Watch Dogs Review
When you hear the term “hacker”, what is the first thing to come to mind? Is it the stereotypical loner who stays locked up in a dark room filled with tons of electronics? Or possibly the romanticized vison of a vigilante working their way into corparate systems to bring some form of justice to the people? Ubisoft’s Watch_Dogs follows the adept hacker, Aiden Pearce, as he tries to find the ones who messed with his family. Does it set the bar higher with its added hacking mechanics for those who enjoy open world titles such as the GTA series? Or did that delay last year hurt the title more than it helped?
Aiden Pearce is not a man you want to mess with. What starts as a seemingly routine hacking job turns into a nightmare for Aiden and those who are close to him. Close to a year later, Aiden is tracking down those involved in the death of his niece. But whoever it is behind the madness isn’t making things easy for Aiden. Not everyone you meet is who they seem and you’re always best keeping an eye out for anyone who might want to prevent you from getting the answers Aiden needs.
Set in a near future version of Chicago, technology has its grasp on every person, building, and service. This could possibly be what our future holds. But this is the story of Aiden Pearce, a hacker with a grim past, and how he uses the omnipresent technology to hack his way into the ctOS system and uncover the ones responsible for the killing his niece. The supporting cast compliment Aiden’s personality somewhat. I actually found myself liking the mysterious ‘badboy17′ and Jordi Chin more than Aiden. The story isn’t the best written one I’ve seen but it does help aid in allowing one to get a grasp on why Aiden is the way he is.
Though the game puts a lot of emphasis on it, the hacking feature is one that sounded promising but really felt lacking. Your phone holds the power to hack into the bank accounts of the NPCs, access cameras to get a better vantage point, and mess with items such as lifts and pipes. With the ability to hack, you might think that you can play through the game without ever firing a gun. Sadly, this is not possible as the beginning moments have you aiming your gun at the first bloodied guy you see in the game. Granted, your gun is unloaded and this appears to be more of a scare tactic (though, I wouldn’t doubt that Aiden wouldn’t be too upset if he had killed the guy). Even if you try to go as stealthy as possible, the police and enemies within the game are very pro-gun and trigger happy.
Drawing your weapon (or items used to jam communications and such) is as easy as bringing up the weapon wheel via the L1 button. L2 aims the gun and R2 is what you use to pull the trigger. The items used for jamming communications as well as frag grenades can be crafted by pressing the Triangle button. And those who want to use the traffic lights and blockers to their advantage just need to press and hold the Square button.
When you’re not ‘hacking’ into unsuspecting NPC’s bank accounts or trying to connect the dots to who was behind the order that ultimately killed Aiden’s niece, you got the whole city to explore. Littered across the map are different city hotspots, mini-games, and collectibles. Hacking into the ctOS towers is a must as they store the information of the citizens if their respective area and until they are unlocked, Aiden’s phone cannot view or hack into anyone’s data.
Overall, the driving mechanics are fairly good depending on how you prefer to drive. When i first started, I felt that the handling was a little stiff. But once I got into the swing of things, it was easy to drive. All vehicles, land and water, can be obtain either by hopping into one, purchasing one via your phone, or earning one by completing some side missions. There are over 65 different vehicles, ranging from budget cars to the more exotic cars, so you have plenty of options.
Going by the screenshots and videos I have seen of the PS4/Xbox One/PC versions, I can say that playing Watch_Dogs on those is the way to go if you’re a sucker for gorgeous graphics. As I played the PS3 version, I still was impressed with the graphics though you could tell that they did not have the same polish as the newest generation of consoles. If you plan on picking this game up and have to choose between the PS4/Xbox One and PS3/Xbox 360 versions, then you will be best off choosing for the newest consoles.
One thing that I always like in open world games such as Watch_Dogs and GTA is the soundtrack. Usually, the selection of songs guarantees that there will be a few of my favorites and the promise of new favorites with songs that I might have never heard before. I have to admit that though I wasn’t too excited by the selection of songs, it’s not too bad and there are some really good ones on there. As for the choices in the voice actors, most felt like a decent fit though Aiden’s deep voice did throw me off.
There is no separate online mode for Watch_Dogs, unless you include the mobile app that lets you send challenges to your friends and random strangers online. Invasions can happen at any time that you are not within a mission. They can be a pain in the arse if they occur during times that you are trying to breach the ctOS towers. Most times that your game is invaded by another player, you won’t notice until you are informed that they are hacking your data (luckily, it’s not real hacking). Unless you got a keen eye or happen to spot a NPC acting out of sorts. When you go to invade someone’s game yourself, there is usually a short wait time (for me, it was always an average of 2 to 5 minutes). There is also an eight-player free-roam mode in which you can take part in races.
Expect to put in an average of 20 to 30 hours to complete the main story. This could be more or less depending on if you get sidetracked by the optional and online missions. Once you beat the main story, you can continue playing. But be warned if you decide to start a new game as Watch_Dogs does not support multiple save files. This means that once you start a new file, your old one is deleted and all progress you made, offline and online, is lost.
When Watch_Dogs first released, many players had some issues with Ubisoft’s Uplay service not allowing them to play it on their PC. Since then, the issues have been addressed and don’t appear to plague as many gamers. While I played Watch_Dogs on the PS3, I can assume that a few of the little issues that popped up for me might occur for others no matter which version they went with and don’t really detract from the experience.
Watch_Dogs is a good game but for those who expected it to offer a better experience than GTA, you will be disappointed. The potential is there. It’s just not fully utilized. That said, for a new IP, Watch_Dogs does deliver on giving gamers a good time and I wouldn’t mind seeing another entry as long as it has more hacking involved.
|Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, PS3 (reviewed)|
Release Date: May 27, 2014
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
ESRB Rating: M for Mature