As with everything in The Division, the enemies you'll face actually have more depth and complexity than you might expect. Obviously, on a basic level, they're just shooting at you and you're just shooting at them, but there are different kinds of shooting and different ways to react. This guide is a detailed breakdown of the enemy factions and special types you'll run into, and how to deal with them.
When you're first dropped into New York you're told that there are criminals and thugs and what have you that have taken over the city, but you aren't given much specific info about how these criminals have organised until you run into them, when it would actually be really helpful if the intel was provided in advance. There are four distinct factions of enemies in The Division, and this is roughly the order you'll encounter them in.
The Rioters are just that: former citizens who started rioting and looting and are doing whatever it takes to survive. Rioters have no real organisational structure, because they're not an organisation. They're mostly armed with pistols and light arms, and their rush troops have baseball bats. They present the largest ethical quandary of all the enemy groups, since they are very obviously just desperate, albeit violent, citizens and now they, dressed in hoodies, jeans, and baseball caps, must face you, with all your paramilitary training and automatic weaponry. They go down fast.
As you push up and out into New York you'll start running into The Cleaners. These guys are the blue collar sanitation workers of the city, mostly former garbage men, who are now interpreting 'taking out the trash' as 'eradicating any and all possible traces of the disease by setting everything on fire'. Cleaners are head to toe in homemade hazmat suits, and their regular troops have flamethrowers, so it's wise to take them out at a distance if possible. They do, however, have some weak spots you can take advantage of (see the end of this very guide for details), and tactically aren't too smart. Don't get boxed in or surrounded and you should be fine.
These guys are escaped inmates from Rikers Island, who have seen the world going to hell in a handbasket as something of an opportunity to move in and become top dog, as well as stay out of prison, so they have a vested interest in making sure order isn't restored. Rikers can be spotted from the orange prison uniforms under their other armour and clothes, and will present more of an offensive challenge than the other two factions you've run into so far (with bigger guns, frag grenades, and shock troops with shotguns). You'll start finding them as you move further north from your Base of Operations, around Hell's Kitchen when your level starts hitting the teens.
The Last Man Battalion, frequently referred to as the LMB, are a group of PMCs, i.e. 'private military contractors' i.e. mercenaries, originally hired to protect assets by Wall Street companies in the early days of the outbreak. They're convinced that the only way to regain control of the situation is with a kind of military fascist state, which they're trying to impose in the areas they control. LMB soldiers have military fatigues and body armour, and are mostly armed with high level assault rifles. They'll also liberally use flashbang and stun grenades, and have vaguely Southern US accents because that's how soldiers talk. They're the toughest AI enemies you'll face in the game, and you should think twice about engaging any of the LMB if they're a higher level than you, even if you're in a group. The LMB are pretty much the endgame group you face for the main story – you'll start running into them around about level 20. The key to fighting the LMB is to keep moving and make sure you don't get suppressed behind cover, because they'll flank you. By God, will they flank you.
Aside from the basic henchmen of each faction, you'll also come across enemies with special abilities (especially as you move up in level and start doing harder missions). Each faction has a different name for them, even though they perform the same basic role, so for the purposes of this guide we've given them general catchall terms. You'll be able to recognise them by the symbol floating by their health bar, and also by carefully examining them to see if you can spot whether they've thrown a grenade at you or are running at you with a baseball bat. It's the little things.
Probably the second most common special enemy type after runners, these guys have a little grenade symbol next to their health bar and will periodically chuck some kind of grenade your way. Rioters tend to have smoke grenades that obscure your vision and decrease your accuracy, Cleaners have incendiary grenades that will set you on fire to do damage over time, the Rikers go for standard frag grenades, and the Last Man Battalion use launchers so they can fire out more than one at a time.
You can interrupt an enemy before they throw the grenade by shooting them as they're charging up throwing it (indicated by a red circle next to the health bar), which is pretty easy and will result in them dropping the thing at their own feet, for hilarious slapstick results. If you miss the timing for that you can roll away from grenades easily – their area of effect is marked by a big circle on the ground.
