The Division 2's Opening Is As Subtle As A Sledgehammer

The Division 2, an apolitical game about amassing purple quality backpacks, is currently playable for Gold And Ultimate Edition users.

I’m having fun surviving battles alongside friends and finding secrets down side alleys, but I have some questions about the game’s opening cutscene.

In it, America has been ravaged to the point of near-apocalypse by a viral terror attack. We see a shot of a latte with Christmas lights glittering in the background slowly panning out to a “Free Wifi” sign on the cafe window—when internet and power were lost, people survived. (There’s a strange dig about free coffee here, but whatever; the message is mostly aspirational.)

Then, a breaking point: Hospital services shut down, resources were limited, and basic health problems became life-threatening. But people came together - our narrator points to the power of human resilience. We see sweeping swaths of green: flowers blooming in the midst of a ruined city, verdant fields as far as the eye can see.

They helped each other, built communities, persevered. “What we want,” the narrator explains, “is also truly what we need.”

We see a point of no return, and we see people coming together. What does the scene tell us was the crux of that transition? The narrator offers the answer via a question mid-scene:

“With no police to protect you, did you own a gun? Did your neighbour?”

Sir, this is a Wendy’s.

Of course, it’s not shocking that The Division 2 has such a pointed, if unsubtle, focus on guns. This is a loot shooter. You gotta shoot to loot to get more shooty things to help you do more looting. You can customise your guns, and there’s perks to expand your arsenal, missions to gain different types of modifications, and even cosmetic skins that you can slap on to higher-rarity weapons.

Last night, I bought some of the in-game currency to test out the microtransactions. By the end of the night, I had found a blue-quality marksman rifle and added a 4x ACOG scope and a decent muzzle modification. It’s powerful and has a satisfying kick when you fire.

For the microtransaction, I bought a trippy weapon skin - a sort of tie-dye pink and purple puke design - and added it to my weapon.

I’m enjoying exploring its dilapidated Washington, DC, and surviving tough missions with my friends, but I’m uneasy. It’s just hard to focus on that when I’m looking down the barrel of a cutscene so heavy-handed it looks like a Heckler & Koch infomercial. And yet, when night falls and I wander the quiet streets, the world sucks me in.

When I expand my base and add a small game room for kids to play in, I see flashes of a game focused on community that I want to play. These human moments are what I think of when I consider community building. The game’s opening is a stark reminder that this is a Tom Clancy game, with all the problems that come with that name.

Fortunately, this is, again, not a political game, according to the developers. In 2018, Kotaku Editor-in-Chief Stephen Totilo interviewed creative director Terry Spier about The Division 2’s arrival into a charged political climate.

Spier stated: “ So, the goal isn’t to make a political statement. It’s not to reflect on any of the things that are happening in the current world, in the live world.”

Cool.

This is part and parcel for the military genre and post-apocalyptic storytelling. It’s also just part of The Division. Yesterday, I streamed The Division 2 with my coworker Paul Tamayo and we hit up a Control Point. These locations, dotted throughout The Division 2’s districts, are sometimes occupied by enemy factions.

If you clear them out, you gain access to a supply room with multiple chests and boxes to loot. This usually results in tons of gear and a few new guns. When I was playing with Paul, I was pretty damn excited to find some new guns. When people in chat asked what my loadout was, I was more than ready to explain that I had a decent rifle and a good shotgun.

In spite of all those conflicted feelings above, The Division 2 is fun to explore and play. Finding new loot is exciting, and I’ve enjoyed the easy curve upwards as I’ve been showered in loot. I want to explore this game. I want to build more than just a play room at my various outposts. I want to rebuild communities.

I’m going to play The Division 2 more tonight. I’m almost level 10 and there’s tons of missions left. I still need to try structured PvP and explore the Dark Zones, where players can gather loot and kill each other freely. I’ll probably snipe some unsuspecting player and take his guns. I have a lot of guns in The Division 2 already. I’m excited to see what I’ll get tonight.

Anyway, do you own a gun? Shout out in the comments if you go to the range. I used to.


Comments

    I think in the opening cutscene the point of “Did you own a gun? Did your neighbor?” was actually pretty impact. In the event something of this did happen where public services just dissolve then those with the bigger weapons may have the greater upper hand in the taking of power. I liked it, made me think.

