Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Format: PS4 / PS3 / Xbox One / Xbox 360 / WiiU / PC
In the near future everything is monitored. All your information from your bank accounts and possibly fetishes are online for someone to steal. With this kind of information shady business’ are a logical evolution. Mess with the wrong people and you have everybody on your tail. This is the fate of Aiden Pierce, a vigilante, the generic protagonist who fights the good fight. Even though Watchdogs tries to string personal aspects to the story, Aiden is left being the silent killer of hundreds. The plot overall is rather inconsistent with its chapters and development of the story. Halfway through the plot is so sidetracked from the actual story that I totally forgot why I was doing the tasks in the first place and it took me awhile to remember where I was in the story again. Personally the best parts were the side characters who had personality (they had too little screen time) and the overall concept of the watching “Big Brother”, but then again: The story took liberties off the hacking when it was needed for the story to progress.
The main story of Watchdogs took me around 15 hours to complete. And then there are the side missions. And there’s a LOT of it. Varying from basic checkpoint races and tedious minigames to search & kill and eliminating gang hideouts . Aside from that there are also a LOT of different collectibles. Basically, you will get your moneys worth from this game. You get XP points from everything you do: missions, escapes, headshots etc. that can be used to upgrade your skill tree. To me the progression felt just right. At the beginning you’re given levels more lavishly so you can get started with your specialisation playstyle fast but towards the end you need to grind a bit to unlock the last tier upgrades.
Can’t speak for last-gen versions, but the PS4 version does look pretty especially when effects like rain or the sunset are being displayed. It isn’t much of a leap of graphics as the very first trailers led us to believe, though. It’s more like a high rezzed version of the last-gen version eg. Assassin’s Creed IV. But you have to wonder, with all the new power of next-gen how pop-ups are such a normal thing that happens so often. It’s most noticeable while driving at high speed. Cars just appear out of nowhere making evading them a bit of a challenge.
The big hook of Watchdogs is the hacking and in it, it succeeds to make you believe of controlling the city and spying on its pedestrians with a press of a button on your mobile phone. Whether it being for scouting purposes with cameras or more straight forward attacks with gas pipes and explosive generators. Also you can use the hacking for a quick getaway. But that’s just simply pressing a button on time when it jumps out, so you don’t actually have to look for your individual traps. It takes a bit of the fun away, but sometimes the camera does slow down and show your takedown which is a nice touch. My personal favorite though, was escaping the police with my own self-controlled trains. It had something comical having dozens of cops shooting at you while you waved goodbye to them from the comfort of your local train.
The gameplay focuses on stealth and the above mentioned hacking for success. You scout cameras to tag enemies and then the environment for picking them off or alternatively use hand to hand knockouts which is aided by a smooth cover system straight from Splinter Cell: Blacklist. But even if your cover blows, no worry, since for a open world game Watchdogs has solid gun gameplay with all the basics you could ask for such as bullet time.
As for the city itself, I can’t say I’ve been to Chicago before, but while driving through the busy streets I felt the sense of a big city, with all the skyscrapers and pedestrians walking on the streets. Luckily, it isn’t just urban hell, but the game also offers more rural areas for diversity. In big cities, cars are a necessity of transportation and Watchdogs offers a wide variety of them in different speed classes. At first the driving felt a little clumsy, but after a while you get used to it and start drifting like a pro. The overall feel is arcade and therefore avoiding other cars in high speed chases is a breeze. The radio in the game is garbage though.
Having the vigilante aspect, the game also features moral choices. Do you go out of your way to avoid killing civilians or do you just lay waste to everything. It really doesn’t matter other than for a bar which goes from good to bad and the worse you are , the more likely civilians will call the cops on you. Being bad makes the game just a bit more annoying, when you need to be avoiding the cops more, but other than that, there’s not much to it.
Watchdogs has a rather unique multiplayer just like Assassin’s Creed, and with it shares its problems too. Where it boils down to is the player base and “following the rules”. The modes itself are interesting with hacking, tailing, racing and a more team based mode. Freeroam is also available, but that’s just dull.
The main point of especially from tailings is being discreet. Sneak up on your enemy and not be noticed while you are hacking them. If the other player speeds like a maniac through traffic and time is running out, you need to step on the gas yourself, thus exposing yourself from the “normal” crowd. Same problem is with hacking. Decryption is a rather fun mode with tug-of-warish elements of getting the file, escape, lose file, attack etc. Public races get the job done. It’s unfortunate though you can’t invite friends to all game modes
Watchdogs is a great game. Technical difficulties and a not focused story are making the game a bit annoying, but the freedom of hacking with tight controls and a LOT of content, Watchdogs does lay a good foundation for future titles in the series.