Written by Twisted Ideas
Watch Dogs created a lot of buzz with its stylish reveal trailer and gameplay trailer in 2012. Over the years it’s became more refined and even more anticipated. Now that it’s hear, is Watch Dogs the game that will lead games to the next generation?
What is it about?
The city of Chicago has implemented the new Central Operating System (ctOS) which collects information its citizens in the guise of protection. Hackers mainly the group DedSec have installed backdoors into ctOS to exploit the system to reveal the corruptions of those who control it.
Aiden Pearce is an a hacker independent of DedSec known from the people of Chicago as the Vigilante. He and his partner are compromised on a hotel job which inadvertently caused the death of his niece. Aiden is out for revenge but he soon finds out that his revenge goes deeper than he imagined.
How does it play?
Watch Dogs is an open world sandbox in the city of Chicago. The sandbox acts as a hub for missions, minigames and miscellaneous activities. Watch dogs differs from other sandboxes due to your ability to interact with the world via hacking.
Aiden’s cellphone allows him to hack into most electronic devices. Traffic lights, bridges, doors, cameras, machinery are yours to control for your convenience. Hacking cameras allow you to see its feed and hack other devices outside of Aiden’s own line of sight. You can cause vulnerable electronics to cause explosions to take out enemies from relative safety.
Aiden has the ability to handle various guns, steal cars, motorcycles and boats and craft items and explosives with loose items he can find. He can climb obstacles within a certain height which allows him to get on top of buildings or around the city in more efficient ways.
When you have gained access to ctOS, your phone can profile any citizen revealing their personal information. You can hack into any phone to steal from bank accounts, see messages and listen to conversations. You are also able to determine potential crimes and stop criminals before they get away. If police are aware of your crimes they will start a ctOS s can. You have to move outside of their scan range until they give up or else they police will pursue you.
That hits a little close to home Watch_Dogs.
There are several side missions and minigames scattered around the city. Fixer contracts involve vehicles, either transport, decoy or stealing missions. Criminal Convoys usually requires you to non-lethally disable a target protected by a convoy. Gang Hideouts are strong holds that requires you to disable the gang leaders while making your way though the guards. Minigames usually entail gambling games and Augmented Reality Games. Most have minor rewards other than the fun distraction.
There is an online mode where you can compete with other players to show off your hacking prowess. Online Trailing requires you to observe players for a period of time as they try to find or evade you. Online Hacking requires you to install back door access to a player’s phone. When you start the hack you have to stay within a radius and hide from the target. Online Racing is various types of races in Chicago. There is Online Free Roam but only available on the PS4 and Xbox One.
How does it look?
I played the game on the PS3 so I can’t comment on the next-gen systems. On the PS3 doens’t look great. The main character’s models are really detailed and look pretty good. A lot of the textures especially the ones on buildings and vehicles look terrible. The detail of how your coat and how it moves is great. The animations are great too. It’s fluid and doesn’t cut corners making NPC feel more natural. The presentation of the ARG is stylish and fits well with the theme.
There several graphical glitches and weird physics. There was one NPC who was halfway into the ground and another who would push himself up the tree as he was swaying. This is one of those games where even with your car flipping over your steering still has influence on it even if the tires aren’t on the ground.
Wondering why my phone can take pictures and Aiden’s can’t.
When you have your profiler open there’s too much going on on-screen. Everyone you pass will bring up their personal information and if you’re hacking their phones on the go then it can slow you down.
How does it sound?
I love the voice work. The main characters are varied and have distinct and likable personalities. It also helps that the cast is fairly multicultural.
The music in the game a mishmash of songs from different genres. There’s no theme and there are no radio stations, just a playlist. You can have music playing while on foot and add your own music to the game. While plaything through the main quest though, there’s a lot of phone calls that interrupt the music.
What do I think?
Watch Dogs is an interesting world. It’s a government who gathers information on its citizens under the guise of protection. It also shows how vulnerable and corrupt this scenario can become. Unfortunately Ubisoft didn’t do good work on making this a commentary on the loss of our own privacy. The game shows how the government and people are willing and able to do with the information of the people but at the end of the day its a revenge story. You do get good commentary from DedSec but it’s apart of a side mission and they’re hardly mentioned otherwise.
Once you get used to the game it plays fine. However, it’s not without its issues. The control layout and the simplicity of the controls hurt it at times. You’re not always sure what Aiden is going to do. You’re not always sure what Aiden is going to do. The cover and hack buttons will work even if cover and hackable objects aren’t you’re focus. Hacking while driving is distracting and you can’t drive and shoot… at all.
I don’t know what Ubisoft thinks parkour and hacking are but it isn’t this. It’s funny because Ubisoft who also make Assassin’s Creed has the gaul this parkour. It’s climbing. You can’t even jump. Hacking is done with a touch of a button on your smartphone and it seems that near anything remotely electronic is a computer. They say you can hack everything connected to ctOS but I doubt forklifts and cranes would be, ever. I know that they shouldn’t promote real hacking, which would be difficult and boring, but hacking everything with your thumb doesn’t seem like a compromise.
The hacking while interesting doesn’t mesh well with the hybrid gameplay. When you can take down enemies with explosion and accidents it works fine. The problem is that requires enemeis to be nearby which you can’t force. When being chased by helicopters if it’s too close you have to leave your car to see and disable it. The other applications of hacking are pretty shallow and simplistic. It’s mostly opening doors, turning on electronics to distract people or playing a simplified version of the pipe mania minigame with a press of a button.
The shooting is the game’s strongest mechanic, mainly on how it invalidate other aspects of the game. It’s a cover based shooter with regenerating health. Unless your being chased by the cops, Shootouts with pursuers is the easier and faster option. Enemies opt to leave their vehicles and shoot rather than running you down. Stealth becomes a joke because when missions don’t require 100% stealth then you can just start shooting. You aren’t noticeably better rewarded for stealth either. Shooting makes life easier.
Some game mechanics feel wasted. There isn’t a reason to spend money. You can find and get cars for free on the car on demand app. You don’t lose you weapons when you die. Minigames and buying cars, guns and jackets and optional. The amount of money you get from hacking and quests can go to a complete waste because there’s nothing worth buying. There is a good/evil system where people are more likely to report your crimes. It rarely comes into play unless you’ purposely cause trouble. The consequences of death are that you end up near the spot you died and your ammo is replenished.
There is a good and evil system that isn’t really explained. It doesn’t seem to be of use other than telling you when you’re doing bad things. Digital trips are really fun minigames that show off the best of the game’s mechanics but you don’t get rewarded.
The online modes are fun but stressful. I liked Online Racing and Tailing but Hacking is too stressful. It puts you where the target player is currently is in the game. Some places have few places to hide and you have to either wait and set up properly or not bother.
Should you get it?
Watch Dogs isn’t the flagship game of the generation that people hoped. It’s a fun game with good ideas and gameplay but feels like it too a few steps backwards. If you stick with it you can overlook it’s flaws and have a great time. If you’re looking to play another city based sandbox game and you have already played GTA V or Saints Row IV then by all means, you may even thing the game is fantastic. If not then they are the superior games.