Everything is Connected
Chances are you’re going to buy Watch_Dogs. It’s been built up to be the next big thing since it first showed it’s gorgeous face at E3 2012 and now that it’s out it’s as significant to gaming as GTA in both hype and quality content. Mostly.
I don’t need to tell you that Watch_Dogs is a beautiful looking game. We’ve all been caught drooling while we stare at each YouTube video that’s been released over the past two years. And you might recall that the first batch of videos that were released for it contained some of the very best visuals that had ever been seen in an open world game. A precedence was set for the next generation of gaming and as a result everyone jumped on the hype train. Sadly, as the developers learnt more about the Next Gen consoles that they would be working on the visuals had to be dumbed down a bit which caused the entire internet to lose its freaking mind. Yet even with these slightly reduced visuals having clocked too many hours with Watch Dogs on the PS4 I’m pleased to report that it’s still the best looking open world game available at the moment. The virtual city of Chicago really feels alive in every aspect and it’s been a very long time since I looked at a game a literally thought “wow”. From the way rain bounces off someone’s umbrella to the BEST explosions and smoke effects I’ve ever seen in a game, Watch Dogs delivers to the extreme.
“Watch Dogs delivers to the extreme.”
Moving on from that though the way the game feels is also spot on. From switching weapons, to throwing objects, hacking vulnerabilities in the environment and shooting bad guys in their stupid faces, it all feels fluid and easy. The only exception relates to the driving which I found to feel a little unresponsive. I can’t really put my finger on it but whether the physics or just the responsiveness of the steering felt like I was driving an old bus rather than a sexy sports car.
But as you know Watch Dogs isn’t about the driving. It’s about hacking all the things. This is certainly an interesting concept and for the most part it’s really fun to experiment with both while free roaming Chicago and during set campaign missions. During free roaming sessions something as simple as causing a car pileup and subsequent traffic jam is fun to watch as is triggering a blackout leaving the streets pitch black save for the headlights from any cars nearby. With missions in almost all cases there’s no single method you need to take in order to succeed. Being left to your own devices and using a little experimentation you truly feel like you’re writing your own story and creating your own entertainment.
And while writing your own story is fun, unfortunately the story that’s been written for you really lets the game down. Without spoiling anything Aiden’s motivation is the same thing we’ve seen in games writing for years. With a new IP it would have been lovely to see a story that steps outside the terribly overused revenge theme we’re so accustomed to. This isn’t helped at all by the overly vanilla characters you meet in Watch Dogs.
To add depth to the story, the writers have tried to make Aiden a dark and tortured soul surrounded by mystery and anger. But there’s too much mystery and while I admit I haven’t yet completed the whole campaign there doesn’t seem to be any history behind Aiden. Why is he a hacker? How did he get into it? Where did he learn it? And as for his pent up anger and hatred for the world, it’s all just a bit soft. Instead of a cool Max Payne type of character he’s just a one dimensional wuss who likes talking to himself.
“unfortunately the story that’s been written for you really lets the game down.”
All of the other characters are completely forgettable and terribly acted too with the exception of Aiden’s mate Jordi. I like Jordi; he’s funny with just the right amount of nut job to make him likeable.
The multi-player component of Watch Dogs can be both heaps of fun but also a tad annoying. At any time while free roaming someone can jump into your game without your knowledge and start hacking you, tailing you or doing other things. In my favourite game mode, Online Hacking, once you do get notified that you’re being hacked you need to track down the player who’s been disguised as an NPC, ID him/her and take them out before they have a chance to escape. Getting to that point where the hack is 98% complete and you know the hacker is within a few metres of you really gets your heart racing, as die being on the other side of things and playing as a hacker. The following shoot out or car chase is also plenty of fun.
Despite these positives, when you’re just trying to get through the campaign so you can write a fair and accurate review of the story you don’t want to be interrupted and these invasions of your game can sometimes feel like interruptions rather than surprises. The option to prevent this from happening is there but that result in you getting an experience that differs from the intentions of the developers. That’s a call you need to make, personally I’ll stick with the interruptions and continue to bitch about them at my leisure.
If you read this whole thing you now know that Watch Dogs ticks almost all of the important boxes that gamers demand from a triple A title.
New IP: Tick
Fun Multiplayer: Tick
Quality control system: Tick
Visuals: Double Tick
Story: Big Fat X
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 & Wii U (TBA)
Reviewed using a retail copy of Watch Dogs on the PlayStation 4.