A game that has been in the minds of gamers since first revealed at E3 in 2012, Watch Dogs by Ubisoft is one of those titles that everyone has wanted to see, but also has been slightly afraid that it will be a copycat of something else. Watch Dogs is what every executive looking was looking for to see what would have their next gen console look great. A city in amazing detail and fluidity showcasing the power of their wares being pushed to the masses. Watch Dogs is in fact its own game and lays out all of its cards on the table to convince you that you will enjoy what is in front of you.
You will play Watch Dogs as Aiden Pierce, a hacker with some very good skills at being what it is that he does. You start off with a bit of a trailer showing how things are set up and then quickly being given the reason as to why you are looking for those out there in the beautifully detailed city of Chicago. You have lost your niece in a very not apparent accident and you have some answers you need to have fulfilled. While not getting too much into the story, because you know, that ruins it and all, the tasks at hand as you move through the game generally progress from easy to harder making for a very nice progression of game play. And on top of it, the main storyline is not a short one so be prepared for a fairly decent set of gameplay. One of the things though we found a bit hard to deal with was that Aiden seemed a bit “meh...got things to do-ish today”. While not bad, you didn’t get that feel that you were hoping he would get what it was he wanted. This could be though just from the way he was presented in the game and that it can be hard to get a protagonist in someones feelings. It’s not bad. It’s also not super good.
While you are making your way through the wonderfully populated city, you will have many things at your disposal. This is somewhat in the future and the city of Chicago is entirely controlled now through a security system entitled ctOS. As with anything these days, if there is some sort of vulnerability and/or has an IP address, you can expect to be able to get into it. As a software developer myself, you are always looking for ways to make sure your code is rock solid. Sadly though, it is never the case and there are always ways to get around what you thought was totally bulletproof. Because the city is controlled by ctOS, you are able to hack into many things to use to your advantage. You can stop the L-Train as it is coming towards you or if you want to stop those pesky police chasing you because you’ve been causing a bit of havoc, why not raise a bridge as you cross it locking off your pursuers. Or if want to make things super difficult, set off an electrical blackout in the district you’re in. This makes it difficult for anyone following you to use the cities integrated camera system to track you. Be wary though, when you cause a blackout, you also deny yourself some of these abilities as well.
All of these wonderful features that you have are completely available to you via your fingertips because cell phones in the near future are super rad. As mentioned above, you can do a variety of things within the city, but you can also eavesdrop on hackable routers found throughout the city. This will get you inside of the lives of people through simple minigames to connect all of the little digital wires needed to make your video feed that you want access through come through. You will view a variety of things ranging from people doing workouts in front of their televisions to those fornicating and spying on each other. This is after all a M rated game. The game doesn’t throw the “M” in there because it can, it’s just what is in fact people and what they do in life. Albeit some of it is behind closed doors, Watch Dogs allows you to get an idea in that if it can be hacked, you can be seen. This is all connected together quite well and if anything, Ubisoft had to have had a lot of network consultants and system administrators on hand to build out a fictional network across a city to make everything feel as if it is truly all interconnected.
As we have been mentioning, the game really does look beautiful. Everything seems to flow well, is connected well, and from what I know of friends who are from Chicago have said “Well damn, that looks like home.” This should be a big compliment to the designers and the rest of the team because to us, they hit a homerun there. Each of the citizens within the game is doing their own thing on their own, hackable mind you, devices. You can listen in on their phone calls and monitor their chat conversations. Or, if you are lucky, go ahead and scrape away some cash from their bank accounts. This lets you head over to the ATM and collect those sweet rewards allowing you to buy all the guns, ammo, electronic accessories, and chemicals for wielding at your opponents within the game. The city of course is on a proper 24 hour cycle so you will move from night to day and back again allowing you to get a feel for the way the shadows and feel of the day and night move about. Add in some rain and you have something quite magical.
With all of the main story missions that you can do, there is of course a ton of side missions that can take place. You are in a huge city afterall. These can range from criminal convoy disruption, game hideout cleansing, street racing, and of course just stopping general crimes as they occur. All of this is easily found through the city and you get appropriate notifications in a not so intrusive way with an indication popping up in the upper right hand corner. As you progress through the game you earn skill points that allow you to increase your hacking skills, driving skills, and weapon skills. Aiden’s ability to shoot things is well done and you have a good cover system allowing you to hide behind various obstacles. There are times that while playing the game you truly don’t feel like you are going to pass a level, especially when you have some well armored individuals trying to smear your brain over the concrete with a well placed bullet. The focus feature of the game slows down time tremendously allowing you to get those really well placed shots and if you’re trying to escape in your vehicle of choice, squeeze through those tight spots allowing you to get by squeaky clean.
You will find yourself over time wanting to do a little bit more. This is where the nearly seamless introduction of online multiplayer comes into play. You can do a variety of things ranging from missions to a sort of king of the hill mode with up to 8 players trying to maintain control over a file as it is being hacked. The ones that you will most likely find happening the most are the tailing features in which you will tail another player gathering information about how they do their things. Which is quite fun because the other player will be notified and will begin to look for you. This of course can also happen to you provided you have the settings set up in the options menu and before you know it when you are not missioning, you will be alerted someone is tailing you and you need to find them. The other one is the online hacking mode in which you, or infuriatingly awesome, someone connects to you has to install a backdoor on your phone and then remain out of sight while the victim is given a timer showing their date is being hacked and they have to find you and then kill you. This is both fun and os frustrating at the same time because you can be going about your business and then you are suddenly notified you are being hacked. You have a countdown bar showing how much of our data is being stolen and a radius on the map that gets smaller helping you narrow in on who is hacking you. This of course gets harder and harder as you progress up the chain and gain experience. Over time, especially when we were on before the game was released, we would see the same person over and over again. In general it is totally fun to do it to someone, but also sucks to have an uninvited backdoor intrusion.
In general this is a really well done game and I have hopes there will be a sequel to it. There has to be on a title like this. It will become more polished and in the end you won’t get the numerous “oh..it’s just a GTA clone”. Well you’re going to get that over time because Rockstar was the first to do it well, but that doesn’t mean they need to be the only player. Expect various DLC content to be made available and other items to be released in the future. If you are looking for something to flex the muscle of your new console, or not so new, Watch Dogs is going to be the game for you with hours upon hours of great fun and action.
4 out of 5 Widows