This week, Yahtzee reviews The Division 2.
Devotion is, or possibly was, a Taiwanese first-person horror game from earlier in the year that came from the same firmament as shit like Layers of Fear, the collective worldwide grieving process, and the gradual coming to terms with the fact that we're never getting Silent Hills. So it's the P.T. thing again: you're in a small chunk of someone's residence that you have to visit over and over again with varying quantities of blood dripping out of the skirting board and you have to figure out what horrible thing you did to your spouse this time.
Devotion has some puzzling and infusion of Taiwanese culture that elevates it marginally above a typical walking simulator, but none of this matters, because you can't have it. Yes, it had been removed from Steam because one of the textures or particle effects or something was interpreted as critical of the Chinese government, and the developers took it down 'cos they didn't want to be black-bagged. Depressing as it is that this sort of thing can happen in 20-Fucking-19, I do think it was a bit of an overreaction on Red Candle Games' part to rush out a sequel so quickly that they didn't even spell the name right, and also to move to Sweden and change their names to Massive Entertainment.
You could be forgiven for thinking that The Devotion 2 actually has nothing to do with Devotion 1; it appears to be an entirely different game in an entirely different setting - a third-person cover shooter set in a ruined near-future Washington, D.C. - but this all starts to make sense if you consider it as an overreaction to the first game getting black-bagged by China and the developers wanting to make nice. After all, nothing cheers up the Chinese government more than watching the U.S. getting its shit ruined (besides the total oppression of dissent and free will in its citizenry).
You are a member of a secret peacekeeping organization that's so secret, absolutely everybody knows about it, and you're called to Washington, D.C. by an urgent distress call, arriving at the White House headquarters to find it being besieged by an invading force of about four or five looters. It now being perfectly clear that nobody else in your agency can direct a school nativity play, you have to take over recovering the fallen Washington from, um... the, generally speaking, "bad guys", and returning it to the good guys, meaning you and everyone who doesn't immediately respond to your presence by trying to replace every oxygen molecule in the room with bullets.
So a repetitive open-world pseudo-tactical third-person cover shooter might seem about as far away from a small-scale first-person linear adventure as you can get, but as we settle into the primary gameplay loop of The Devotion 2, we see precisely how it intends to carry on the series' legacy of staring existential horror. As you connect with a safehouse, the list of numbered objectives appear in the corner of the screen, knowing that all of them will entail the exact same thing - walking into yet another exhaustively-decorated large room full of chest-high walls, taking up position and waiting for another parade of identical generic bad guys to inexplicably leap out of cover in turn so you can pop them in the face - and then you will grasp the true horror of your existence that you willingly paid money to play what is essentially a right-wing gun enthusiasts version of 52 pickup for potentially the rest of your life.
And in that, The Devotion 2 is a true sequel to the previous-- What?! What do you want?! (Imp whispers) Well, what is it a sequel to, then? (Imp whispers) What, the boring one? (Imp whispers) Actually, that does make sense. Sorry, everyone; little misunderstanding. I'll have to start again. [Ahem.] Boring Tom Clancy Ubisoft Sandbox 2 is another The Division. Oh, bugger, I've confused myself; one more try. The Division 2 is yet another live service shooter that the publishers would like you to add to your daily schedules, so of course, it has a horrible menu interface. After Black Ops 4 and Anthem, I am now 100% convinced that "shitty menus" is a deliberate strategy in live service games; they're either there to make you spend money out of confusion or make it extremely difficult to quit out of the game in the hopes you eventually give up and stop trying and accept that this game is your life now.
Or, they hope that by putting some nice, obvious shittiness to focus on front and center, you'll be distracted from the broad overarching fact that this game is the same tedious bullshit over and over again: you shoot bullets at the enemies to make their health number go down so you can chip at your arbitrary number of objectives and find gear to improve your numbers in rooms with very large numbers of chest-high walls. Someday, they're going to refine this all down and make a game where all you do is press "+1" on a calculator until you reach the arbitrary point that makes a nearby person's chest cavity explode and your calculator gets slightly bigger; it'll make billions.
All story and context is a complete washout; you might have heard that one of the spokespeople for this game spent several interviews trying to wriggle his way out of saying The Division 2 was in any way political, despite it being a military shooter about killing terrorists in Washington, D.C., but having played the game, I sort of get what he meant. See, shooters used to be about killing Russians or Arabs or PMCs or someone with some kind of real-world ideology, and yeah, sometimes, that could be a bit un-neighborly, at best, but the only characterization of the bad guys in The Division 2 - as well as Far Cry New Dawn, thinking about it - is that they're "bad guys". Not like us; we're the good ones, trying to make something of our lives. They're just self-interested and want to tear down everything we create. But self-interested people don't join gangs! "Hey, fuck society! Live for yourself!" "YEAH!" "Come join our society that opposes society!" "Yeah..." "Now put on this uniform and lay down your lives by the hundreds for extremely minor gains!" "Whaaat?"
No thought seems to have been put into how or why any of them got into the endless arenas where you fight them; you could be in a secret underground lab with one entrance that was locked when you showed up, and they still pour in from the back doors the moment you achieve an objective. Are they just growing on the walls like mildew? Of course no thought went into it! Of course they have no character besides "bad guy"! Anything that might provoke thought or conversation might potentially distract us from getting addicted to the live service number-crunching!
The real tragedy of games like The Division 2 is all the effort that clearly went into making the calculator +1 button simulator look nice; all those lovingly-rendered recreations of Washington, D.C. buildings. But take a look at an average one and explain to me the difference between a door you can go through and the merely decorative ones; the answer is, the former has a contextual button prompt, which has nothing to do with environment design, so fuck you, artists. And fuck all you artists and modelers who filled every single chest-high wall arena with endless random garbage and mysterious doors that go nowhere, except when they open and spawn more enemies right behind you in ways you couldn't possibly predict. Oh, fuck it; I'm sick of talking about this "live service" titwank; I'm going to play Sekiro. FromSoftware hurt me, but they hurt me because they love me, not because it's .7% more profitable than not hurting me.
- My Girlfriend Is the Precedent: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Apparently I unlocked a way to turn my seeker mine into a cluster bomb but I'll be buggered if I could figure out how to equip it
- Allow me at this point to reiterate my respect for the Chinese government