So I have recently finished playing Watch Dogs and I thought it was about time I wrote another review. I’m not normally one for open-world third-person shooters or any 3rd person game for that matter but upon it’s release the game received a lot of hype so I thought it was about time I gave it a crack.
Watch Dogs follows a vigilante named Aiden Pearce as he embarks on a quest to discover who is responsible for the death of his niece. Using a hacked version of an advanced security system called ctOS (Chicago’s Central Operating System) he is able to access all manner of devices, ranging from CCTV to the camera in someone’s laptop. As a player you will hack your way into a vast array of intricate computer systems, control city bridges, deactivate public service vehicles, smash, crash and blast through enemy hotspots and become indulged into a exhilarating narrative. Anything with a computer chip is yours to use to your advantage. It will open your eyes to what you do in day-to-day life. Never again will I feel safe sitting in front of my laptop or phone front camera. Ubisoft brings us the characteristics of Assassins Creed and combines it with the freedom of Far Cry to create something the company has never attempted before. It’s very own Grand Theft Auto. As I said before, I’m not this genre’s biggest fan, particularly GTA but I must say this game offered me some unforgettable moments.
To begin with, the narrative isn’t the strongest, in fact it’s pretty dull and repetitive (classic Ubisoft, right?), but as time progresses, you as a player will connect with the characters and crave more. As each act goes on, they get shorter and more intense which really produces a need to complete the story. The game has a way of making the player become immersed in the characters’ world. In many instances I thought I was playing a True Crime/The Getaway crossover, except with a lot more freedom. The open world that Ubisoft has created is pretty dashing and detailed to say the least. It is full to the brim with striking landscapes and structures that will make you stare in awe but the beauty doesn’t stop there. For me, the real hidden beauty in this game was the driving experience, every time I found myself being pursued by the police or enemy gangs, every timed side mission, my heart was racing (if you’ll pardon the pun). The game delivered consequence. For instance, plowing down an innocent civilian will damage your reputation amongst the city people so this provided a difficult challenge. One must be able to drive at adrenaline inducing speeds but also be able to control it. I throughly enjoyed every mission that involved a pursuit, I even found myself drifting around the city just for fun. However, the default camera angle whilst driving isn’t locked or ‘active’ so the view you have can vary, particularly when making sharp turns which makes driving when being pursued frustrating to say the least. It’s pretty impossible to escape police when the camera is looking at the side or front of your vehicle and despite the amount of vehicles available to drive, there isn’t any that can fly and that was a real disappointment for me.
Another great feature that oozed uniqueness was the aspect of hacking. Hacking cameras to scout gang hideouts, listening to civilian phone calls, setting off grenades attached to your enemies, changing the colour of traffic lights, blowing up various parts of buildings, the list goes on and all of this power is at your fingertips. Thanks to the power of ctOS you can even profile civilians which will present you with their name, income, age and a fact about them. All of it utterly useless but the attention to detail was impressive indeed.
Upon completing the main storyline there is a vast array of side missions to complete that offer some bountiful rewards like skill points, cash and of course the well-deserved achievement. However, there was little motivation to complete these unless you are achievement driven like me. Cash almost seemed a pointless commodity, it could only be used to purchase cars, guns & ammo and components for crafting. All of which could be found on the street. The introduction of cash was almost unnecessary. Skill points on the other hand, were much more valuable. It allowed for customisation of your characteristics, you could specialise in what interested you, be it driving, crafting, combat or hacking. Bet you can’t you guess what mine was…
If you need a life and choose to complete all the mini games and side quests like I did, you will soon find that the game really doesn’t have that much replayability. Once you’ve seen the twists and have experienced the story once, there really is little urge to go back and play it a second time around. But Watch Dogs will not be forgotten. It portrays a scarily realistic and believable dystopian future. One where hacking is the real weapon. Perhaps a world that is getting larger on the horizon as each day passes. It probably won’t be long before SkyNet appear either…
In true Ubisoft fashion, Watch Dogs will present the player with a hours of fun. With hundreds of vehicles to drive, a great variation of side quests and collectibles, some gripping key moments and some very tense situations. Although the game was over-hyped, it’s still a great experience and despite it’s weak narrative, the game made up for it in other areas. Like the huge hacking playground that it presented us with.