Cast your mind back 2 years to E3 2012. You might remember that Ubisoft Montreal unveiled its brand new project called Watch Dogs. It boasted some incredible visuals and offered the freedom to control a whole world with just a smartphone. The hype generated was intense with gamers all over the world looking forward to the following year where they’d get the chance to play Watch Dogs. E3 2013 rolls around and Ubisoft dangle more of its new and unique IP in front of gamers. The hype further intensifies. Then there was the huge delay to avoid the GTA V release date polish the game. Fast forward to today and here we are with a review.
Watch Dogs is based in the windy city of Chicago and puts you in the perspective of vigilante Aidan Peirce. The whole of Chicago is controlled by a system called CtOS, a system designed manage all of Chicago’s needs. It’s through the vulnerabilities of CtOS that Aidan can manipulate Chicago to his own needs. The game sets you off at a “rich people party” where Aidan is pilfering accounts with his smartphone. Things go wrong quickly which, to cut to the chase, ends up with his niece killed in a tragic accident. The death of his niece is what fuels Aidan’s desire to get back at the killer’s sets the premise for the game. The story is well written and is fairly deep, and has the ability to pull on your heartstrings a little, which aided by some brilliant character design, which in turn makes the story a little more believable. A personal favourite is Jordi, who brings some brilliantly timed dark humour to the game. The story is long too and spans five “acts”, with each act consisting of at least 7 missions for the most part.
It’s also incredibly easy to be distracted from the story with the large amount of content tucked away underneath that story. For starters, the Watch Dogs version of Chicago is fairly large, especially with the amount of hacking you can do, making the map seem even larger than it really is. Chicago is also littered with tons of collectables which can easily keep you entertained for hours trying to find them all. The game also likes to fire side missions at you a fair amount while you’re not playing through the campaign. It can be a little irritating, but if you want the break from the flow, then it’s an easy way to get into the side missions.
Of course the most important element of Watch Dogs is the hacking. It works, and it works well. It was a slight worry I had that the game had been built and then the hacking had been tacked on top, however Watch Dogs was very quick to extinguish this. It’s easy to tell that the game was built entirely around the concept of hacking. It’s incredibly intuitive and feels natural, which is large feat considering a lot of people who’ll be playing this will know little about hacking. Ubisoft cleverly rebuilt Chicago to be the ultimate hacking playground and it feels great to have the power to control the entire city.
With a city so big, there
Mission-wise, Watch Dogs manages to sustain just enough variety to keep itself interesting. The game will swing from car chases to infiltrations to just outright killing a specific person or group of people. It’s fun for the most part, if a little repetitive in places, and links in well with the story. You don’t really find yourself thinking “what am I doing this for?” which is plus point in a generation of games where mindless killing seems to be the norm. The least fun in terms of missions is the times where you can insta-fail. This is particularly noticeable in sneaking missions where if you get just a little too close then everything goes wrong very quickly.
Progression is rewarded through skill points which you get every time you level up. These lead to skill unlocks, including more hacks, and weapon and vehicle unlocks. Saying that, the only reward you get for completing missions is some experience points. You have to go out and find money by jumping into cars or by hacking people’s bank accounts. It’s actually pretty easy to do and isn’t as much of ball ache as GTA Online. Car unlocks don’t feel like progression however, with the game opting for a “if you find it, it’s unlocked” attitude which kills the fun of gaining better cars for yourself as you play through.
From a visual aspect, Watch Dogs looks stunning. Ubisoft is setting the bar in terms of “next-gen” graphics, especially in quality. It’s a little grey and dark in places, but the bright colours contrast beautifully against the darkness and look visually pleasant. It’s not GTA V levels of bright but at the same time it’s not GTA IV levels of grey.
There is one underlying thing though underpinning the whole game though. This is the fact that Watch Dogs feels like a modern day version of Assassin’s Creed. Thankfully it’s more like Assassin’s Creed 4, but you can’t help but feel as though Ubisoft Montreal could have tried to do something entirely unique for their new IP. Saying that though, Watch Dogs doesn’t feel broken as a game, so you can somewhat thankful that it’s based off a working game.
Watch Dogs is a great game and you’ll get a decent amount of enjoyment out of it. It terms of sandbox game competitors, Watch Dogs is no match for GTA V. Watch Dogs just feels average as a game. It’s a great experience with a well written story and looks great, but the fact that it feels like just another AC game and its various annoyances stop this from being the “Game of the Year” material this game really ought to have been.