If you would have told me that a New IP was going to define next-generation, I would have agreed with you. But perhaps unexpectedly, Watch Dogs has managed to live up to the hype from both Sony and Ubisoft who have laid stake that very claim.
In Watch Dogs, players walk around hacking people’s phones and spying on every detail of their lives through the ctOS network which was introduced to Ubisoft’s interpretation of Chicago. The ctOS spy network has become commonplace, and every Chicago citizen knows about it, yet they just can’t kick that digital addiction and just about every person carries a smartphone. Those who are of most luminosity have created a database capable of profiling every single person in Chicago, and in Watch Dogs players can use that ctOS network to find out things about people, things that make you wonder just to what extent is spying really taking place (both digitally in-game or even in the real world around us)?
Low on cash? That’s fine. Players help themselves to the bank accounts of Chicago citizens by stealing their money digitally via phone hacking. This isn’t a story about a renegade anarchist in full chaos though. Watch Dogs is a mature narrative-driven action game that tells a compelling story about the life of Aiden Pearce.
Aiden Pearce is a troubled man whose past seems inescapable. Hackers, murderers, and powers that be are all after this man who cares about his family but has an addiction to the dark side.
You’ll also meet other very interesting characters along the way including other hackers and members of various factions that exist in Ubisoft’s modern Watch Dogs version of Chicago including DeadSec the hacktivist movement, the Viceroys gangster group, Blume – a shady company involved in just about anything that’s contract-compatible (legal or otherwise), and more. At his core, Aiden is a good guy. One of the biggest strengths of Watch Dogs is in its writing and the ability for the game to touch players emotionally. Nothing is ever simple in life, and neither is it in Watch Dogs. There are always many different ways to look at any given situation, nothing is in black and white but rather there’s a lot of gray area within which our perceptions are made. On the one hand Aiden is on the run and trapped in a viscous cycle of danger that ends up involving his most precious assets, his family. On the other hand, it shows the humanity left in Aiden that he doesn’t simply walk away to carry on with his own selfish life.
This emotionally powerful plot takes place mainly in the underground circles of society. The underground has a lot to offer. Guns, money, drugs, sex, and a certain type of freedom all come with the lifestyle of one who lives outside of the law and even outside of what is socially accepted. In a world with so much of our lives reliant on technology, it has become possible for the underground to thrive more than ever in the near-future Chicago depicted by Watch Dogs. But when dealing in the underground, danger is met face to face at every corner, and nothing is sacred.
At one point I tracked a girl down to her exact location by the ‘selfies’ she was posting, and then prank called her saying that her uncle was sick. I told her that I had his test results but needed to get in touch with him to reveal them. Her response was that she hadn’t spoken to him in years, but then she called him. “Uncle, I think the cops are after you,” she said, to which he replied “You just gave them a trace! Hang up now!!!” – but it was too late and I found him on the road. He was a bad guy doing bad stuff, but more importantly he stood in the way of me protecting my family. I walked by all casual like I was a nobody to pay attention to, then tossed a bomb that stuck to his car windshield, ran a few feet, and detonated it.
The sounds of security alarms and silenced pistols likely haunt Aiden Pearce’s dreams every night as Watch Dogs often gives the player a feel of tactical stealth espionage. At most points of the game, the developers decided to pull back the Hollywood over-the-top style violence so well known in this genre and favored pitting a player against slightly more difficult odds with clever paths given as options to defeat the challenges presented by each scene. Instead of just pouring enemies into an area and sending Aiden on completely unrealistic shoot-outs every ten minutes, Ubisoft found ways to make logical blocks that cause the player to evaluate a situation for all possible solutions. While this may sound too good to be true, and hasn’t always been done well in gaming, Watch Dogs manages to introduce enough new and fresh content throughout its campaign to keep this feeling dynamic which makes the game’s world feel very alive enabling immersion.
Driving mid to top level cars often gives the feel of an almost Need For Speed experience, but with even more spinning out of control during rainstorms and the added bonus of raiding glove boxes for spare cash, electronics parts, and chemicals.
ctOS was supposed to stop crime, but has empowered the corrupt elite criminals and those who rebel against them as outlaws for justice to spend most of their time each day hacking people, hacking the environment, the city, people’s property, unlocking vehicles, music, tools, specialized software, and more. Some people that you hack will get your game invaded by online players though, since a bounty is placed on your head if the hacking gets traced back to you. Losing ‘bounty at stake’ face-offs will end up with your profile losing notoriety points which are important to the online aspect of the game. Essentially, players are leveling down instead of leveling up every time they are defeated this way.