    Also to answer the question of do you own a gun. No but I do use them here and there here in Australia. My brother and friends own some pistols, lever action rifles, shotguns and a number of bolt action rifles. Have some good fun at the range competing with each other.

    Fortunately, this is, again, not a political game, according to the developers.
    Sigh... We get it, you know the developers deep dark intentions better than the developers themselves care to admit, etc.

    Just throw an "iTs NOt PoliTCal!" Spongebob meme at the start of every Division 2 article and be done with it Kotaku.

      It's beyond tiresome at this point, all because Ubisoft refuses to play the petty American politics game.

      Same thing happened in Far Cry 5 where everyone was expecting a scathing commentary on politics and instead got a game that portrayed "Lefties & Righties" as equally laughable, useless and essentially the same people.

        This.

        I enjoy not having American politics thrown in my face when playing games, especially since it happens in pretty much every other form of entertainment

    I had this whole moral quandary already in division 1. In fact after I originally bought it I got a refund from steam because I was so disgusted by the pro gun agenda. The irony of shooting people who were scavenging to survive only to loot their corpses and be lavished upon as a hero in town didn't help matters either.

    In the end I came to terms with it, and rebought the game by framing it as "this is how many Americans think" and treating it as a cultural observation piece.

    Like in Far Cry where you meet a tribe that does animal sacrifices. Not my style, but then this avater isn't me and when in Rome...

    Besides that grating Cutscene I actually found the division 2 less morally quarrelsome, partly because enough time has passed in the in game world that the people I'm shooting legitimately had the chance to rejoin society and chose not to. They're closer to maindless raiders we see in every post apocalyptic game than my fellow man.

    Least that's what I tell myself.

      I completely understand your position though I'm curious, which people were just scavenging to survive when you killed them?
      The enemies factions you face were all aggressive forces doing some pretty screwed up stuff and the only ones I can think of that were innocent scavengers were the non violent NPC civilians whom can only be killed by choice.

        Some of the audio logs tell the story of a young man who joins the 'looters' to survive. How it wasn't about taking what other people had so much as taking... something, anything, to survive. Because if they didn't take what others had, they weren't going to survive. It was take or die.

        Most of the looter interactions out on the street, however, just show off petty, needless violence. So it's hard to reconcile with what the game rubs in your face of their cruelty.

        ...But at the end of the day, you're a highly-trained super-agent, exercising extra-judicial authority to murder US citizens whenever you feel like it, making use of military technologies so advanced they're in the realms of near-magical science fiction, against apparently starving civilians in hoodies.

          I think you guys take games a little to seriously lol.

          All the factions that you come across are committing horrendous acts on people that are trying to survive. Maybe you should read a little more into the story. Id be more than happy for a highly trained agent to sweep them away in that situation. You act as if you are walking around shooting unarmed civilians. I don't consider a pack of armed people patrolling the streets attacking anything they see as a innocents trying to survive. It also shows one of the gangs killing for the sake of killing.

          Also dont forget the para military group, and also the cult as well. They clearly look like innocent upstanding citizens lol.

          Yeah I know the ones, all of the factions had "reasons" for doing what they did, the garbo's leader lost his family to the virus and set out to eradicate it for the future of humanity, the mercenaries and convicts were left to rot by their respective powers that be(were).
          I'm not debating the reasoning, it's part of the deeper theme, the game was about the decisions people made when shit hit the fan and for narrative purposes those motivations were tied to being the aggressors.
          And yeah, that left us to play as the morally superior, American wet dream of a gun toating walking judge jury and executioner saving the world from injustice and tyranny but the idea was the wrong decisions for the right reasons, vice versa and combinations of those.

          Oh trust me, I'm not trying to sell the validity of the narrative, I laughed out loud when I saw the opening of the first game, a clandestine sleeper agency dedicated to the law, order and the continuation of government after the collapse!
          (It's almost as good as Wildlands where you play black ops working with the CIA to dismantle a drug cartel, Clancy was never so naive or condescending, the man was a patriot, but he was no shill)

          Point is, I think we can agree that despite the insane premise of the game, you don't go around killing people who are just scavenging to survive.

