestri, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Marco Beltrami and Michael Abels to tunesmiths Cynthia Erivo, Bebe Rexha and the Avett Brothers to Quentin Tarantino’s longtime music sidekick, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content