They're rare in the early game, but at later levels you'll start finding some guys with machine guns mixed in with the groups. They have what, if you squint, looks kind of like a flying bullet next to their health bar, and tend to set up shop fairly stationary behind some cover, towards the back of more mobile enemies. Luckily they aren't full auto the whole time, but have to activate it as an ability, and you can see it when they do: a red circle will start to (rapidly) fill next to their health bar when they're about to use it.
You can interrupt it by shooting them before they can deploy, but they'll start the activation again almost immediately. It's almost easier to either wait for their burst fire to stop and then take some pot shots at them, or have some of your squad drawing the fire while another flanks around to get the hits on them.
Mechanics have a little spanner symbol next to their health bar. They aren't generally harder to kill than any other enemy at their level, but they do have the ability to deploy a turret, which is really annoying. You can tell when they're about to drop one because of the red circle that appears by their health bar, and although you can stall them for a few seconds by shooting them, much like the heavy gunner they'll attempt it again almost immediately.
The mechanics drop their turrets right in front of their stupid faces, and they don't stand up to much damage (although later in the game some mechanics can patch up their turret). The main idea is to keep you suppressed behind cover and not firing, so don't do that. Keep moving between cover and blind firing if you have to. Sending in explosives or grenades is a good tactic.
These guys are pretty rare, but are also a priority to take out after the runners. They have the little plus symbol that is now internationally recognised as meaning 'health' (either that or the Swiss flag) and will heal enemies to get them back in the fight, which is, in combat terms, a Bad Thing.
Medics aren't offensively that bad, they're just annoying. They often have some decent shields, so just be on the lookout for them and concentrate fire if any turn up.
These guys are shock troops that run straight at you and your squad mates. Initially they do melee damage (Rioters have baseball bats; Cleaners have shields and fire axes) but as you get further into the game you'll meet the Rikers and the Last Man Battalion, and their runners have shotguns, which are terrible to deal with up close. You can spot these guys by the symbol next to their health bar that looks kind of like a lightning bolt. And also they will be sprinting at you and shouting.
Tactically speaking it's best to take these guys out before other troops, and as quickly as you can, ideally before they reach your or anyone on your team. If they do get up to you, spam the roll button to get out of their way before they can hit you. They're generally weaker than other enemies so they're not too hard to take out once you're actually firing.
Snipers are marked by a miniature aiming reticule next to their health bar, and are usually further back behind cover, or at elevation (because, you know, snipers). When they're about to take a shot you can see the glare from their scope – smaller when they're taking aim, and big immediately before they fire.
After the runners snipers are the next threat to take out in a firefight. Their shots do large amounts of damage when they hit home, and they're easy to miss if you're not paying attention or nobody on your team has pinged their pulse skill. Flanking these guys is usually a good tactic, and luckily the flare on their scope basically pinpoints where their head is, so you can use a marksman rifle to great effect right back at them.
These guys are another mid–to–late–stage game type of enemy. They have a little shield by their health bar, to indicate that their defense is extra beefed up, and are also quite obviously heavily armoured to look at. Tanks will plod slowly and inexorably towards you, always moving and never behind cover, and most often armed with a heavy weapon like a shotgun or machine gun.
Because they are so constantly moving it means you have to move as well. If you stay in one place when you're facing down a tank then you're likely to be mown down, horribly. On the other hand, tanks aren't fast, so as long as you stay aware of where they are, and make sure that's where you aren't, you can take out the peskier DPS types of enemies first and then save the tanks til the end.
When you're firing at an enemy you've probably noticed that the damage scores fountaining out of them can be different colours, yeah? They're red for a headshot, blue for armoured areas and white for regular damage. The thing is, some enemies also have weak spots, and if you've ever seen a yellow X appear across your aiming reticule it means you were hitting one of those.
The most obvious ones are on the Cleaners' general footsoldiers. The flamethrowers are attached to a canister of napalm on their back, and if you land a few shots on it (or one good one with a marksman rifle) that man will shortly explode into a ball of flame. Just make sure you're not too close when he does.
The heavy gunners for any faction will have a backpack (it's usually pretty obvious) that holds all their ammo in it, so if your aim is good you can fire at that to start the ammo going off and do some solid damage. Grenadiers also hold their grenades in a pack, on or about their hip, which is similarly explodable, but it's one of the hardest spots to shoot consistently, since they tend to move around more than other enemy types with weaknesses.