Marked as one of the key titles slated for launch with the next generation consoles PS4 and Xbox One, Watch Dogs first made its mark 2 years ago at E3 wowing audiences which not only showcased the next generation console capabilities but also the exciting prospect where a launch windowed game would actually push the system’s hardware and bring something new to the table. Was Ubisoft’s decision to delay its initial launch for further polishing and fine tuning a worthwhile decision? Well let’s find out.
The premise of the game takes place in virtual open world Chicago governed by the city’s central operating system (CTOS). The gameplay is very much open-world and as you guessed it, a myriad of different things to do. The unique selling point of watch dogs is the ability to hack into any system/device/equipment which is connected to the CTOS and when the world and it’s virtual citizens are ever so inter-connected, it seems that our main protagonist Aiden is able leverage, gain access to (Not necessarily legally) to sensitive information including bank accounts, private conversations etc.
Have we seen this before? Well, it’s really hard not to compare it to its counterparts like GTA5, Sleeping Dogs or even Assassin’s Creed. The similarities are certainly there. Take driving, cover shooting mechanics, fighting crime, story based missions, adding waypoints, getting into trouble with law enforcement, getting out of trouble with law enforcement.
What Watch Dogs does differently is the hacking of the environments. Early on, you are introduced to a skill tree which you can choose to invest your points(earned from completing the campaign, side quests) in be it weapons, driving, hacking, combat abilities and crafting. For me, it was paramount to check out its unique selling point, and being in the IT security field, hacking skill points addition was of paramount priority. Soon enough, I was hacking traffic lights, raising road barrier, killing car alarms which are absolutely necessary by the way because you’ll spend a good amount of time outrunning the cops in this game.
Aiden Pearce is a known in virtual Chicago as the “Vigilante” and while an initial robbery mission goes south, it eventually leads to the death of his niece and since then Aiden has been trying to get his cold served revenge. The story is what you’d typically expect and is a tad too similar to Max Payne except not nearly as dark. The main campaign missions can vary from vehicle chase missions, to shoot-outs, to sneak, to puzzle solving. You’d literally be hacking from one camera to another and believe it or not, you’d be hacking into systems or data centers from live feed cameras. Yes, after-all devices are connected to the CTOS which allows our main protagonist the flexibility to assume control of the environment with the use of his smart phone. Yes, pipes can overload, floors, walls explode. Such intended “accidents” help add variety to the gameplay and if used well, Aiden can take care of his problems without even firing a shot. Late game hacks like taking care of a helicopter who has been on your tail is extremely satisfying.
In a nutshell, the good is a living breathing world. Multiplayer tries to be seamless when you’re connected and another hacker can intrude into your game stealing your information. You have a limited amount of time to find him. This was initially fun as I tried my best to trigger certain NPC behaviors to detect and find the hacker messing around. However, like any 2 edged sword, this soon becomes more a nuisance than anything else. You can turn it off whenever you’re off doing a campaign based mission so that such missions don’t bother you. The shooting mechanics and the drive mechanics in the game are spot on and does enough to keep you gunning and driving.
While Watch Dogs isn’t perfect, it’s still a good game in my books. It looks and sounds great for the Playstation 4, plays well for the most part and maintains a solid frame-rate despite the amount of things going on, has sufficient side quests to vary up gameplay, a living breathing world only to be let down by a disappointing plot that nearly isn’t as strong as I hoped for it to be. The IT security geeks might want to check this one out especially if you’re into TV shows like persons of interest, pre-crime stuff like minority report, and this will probably be the game for you. While we’ve seen the likes of other open world sandboxes like Assassin’s creed, Infamous 2nd son, GTA5, I couldn’t help but hope that Watch Dogs would innovate and do something different than its predecessors. In my books, it’s a game that was well played but played a little too safely.
Ratings : 3.5 out of 5 stars
by Kenneth Choong
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