The Skill Upgrade Tree in Watch Dogs consists of advancements from everything to better armor, new ways to hack the city, and better crafting abilities which means less trips to the store. In Watch Dogs, finding out how close you are to completion is made easier by the game’s Progression Wheel – this includes objectives you may have forgot about as well as optional side content such as finding gangs, crimes in progress, stopping drug deals, and protecting the innocent – if you feel like it. The game progression wheel gives players a very easy way to keep track of everything that can be done in the game. Although the single player game does have a lot of scripts, things don’t always happen exactly the same way every time you restart a mission, keeping players on their toes.
Watch Dogs has a lot of strong points, the writing and gameplay flow perfectly. There’s been some criticism in regard to the overall driving feel but once players get used to the increase in realism it just requires grabbing a good car. In GTA V, every car just handles like an arcade game. This, to some extent, is easier for the average player. However, it is an innovative move by Ubisoft to introduce a few more real mechanics to the driving in open world games. Since I went there, comparing, GTA is a more violent experience throughout the entire series. Watch Dogs is fairly versatile but does focus more on Stealth and Intelligence. There’s also less meticulous tracking of items required by the player during accumulation in Watch Dogs. In other words, you don’t have to be OCD and worry about what mansions or cars you’re driving by and that’s kind of nice in a way because this game is more oriented to other gameplay aspects.
For those asking: “Why can’t you shoot while you drive?” – I hear you but there’s an issue of making the game too easy if you do that. Ubisoft already gave players all of the hacking power of Watch Dogs now you want the violence of GTA mixed in – it would just be way too easy (theoretically). I think that’s why it’s not in. Just my thoughts though! We will find out when we see part two.
Watch Dogs features tons of NSA-style spying for gamers to commit as well such as Privacy Invasions which show glimpses of people’s lives and quietly think about society as a whole as the events in front of you take place behind closed doors giving you a totally uncensored look at the lives of the people in Ubisoft’s fictional Chicago. ctOS Sentinel Leaks on servers are also scattered in ctOS Towers as well as hacker hideouts and other server rooms, showing even more illumination of individual domestic activity.
Watch Dogs is very well thought out and all of its pieces make sense when put together as the final product. For example, At first, I really hated the way low – mid tier vehicles felt as I mentioned may people have criticized, but then I hopped online and realized it’s to balance the game and make it more circumstantial and fun.
Multiplayer modes are great and a fun break from the intense single player world presented by the single player games. But there are other ways to participate in side-content without going online as well. One interesting feature is Hot Spots through which players compete to be Mayor of an area similar to how FourSquare works in real life. Digital Trips take the player through mini-games that can change the entire experience for variety-sake, and introduce crazy stuff to the universe such as Spider Tanks. The game features a boosted Replay Value thanks to Mobile ctOS challenges. Notoriety as a fixer determines how recognizable you are in the fixer community and provides new skills as it increases for use in online matches.
Subtle features like guns that enemies use becoming “unlocked” when you find them in the game world versus other titles which make you “unlock” these before allowing you to pick them up. In Watch Dogs if you see a gun, you can use it. You’d have to be a thorough gamer to understand the need for such an important yet minor feature and we definitely appreciate the attention to detail and gamer love from Ubisoft. During moments like this it’s obvious how much care and thought was put into this game’s design choices.
Watch Dogs catches and holds the attention of gamers from all walks of life. Ubisoft manages to keep it fun with stunning photo-realistic graphics and fluid gameplay woven into a compelling universe full of discovery and activity. The living story is told in this game and provokes powerful thinking about many topics we face today as a modern society. Watch Dogs is a conspiracy theorist’s dream come true and in the age of enlightenment a powerful experience to show people a thrilling fictional tale with hints and bits of reality spliced in. Scroll down for the RGN Rating of this game as well as our Overall Score and plenty of videos to show off what you’re missing if you still haven’t grabbed the fastest selling entertainment product of all time.
Official Launch Trailer:
Official Story Trailer:
RGN Multiplayer Gameplay Footage:
Overall Score: 10 / 10
RGN Rating: Diamond Game
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Additional Development By:
Available On: PC | PS4 | XO | PS3 | 360 | Wii U (Coming Soon)
Played On: Sony PlayStation 4
Review Copy Info: A physical copy of this game was purchased by RealGamerNewz for the purpose of this Review.