Very few people can claim not to be blown away by Watch Dogs when Ubisoft first revealed the game at E3 2012. The footage was so visually stunning that it single-handedly made next-gen consoles worth looking forward to. The entire idea of the whole city being under your control was fascinating and one wondered whether Ubisoft would be able to pull it off.
They have. The game is set in Chicago where the entire city is run by an operating system known as cTOS, and you play as the hacker Aiden Pearce, who has the ability to manipulate this OS. This means, you can make the city your playground. As with most Ubisoft games, there’s a ton of stuff to do in Watch Dogs. The game can be overwhelming early on but as you keep playing you get the hang of all the tools Aiden Pearce has at his disposal.
While the visuals are great it doesn’t match original footage showed by Ubisoft. Not that it is a bad thing, the game looks quite stunning at times but there are also moments where you feel the city is lifeless and dull with a bland colour palette. In some ways, that is to be expected with most open-world games but the expectations were so high from this game that sometimes you feel let down by what you see.
The game has a GTA-like structure where the cops can stand between you and your objective. However, since Aiden is a hacker extraordinaire, you can stop the cops on their tracks by manipulating the street lights, raising bridges or by blocking their route just by using your smartphone. All it takes is a press of a button. This can randomly lead to incredible heart pounding moments as come to terms with the carnage you have just created.
You have the option of ordering vehicles using your smartphone which spawns the vehicle close to you, or you can just steal it. I had some trouble getting used to the handling as most cars felt really stiff to drive. This gets better as you keep playing the game but struggling with the controls is never a good thing. It makes tailing missions or running away from the cops a chore to do. Ubisoft seriously needs to ditch these tailing missions from their open-world games. They are never fun to play.
Speaking of missions, the story missions are divided into various acts. There are a bunch of them here which will take you anywhere about 15-20 hours to complete but if you are going for the 100% completion rate, be prepared to sink a lot of time into the game. Being an open-world game, you can either choose to go all guns blazing or take the stealth route and play with all the tools at your disposal. Trying to attempt different things with your hacking abilities will keep the gameplay fresh and varied.
However, the mission structure isn’t all that impressive and the story doesn’t really hook you in. But who needs all that when the whole city is your playground? Hacking into pedestrians’ smartphones will reveal a lot of things about their lives. It also makes you think twice before mowing them down. This is a nice touch because it makes the city all the more believable.
Watch Dogs shines a lot at nighttime and you get a lot more immersed in the game. This game has beautiful lighting which makes causing blackouts all that more fun. The best part about the game is that you can access multiplayer really easily as it is deeply integrated into the single player mode. You can hack a player and steal their data or get hacked and try frantically to find out who is hacking you. Doling out punishment to hackers can be very satisfying.
You can also use your hacking abilities during an online race giving you an advantage if you time them right. There’s nothing more satisfying than messing with other drivers during a high speed race. There are also other modes at your disposal like Decryption matches. It’s just a fancy name for CTF-type games but with data carriers. There are also optional missions called Digital Trips. One of them gives you access to a Spider-bot with which you can cause wide spread chaos.
There’s a lot of content here and if you don’t mind the slight repetitiveness, this game will keep you busy for many days. However, Watch Dogs could have been better. The hacking mechanic may provide a nice twist but there’s nothing in the game that we haven’t seen before. The skill trees, progression system are all available at your fingertips but it’s not something that can be termed as innovative.
Watch Dogs provides hours of entertainment but it doesn’t really take the open-world genre forward. If you taper down your expectations there’s definitely a lot of fun to be had here.