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The Division 2's launch has been expertly handled. There was plenty packed in at launch to keep players shooting goons across Washington DC (and trying to land exotics), and then an array of fascinating secrets that had people talking about the game, even if they hadn't played it yet. Today, the last Stronghold—The Division 2's version of dungeons or strikes—has finally arrived in a significant update, along with World Tier 5, the next phase of the endgame. If you didn't hit the end of the campaign yet, or you've just beaten the game and are looking at what's to come, it's the perfect excuse to get back into it.
At the end of The Division 2's campaign, you take on three Strongholds, with each belonging to a different faction. They're arguably the peak of the game's capacity to provide amazing, large-scale set pieces in ludicrous locations, with the final scrap in the Capitol Building completing the early game. That's when the Black Tusk turns up, an all-new, robot and drone-loving faction who 'invade' your previously completed main missions and Strongholds, giving you another excuse to enjoy the game's often lavish environmental design, only with new enemy types.
This final one, Tidal Basin (spoilers follow if you want to go in fresh), is the Black Tusk's own Stronghold, and what starts in a few generic, scrappy-looking exterior locations climaxes on the deck of an enormous high-tech hovercraft. I say hovercraft: to be honest, in my head it's just the deck of the SHIELD helicarrier from the Marvel Universe, except it doesn't fly anywhere while you're on it. This exhilarating series of set pieces was worth the wait, and it suggests The Division 2 is only going to get bigger and sillier as Ubisoft drops each part of its ambitious first year of content. There's so much drama to the shootouts and enough fun enemy types that it never feels like rote third-person shooting.
Since Tidal Basin has been locked in the game since launch, in some ways I feel a sense of relief in actually ticking the damn thing off. Completing it on story difficulty takes about as much time as the others—probably about 45 minutes in a party with 450ish gear, and that was with one retry. That's just one part of this latest, massive update, though. Beating Tidal Basin grants parts of The Division 2's first gear sets, which when completed will provide substantial bonuses, like getting shock, incendiary and explosive ammo in exchange for killing enemies (look out for an explainer on each set early next week from our freelance Division expert Joe Parlock).
And even though you've officially wiped out its base, Black Tusk starts mobilising on the map again, taking back a Stronghold and 'invading' different main missions, with new rewards. Now the gear score cap has been raised, I can feel the game trying to monopolise my spare time again, after I treated myself to a brief period of respite following a 45+ hour spell for my review. Completing Tidal Basin feels like I'm just scratching the surface of this update: I'm now questioning how much effort I put into the apparel-based event that's also been dropped into the game.
The part that's really made me go 'ooh!' in this update so far, though, is a new icon that pops up at the White House: a yellow helicopter symbol marked with 'Offsite Activities'. Go and speak to the pilot by the helipad at your base, and you'll get this neat teaser for the raid, which is arriving on 25th April:
I'm looking forward to it. This is some of the most fun I've had playing a third-person shooter in years, and this eight-player raid is hopefully going to show us some things the series has never done before.
Now I just need seven of my PC Gamer colleagues to reach the endgame and catch up. C'mon, guys!