From an exciting launch title to one of the most anticipated games of this year, Watch_Dogs has been well in the public eye for 2 years now. Ubisoft haven't held back on publicity, with trailers, interviews, press releases and press conferences as far as the eye can see. But has this hype hurt Watch_Dogs? Read on for more...
Age Rating: 18 (PEGI)
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Wii U (At a later date)
In Watch_Dogs, your phone is your weapon, and it's not for posting hate comments on a YouTube channel. No, it's for hacking into the city of Chicago's infrastructure and controlling many of the Chicago's functions. Starting and stopping trains, raising bollards, hacking security cameras and even profiling citizens is all in your power, and it's a great feeling. Trying to invade a CTOS base with no way in? Use your phone to control a CCTV camera, and then find a pipe to explode as a distraction. Being chased by numerous police cars? Change the traffic lights and cause a pileup to hinder your enemies. Everything in the game can be solved somehow by hacking, but it can also be solved with guns. Still, the former way feels more rewarding than the latter, and is encouraged a lot in the campaign.
Speaking of the campaign, the difficulty of it is absolutely spot on, which is great, considering that there's only one option. I found myself dying many times in the campaign, but the levels were definitely completable, and are just a case of trial and error. There are often multiple ways to finish a level, and that alone turns the campaign into an essential part of the Watch_Dogs game. For me, it lasted about 40 hours, which is an amazing amount for just the "linear" story parts of the game, and with 100 hours of total gameplay, Watch_Dogs should keep you happily on your sofa until Sniper Elite 3 comes out.
Just like the campaign, the side missions are also pretty non-linear, ranging from Fixer Contracts, in which you have to deliver a certain amount of cars to different places under a time limit (Which is a hoot to play with a backseat gamer) to CTos Towers, which are basically huge puzzles where you find out how to get to a certain computer by manipulating platforms, bridges and cameras. None of the side missions feel like they were thrown in for the sake of it, and that's why Watch Dogs is so appealing and long lasting.
Sadly, even though the campaign is good, I can't say the same about the story. You play as Aiden Pearce, a hacker who was caught trying to steal from the Merlaut Hotel, and had his niece hunted down and killed. Then, his old partner Damien Brenks kidnaps his sister, and orders Pearce to find out the source of an IP address if he wants her back. It's basically a less interesting version of Red Dead Redemption's story. Aiden is also a pretty unappealing character, a boring mix between a brooding Batman and John "I just want to save my fanily" Marston. That's the case with many of the story's characters, but Jordi Chin, an eccentric hitman who's a dab hand at making one liners, and Bedbug, a gangster blackmailed by Aiden, are the most appealing and comical.
Except for Chin and Bedbug, the story is a pretty serious one, which I wouldn't recommend doing if you're making an open world game. GTA V encouraged mayhem and craziness while you were running around the city, but Watch Dogs' story just seems to want you to hack certain places while dealing the least amount of damage possible, a decision that makes the game dull at some points.
Still, Chicago is a great place to have fun in, is about the size of Red Dead Redemption and GTA IV's map. Still, unlike the other two, Chicago is dense, which oppurtunities for side missions, minigames and just plain fun lying around every corner. No part of Chicago is barren or boring in Watch_Dogs, meaning that the city is practically your playground, since you're controlling most aspects of it. The fact that every citizen expect yourself is profilable means that you can have endless fun just checking out Chicago's citizens' darkest secrets. From clown fetishists to street preachers, the citizen's of Chicago are diverse, and it's possible to see them going about their daily lives, if you follow them.
Because I own the last-gen version of Watch Dogs, I'm unable to review the multiplayer modes, although I can still review the Online Hacking portion of the game, where you can invade people's games and try to steal their data. I've never successfully hacked anyone, but the pulse-raising tension of it is a great part of Watch Dogs, and is something that I've gone back to a lot over the past couple days. I will still say that the most fun portion of the game, though, is the Digital Trips mode, where you can get high on data and take control of huge spider tanks, bounce on top of huge flowers, drive a devil car and hide from robots that have taken over the city. These are the modes where Watch Dogs becomes less serious, which is just what it needs.
Another thing that last gen players have missed out on is graphics and performance. While the PS4 and Xbox One versions of Watch Dogs are stunning to say the least, Watch Dogs' are worse than GTA V's, and has a pretty bad draw distance, with cars and textures popping in frequently. The performance is also pretty bad, with huge framerate drops when I use a grenade launcher, and only 20fps when driving really makes the car chases fiddly and frustrating, along with the GTA IV esque "ice-rink" driving.
To me, Watch Dogs is game that never seems to skimp on quality in terms of gameplay. The side missions are compelling and finished, the campaign is non-linear and the Online Hacking never frequently interrupts the game. It's a compelling game that will keep you playing for months, but the next gen version is a better bet, with it's free roam multiplayer and better graphics. On next gen, Watch_Dogs is near perfect, but on Last Gen, the graphics are shameful, and the performance can really ruin the game and missions. Still, even though Watch_Dogs isn't quite Game Of The Year material, it's still a great game that deserves to be on your shelf.