The Division 2's first post-launch specialisation has arrived, bringing a whole new skill tree, abilities and signature weapon for endgame players to get to grips with.
The Gunner is the game's new tank role, letting you take a whole lot of damage and keep the enemy's focus on you. However, getting to grips with it can take a bit of planning, and so it's worth learning everything you can before diving in.
How to unlock the Gunner Specialization in The Division 2
The Gunner is free for all players, however unlocking it is wildly different depending on which edition of the game you own.
If you have the Year One pass, nothing needs to be done as this, and all the of the other upcoming specialisations for the game's first year, are included within the pack. Head to the White House as the Demolitionist, Survivalist and Sharpshooter, and the Gunner will be available to equip straight away.
Players who don't own the Year One pass have three ways of unlocking the Gunner: you can buy the specialisation individually from the in-game store, purchase the entire Year One pass until March 14, 2020, or you can complete the five Special Field Missions and unlock the Gunner for free.
Special Field Missions are the only way to unlock the Gunner for free. They're less like traditional missions and more like Projects, although they have their own menu and rewards system. For those who already own the specialisation in other ways, completing the Special Field Missions will instead net exclusive cosmetics.
To begin, go to the White House's Specialisations desk, highlight the Gunner and go to View Field Research. From there, activate the first tier to see the initial challenges. Completing each tier confers rewards (with those who own the Year One pass getting extra goodies), as well as opening the next tier, until the fifth tier that unlocks the Gunner.
These missions require you to complete actions across most of the PvE parts of the game, but can also be quite fiddly to complete. It is best to work with a few friends rather than rely on random players who may not be going for the same goals as you.
Gunner skill tree in The Division 2
As mentioned, the Gunner firmly replaces the Demolitionist as the game's tank role. With its talents Incessant (which provides 5% armour on kill in its first tier) and Hardened Armor (armour kits provide 50% bonus armour on top of 100% armour repair for 10 seconds), the Gunner is excellent at gaining and maintaining armour.
The Gunner also allows for a decent amount of damage output, and, compared to the three launch specializations, is a lot more versatile too. Unlike the other three, which provide damage buffs for specific weapon types each, Gunner players can buff all weapon types.
However, there's a catch. You can only allocate up to 45 points in total across all weapon buffs, meaning choices must be made between spreading smaller buffs across all weapon types equally, or focusing on specific types for much larger benefits. While you can always re-spec points whenever you like, it's still worth having a loadout in mind before putting points into the Gunner's weapon perks.
To keep Gunners in the fight for longer, they also have skills that help with managing ammo. The Supply Line talent generates 10% of your total ammo every 60 seconds and gives teammates 5%—this is a huge benefit to both the Gunner and their team, especially for longer fights between ammo refill points, like those found in the recently-released raid. The Gunner can also maintain special ammo with the 7.62 Minigun Ammo Acquisition talent, which adds three to the ammo bar (which equals approximately 75 bullets) on killing multiple enemies without releasing the minigun's trigger. This can be upgraded with the Group Signature Ammo Acquisition talent, which gives the rest of the team one extra special ammo for doing the same.
To get the most of this ammo regeneration, the Signature Weapon Damage talent is a four-tier talent that provides 10% increased signature weapon damage per tier. This makes mowing down enemies with the minigun a lot easier, especially alongside the Banshee Pulse item, which confuses (the same effect some Hyena enemies can cause) any enemy it hits, including those behind cover. Use Banshee to knock them out of cover, then kill them with your buffed minigun and the special ammo will just roll in. The Banshee can also be upgraded with the Microwave Amplifier and Directional Transmitter upgrades, which increases the duration and range of the pulse respectively.
Finally, the Gunner's exclusive grenade is the Riot Foam Grenade, which applies the same sticky foam to enemies as the Riot Foam Chem Launcher. It doesn't deal any damage itself, but it does immobilise any enemies caught in the blast—keeping them in view for taking the full brunt of the minigun.
How to play effectively as the Gunner in The Division 2
Despite the excellent abilities, there are a few downsides to playing as the Gunner that should be taken into account. Movement speed and field-of-view are reduced, and the Gunner can't fire from cover.
Instead, your job as a Gunner is to take a position and sustain fire. The longer you fire, the more enemies that are killed, and the more special ammo is generated to continue the slaughter. Use the Banshee Pulse to knock enemies out of cover when needed, or use the Riot Foam grenade to keep more mobile enemies in position.
By far the biggest difficulty with playing the Gunner is getting that initial multikill. Special ammo is a scarce resource, and anything with even the smallest amount of armour risks burning through your entire supply. Save any special ammo you come across during a mission until multiple red-bar enemies are close together (for example, near the end of the Lincoln Memorial mission in the computer room before the final engagement), and use them to begin building up more ammo through the Minigun Ammo Acquisition talent.
Make sure to avoid suppressing enemies, as that is ultimately a waste of special ammo. If an enemy gets into cover and you're not equipped to push them back out, it is better to stop firing (you can still spin the barrel by holding the right mouse button) and start again once they've come out of cover to fight back.
As any Gunner's role is out in the open drawing fire, it's good to have either a decent amount of healing ability yourself, or teammates who can do it for you. The Gunner's armour repair kit does provide extra defence, however a friend who can keep the healing on you while you maintain fire is by far the optimal setup. Add this with a build that focuses on armour regeneration, health and health-on-kill, and the inherent tankiness of the Gunner can really come into its own.
As the first post-launch specialisation, the Gunner gives us a good idea of how the future specializations will look. It's a lot more flexible than the trio we've had up to now in some respects, but in others it's a massive change in playstyle that requires some effort and planning to accommodate.
Regardless, it does feel damn good mowing down a wave of Hyenas in a maelstrom of minigun fire.