BADGP Reviews: Watch_Dogs

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Zach Buzan

Released: May 27, 2014

When Watch_Dogs was first revealed at E3 2012, the world collectively became excited for the release of the new IP from Ubisoft. The game promised to be a next-gen open world game with extreme, cutting-edge graphics and new gameplay possibilities.  I have been a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed series and I was hoping for a new series that would rival and hopefully be better than its sword wielding brother. After many delays and agonizing amount of waiting the hype train has finally arrived to its station. Watch_Dogs has finally been released. Let us see if the wait was worth it.

Story

The main character you play as is a hacker named Aiden Peirce who recently lost his 6 year old niece in a failed assassination attempt on his life. This event occurs out of game before the main storyline even begins. Since then, Aiden has been searching for the person responsible for the murder and the reason why. Along his path of revenge Aiden will team up with a few characters that will help or hinder him to solve the mystery behind his niece’s death. One of the side characters that the players will meet is another hacker named Clara. She is a punk rock hipster hacker that gives you access to a super computer that controls the whole city called Ctos. Other side characters that Aiden will meet are a hired mercenary named Jordi Chin, and legendary hacker T-Bone. These two characters provide the comic relief in the story and also have some of the best writing in the game. You will meet other characters along the way, but none of them are as interesting or engaging as the characters mentioned before. The whole cast in the Watch_Dogs did a great job at the voice work, but when it came to the writing this is where the games suffers.

After playing many Assassin’s Creed titles from Ubisoft, I was hoping for a huge story with a deep meaning seeded behind it. I was hoping Watch_Dogs would bring up arguments about the use of technology versus freedom of the individual. I was also waiting for the game to bring up conflicts about using spyware to bring down criminals in a society. However none of these issues were addressed but only commented in a few sentences. The avoidance of these common conflicts would not have bothered me as much if the actual storyline was good. At best the story is okay and the reason behind the whole game makes you want to throw the disk off a tall building. The ending also made me quite upset. Instead of a complete ending with decent closure to Aiden’s story we are left with a huge reference to a sequel. After all is said and done I felt that the story of Watch_Dogs was more of a prequel to something better.

Watch_Dogs

Gameplay

The gameplay in Watch_Dogs picks up the slack where the story fails. With the ability to use a super computer to assist you throughout the game’s missions and quests you are able to complete the game in a variety of ways. The Ctos game mechanic brings a fresh new way at observing your surroundings and taking down enemies. From tagging enemies through security cameras or activating grenades on random enemies Watchdogs gives the player a plethora of choices in how to engage a threat. Whether you want to enter the area with guns blazing or cleverly hack systems and take out the enemies before you even enter the perimeter is all up to you.

Even though Aiden is a hacker and is given many different weapons to use he is actually a fragile character. Many times I found myself killed by a headshot or in an instant when a few enemies found me. Since Aiden is so prone to bullets and refuses to wear body armor you will need to be more on the stealthy side. The stealth mechanics in this game are done very well and can easily be used. With the press of a button Aiden will crouch next to an item of cover of your choice. This game also features a cover-to-cover mechanic which allows your character to stealthily run from one cover to the next with one button press.

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Outside of combat, Aiden has many different side quests that he can perform. One of these activities is unlocking Ctos towers. This is much like radio towers in Far Cry 3 in which once you unlock them they will unlock side activities that you can now perform. To unlock these towers you will need to hack them but before you can do that you will need to solve a small puzzle. These puzzles usually deal with hacking cameras to find an electrical box to unlock the door guarding the tower. Other quests such as gang hideouts are more entertaining and are one of the best side missions you can complete. These missions involve you sneaking into an area and silently knocking out the commanders. These missions bring out the true spirit of the game by forcing you to use your items, weapons and phone to beat these missions.

Another item that Ubisoft hyped was the game’s multiplayer. Now I will admit that I really enjoyed the multiplayer and how it was used. Watch_Dogs’ multiplayer blended very well into the single payer story mode. At any time you can be asked to perform a contract, which is a multiplayer session, or be hacked by a player. This really appealed to me because it gave me the feeling that I was never alone and gave me something else to do. From car races, hacking, trailing, free roam and decryption matches you are given many different modes to play. The game also gives you the ability to turn off the multiplayer if at any point you don’t feel like playing with anyone else.

Watch_Dogs gives you a ton of things to do, but with that quantity there is a lack of quality.  A lot of the time you will be doing the same type of mission over and over. This is alright for some missions that give you many options to in how to complete the task, but not for most of them. One example is the Potential Crime side missions. These missions end up doing the same thing over and over where it will end with a chase sequence. This is fun for a few times but after a while you will wish the AI will do something different.

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Look and Sound  

Ubisoft does a fantastic job at recreating a living and breathing world for you to explore. Everywhere you look you will find NPCs about their lives talking with each other or doing random activities. Unlike the usual NPCs that I have seen in open world games these characters actually have impressive animations and usually have different sayings. Throughout the 25 plus hours that I have placed in this game, I only heard a couple of phrases repeated. Another thing that was small but made a big difference was the small descriptions that the Ctos system gave you for each person you come across.  This was a small add into the game but it gave the people in the city some character. The look of the game feels pretty much the same with a little diversity. For most of the game you are placed in the city of Chicago with an urban environment. There is a chapter where you head to a small rural area known as Pawnee but it was really short. In the daytime the game looks alright graphically but it is nothing to get excited about. When you play at night is when the game really shines. With all of the lights from the moon, buildings, cars and signs the game really flexes its lighting graphics and impressed me a few times as I was playing.

The soundtrack to Watch_Dogs was really interesting. The game starts you off with only a certain amount of tracks that you are capable of listening to, but you have an app that allows you to steal more songs from other characters and shops.  The tracks themselves did not stand out to well in the game but the musical score that was made for the game was really good. Another issue that I had with the music tracks from Watch_Dogs is the music came in a playlist fashion. The game never gave you any stations to listen to while driving in the cars. I usually spent my time just skipping songs as I was driving my way to the next location.

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Verdict

Despite what others are saying about this game I actually enjoyed my time with this new IP. Is it the best open world game no, but it is also not the worst. The game incorporates a new hacking system that gave me more choices and new ways to interact with the environment. I also liked the new trend of mixing multiplayer and single player experiences. This gave me extra events to work on and gave some variety of challenges and difficulty. The stealth and gun mechanics are really strong and I never got angry with the controls during combat. Watch_Dogs will be no game of the year, but it shows a ton of promise on what we could see in the next installment. Hopefully, Ubisoft will listen to its fans carefully and bring us a sequel that is bigger and even better.

Score:

6.5 out of 10

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