Watch Dogs was easily one of the most anticipation “next gen” games, especially after the amount of hype, impeccable graphics in their E3 2012 teaser and advertised new and interesting gameplay.
Watch Dogs is an action open world game which follows Aiden Pearce, a hacker who takes on the role of a mass vigilante avenging his niece’s (Lena’s) death after a “hit” on him went terribly wrong. He must protect his sister Nicole and nephew Jackson whilst bringing justice to the people responsible and meet other hackers on the way. You can either choose to have a good reputation or bad through decisions and actions you make within the game. If you have a bad reputation, then more people are likely to call the police if they see you. A skill tree is also in place to gain access to new hacking features, combat moves, increased weapon speed and increased focus.
The game takes place in Chicago, Illinois in a time after the real event of the Northeast Blackout of 2003 when a hacker caused a blackout which affected a lot of the Northeast of North America. Blume Corporations developed the CenTral Operating System (CTOS) which became a system which linked all security cameras, traffic lights, road obstacles, police and public information. Hackers, including the main protagonist Pearce use this to their advantage and hacking is one of the main features in the game.
As soon as I decided to get a PS4, I knew that Watch Dogs would be one of the first games that I got. I had heard a lot about it and thought that it would be a good game to experience “next gen”.
The game is available on many devices, supporting both old and new with PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and of course PC. It is developed by Ubisoft Montreal and subsequently published by Ubisoft also. It has had a variety of controversy including the reports of reporters being “bribed” with free tablets and downgraded graphics. A modder found a hidden file within the PC version of the game and when enabled, the graphics shown in the original trailer are available with little performance change. Why did Ubisoft do this? No one really knows for sure. Have a look at the difference for yourself. I personally don’t think the change is huge.
One of the first things I noticed was that the storyline was generally good. It was pretty basic with cliché characters however; it did make me feel some emotions and kept me wanting to continue the storyline especially towards the end. The missions are pretty varied for the most part using all features within the game including hacking, driving and shooting. One thing that kept annoying me however was the death/respawn system. You would be playing through a mission and preparing for the next section by coming from a certain direction, surveying the area for enemies and you think everything is merry but as soon as you die it all goes wrong. You respawn in a place which has been hard coded by the developers so you have to completely change your plan which makes it much harder. It felt restricting. I want to play the game how I want to, not where the developers decide to place me.
The most surprising element which made me disappointed was the biggest feature in the game, the hacking. During the first few missions of the game, I was trying to completely use the hacking and stealth to complete it however, this is not possible. I was very confused as I thought naturally, the missions would have been designed around this key feature but they weren’t. Most of the time, missions were completed faster and easier not using hacking or stealth at all which ruins the game personally for me. If you’re going to develop a flexible feature such as hacking, you should plan the missions around this or else, it’s just pointless. One instance when I did find hacking useful was during car chases. You use it A LOT to takedown enemy vehicles and avoid police but other than that, it feels like a pointless feature although plunging the city into a blackout and looking at the citizen’s information is fun. I was pleasantly surprised at how detailed it was, if you look at a character and their occupation is “Gardening” then you will actually see them gardening. It makes it feel more real and shows that at least a little effort was made.
Although not a big feature or point, the weapons system was a little confusing. I never found myself having the need to buy either weapons or ammo at all… new weapons could be easily picked up from dead enemies and I never found myself low on ammo. Not entirely sure what was happening with this to be honest.
The graphics look okay but they aren’t exactly a spectacle. The game visually does look good and the colours are vivid, textures are high quality and the lighting is what I would expect by now. There are some features like the rain which does look slightly better with the puddles and umm… that’s about it. Probably the best visual characteristic is the world itself. I believe that the map is the perfect size, bigger is not always better (*cough* GTA V *cough*). The game features many different styles of areas to nice suburban, not so nice suburban, hills, parks, industrial and finally the main city in the middle. Each place gives you different types of people and different crime rates which are very believable. Every location is a good size and you don’t feel like you are driving around massively. Fast travel spots are also in place which I always appreciate.
Overall, I really enjoyed Watch Dogs. It took me a while to complete as I found it hard at the beginning relying completely on hacking but once I realised that you don’t necessarily have to use it, it became much easier and I found the story get better also. I think doing just the storyline, you could get around 15-20 hours on the game but there are many other things to do just as stop crimes, contracts, intrudes, get rid of gang hideouts and the integrated multiplayer. I would recommend someone to get, especially seeing that it’s a lot cheaper now.
It did make me wonder what the world would be like if it followed a similar system to CTOS and honestly, I don’t think we are far from doing so.
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