    “With no police to protect you, did you own a gun? Did your neighbour?” This was probably the only time during the demo/beta that the game made me uncomfortable - not in the "if the world ends tomorrow, I should be prepared" kind of way, but in the "there are people out there who legitimately consider the complete breakdown of society to be likely enough to ignore the much more likely consequences of commonplace gun ownership that we hear evidence of from America on a daily basis." Now that shit's terrifying.

    STOP
    INJECTING
    POLITICS
    INTO
    GAMES
    WHERE
    IT
    DOES
    NOT
    EXIST

    Their devs repeatedly stated there is nothing political in this game. The game is not political. You want it to be.

      THEY
      ARE
      NOT
      "INJECTING"
      POLITICS
      INTO
      THE
      GAME

      The politics are already in the game, others are just commenting on it. If people think the game is political then the game is political, regardless of intentions.

      I agree, they sure are reaching to find a way to hate on people who believe owning a firearm is a RIGHT. If someone is to pansy to want to own one or against them; have integrity, don't play a single game that has guns or watch movies with them. Bunch of liberal hypocrites run this crap site.

      Pretty sure is not so much an "hehe those cheeky devs added politics in their game and then said that they didn't" but more like politics in art and entertainment are inescapable, for better or worse and how constructive discourse can be had around it.

      If you are able to, get yourself into a good art history course. It's really fascinating to see how every major art movement was in one way or another, intentionally or not a reflection of its zeitgeist. Art is a distilled vision of reality (as filtered through the lens of the artist's own biases and perception) and made into an aesthetical metaphor. That is precisely why it resonates with people, why it becomes popular.

        There is no problem with what you describe. But what you describe is not what we are seeing articles like this. Take the far cry 5 announcement. Places like polygon were gleeful because they thought the game was a rebuke of trump and conservatives. Yet the get contains nothing of the sought. And those very same writers then wrote how it was a missed opportunity.

        Some journos just want their style of politics injected into games to suit their ideals.

        I greatly dislike politics being injected into games where there is none.

          Man, respectfully (and going by previous conversations we've had), it seems to me that you read Polygon, get incensed at their take (which going by what you say, is indeed, hyperbolic at best), and that colours your interpretation of the normally more moderate posts in Kotaku. For example, this article mentioned how inevitable is to compare certain aspects of the game to current events and/or political concerns, yet didn't dwell much on saying whether such thing was right or wrong--other by than presenting a few subjective thoughts by the author, clearly demarked as her personal emotional reactions.

          If I may be so bold, I'd recommend ceasing patronage of Polygon. Not only it cannot possibly be good for your digestion or heart health, it also makes harder to see nuance in positions that you may not agree with by exposing you to their more outrageous renditions.

            I don't like living in a bubble surrounded by only the political views I agree with. Hence why I read polygon. Surrounding oneself with differing views expands the mind. Only reading things that align with your views shrinks your mind.

            While I understand the point you are trying to make. I disagree.

            I fundamentally have a distaste for politics being Injected into games

              I don't like living in a bubble surrounded by only the political views I agree with.

              But... but you say that you have a dislike for politics in games 0_o What's the use of coming to sites like Kotaku (which you know are prone to talk politics) in the name of keeping an open mind, if your response is literally screaming into the aether "STOP INJECTING POLITICS INTO GAMES"? You may as well remain in entirely apolitical gaming sites rather than subjecting yourself to this. Then you can get your political fix from non-gaming sites such as r/politics.

              I mean, I'm not trying to tell you what you do, just a bit confused.

    Ignore the politics and just think of it practically. If the world did face this level of crisis, who did and didn't own a gun would make a difference to survival.

    Sink a few pint in my group of friends and it would often come up, the hypothetical of "what would you do if the world ended tomorrow" and it always starts with "go to X's house who owns guns and load up".

    Must we always include politics?

      Owning a firearm shouldn't even be political, it should be as common as drinking water. If you don't own one, you are failing as a human and at protecting innocents in case of the crazy folks who don't give a damn about "gun free zones" or laws in general. Extreme gun legislation and hate towards them, only ensures the bad guys have them, and LAW ABIDING CITIZENS are without. Sounds like a good way to lose a country overnight...

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