One of this years highly anticipated games, Watch Dogs from Ubisoft, has finally dropped on the scene. Before jumping into the review please note that I played my copy on the PS4 and while I intend to attempt some multiplayer there have been issues with Ubisofts UPlay servers since the games release and I have been unable to avail myself of the experience.
Watch Dogs’ story is handled excellently. From the emotional tug regarding the reason for the game in the first place to the interactions Aiden Pearce, the main character, has with those around him. Dealing with the environment of this futuristic Chicago is nice, and I’ll touch on that later, but through the campaign storyline you really get a feel for Aidens motivation and I found myself right there with him. Whether his choices are moral or not, and how he completes his “mission” is up to you the player to decide, and it makes for some interesting moments during the scripted play. Overall the story seems interesting and pulls me in to find out more.
Watch Dogs version of Chicago is beautiful, and I’m not just saying that because I grew up in Chicago suburbia. The city is visually stunning and the attention to details is magnificent. From the Sears Tower (I refuse to call it Willis Tower) to the L Train Ubisoft took great care to get the city as close to the real thing as they could while also adding in a bit of flair for the futuristic ctOS system and of course avoiding outright copying a couple of locations they couldn’t use for one reason or another. The city comes to life around you and is most stunning at night and during the rain in my opinion, as that is when the visuals really seem to pop for me.
The audio in this game is pretty awesome too, whether you are listening in on someones conversation, or just driving around listening to the radio. The songs you have unlocked from the beginning are fairly random, but cool, and through hacking you can unlock more songs as you go along, literally swiping the mp3s from other peoples phones. Being hacked into the system also allows you to hear the police broadband while entangling with them, which can help you to avoid them or get around them fairly well. The city is bustling around you, and you won’t continually hear the same thing over and over again. It makes Chicago feel real as you play through and I for one love it.
For a game focused on hacking into the system obviously the first thing to talk about is the hacking mechanic. In the case of this game while it can seem a bit repetitive at first the farther you go in unlocking new skills you find yourself with a wide array of abilities to work with which is perfect. My favorite missions so far come in the form of out and out stealth hacking missions. I love the fact that I can sit outside in my car while taking over cameras, even those on enemies, and bounce around an area to hack into a system to retrieve data while causing chaos and explosions around the enemies just for fun. When you have to resort to violence though the gun play is fairly standard with hiding behind stuff to avoid fire while popping out to take a shot. The AI isn’t too smart where they know your every move if you avoid their range of sight, but they are smart enough that you can’t run under a spotlight and not be detected. You have to play smart to take them out or get around them. My only problems with the game so far have come in a couple missions where you start a section cornered and surrounded and you have to fight or escape. Escaping can be near impossible while fighting seems hopeless when you are getting hit from all sides. Its an annoyance, but not an inescapable one.
Driving is also fairly standard fair, with hacking allowing you to mess with the traffic lights, garage doors, blockades and spikes in order to assist your escape from whomever is trying to chase you, or stop who you are chasing. Interacting with the civilians in the game is interesting to as you can walk around in an area while your phone gives you a detailed rundown of the people around you and, if you have the right skills, allows you to hack the best targets for money, hacking supplies or information. The experience outside of the campaign in the side missions can also be fun as you play through several mini-games, such as taking down gang leaders or taking out other hackers, and you can mix them up so things don’t get stale. There is a lot to offer going in to avoid getting bored and honestly I find myself frustrated at my failure more than anything and I can’t blame the game for that… completely, lol.
When it comes right down to it, I love this game. Would I change a few things about it, sure, but the things I don’t feel comfortable with I can see others finding the positive side of. I know right out of the gate this game has been getting reviews all over the place as people go into the game expecting a GTA with hacking, and this is not that game. Go in expecting things to be a little more real, a little more human, and you won’t be disappointed. While the game play has its moments and could use some fine tuning, overall it is still a great game worth checking out.