The city is your playground.
After the disappointment that was Infamous: Second Son, it really looked like the current generation of consoles was going to get off to a start as slow as the previous generation. Enter Watch Dogs; Ubisoft’s answer to Grand Theft Auto, and a more modern version of the Assassins Creed franchise. Watch Dogs is a very unique game that gives the player the ability to hack almost all of their surroundings. This ability is the core game mechanic, and can help you create different paths in missions. All of that being said, Watch Dogs struggles to live up to all of the hype it received prior to its release.
You play as Aiden Pearce, a hacker in the not so distant future that uses the world’s reliance on technology to his advantage. Right off the bat you are thrown into a mission that paves the way for a very serious and complicated story. The world of hackers is very hard to navigate through, and thus Aiden has some problems searching for the people that ruined his and his family’s life. Aiden lets anger get the best of him, and quickly learns that he should be more careful when going about situations. I thought Ubisoft did a very good job at creating the story, but it did not really pick up until Act II, which is 9 missions into the game. It does not do as well as games like The Last of Us, and I don’t really care about the characters.
The city of Chicago is your playground, and the first thing I noticed is that Ubisoft did a very good job of making the city feel alive. The cars in the city are very diverse, and the developers stayed away from the car repeating that takes place in Grand Theft Auto. The people roam around naturally, and each of them have a different bio, occupation, and salary when you scroll over them. There is a lot of content that Ubisoft created, which in the end makes sure certain things do not repeat. The city feels very real, but unfortunately it does not look real. There are many issues regarding textures and graphics, including the road and the smoke. Smoke on cars looks like something out of Grand Theft Auto IV, and the roads look like one texture. The leaves on the roads are also stuck there, which disappoints me.
The game mechanics however are not as great as I thought they would be. The controls are comparable to Assassins creed, where the right trigger is run. I found myself pressing X (or A) to run in certain intense situations and as a result I would take cover. The controls aren’t necessarily bad, but they are just inconvenient. Ubisoft went with a control scheme that gamers may not be used to in an open world game, and it doesn’t really work well. The car mechanics are also a little weird. There is no way to shoot while driving, and the cars feel really heavy. They were going for a “realistic” approach, and I get that, but the cars do not feel anywhere close to any realistic driving game I’ve played.
The game has loads of content, and forces you to do most side missions to unlock the last part of something on your skill tree. I actually really like this approach, as it is much like the unlock system in Call of Duty: Black Ops, which made you play all aspects of the game. This makes you a good player, and even though it may take away from the story, it adds content to the game. Very early on I found myself getting more enjoyment out of stealthily taking out ctOS stations, instead of doing the main missions. These have a Splinter Cell feeling to it, and it is very well done.
Another game mechanic that is widely talked about is the fact that anyone can hop into your game and hack you, at which point you have to find them and stop them. I turned this off very quickly because I don’t like spontaneous competition. The catch here is that if you turn this feature off, you cant play online. If you turn it on to play online, and then turn it off once you get back to single player, you lose all of the unlocks you have in online. Publishers and developers constantly do this, and it is unfair for someone who wants to just play by him or herself to have to suffer.
The uPlay unlocks are also extremely helpful. I am a huge supporter of uPlay, and since I had 140 points I purchased the golden pistol and the stealth car right away. I would recommend doing the same, as it is a big boost to your game. These little side unlocks are what makes Ubisoft games unique, as you can choose what you want to unlock.
Watch Dogs is a great game on the outside, but once you get to know it there are many complications. The story is not compelling, and the developers fail to provide any sort of emotional attachment to the characters. The driving mechanics are also very bland, and can really throw you off when you are in a car chase. Ubisoft also forces a person to play online, which takes away from the experience. All of these negatives take away from the core game, and really disappoints me as a gamer. The game file size is 21 GB, and is really small compared to other games out there. They had so much hard drive space to work with, but unfortunately could not pull off a great game despite the delay. Watch Dogs is not necessarily bad, it is just mediocre, and does not live up to the hype that it received prior to its release.
Positives: Realistic City, Loads of Content, Creative Unlocks
Negatives: Weird Game Mechanics, Mediocre Story, Forced Online
Have you played Watch Dogs? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!