E3 2012 was all about Ubisoft and Watch_Dogs. For the first time since the reveal of the PS3 in 2006(?) gamers saw a glimpse of what the next generation of consoles were aiming to achieve. We were hooked and amazed at the promise of Watch_Dogs. The excitement was infectious. So much so, even people in the office were talking about the game that seemed closer to real life than ever before.

Fast forward two years, a multi-million dollar marketing budget and a hype train never seen before in the gaming industry and finally Watch_Dogs has landed on our laps. Did it live up to the hype? The short answer is not even close but there are hints of a great franchise hidden beneath a game that promised so much yet provided little.


Watch_Dogs is set in Chicago which has been painstakingly recreated to near real life detail by the team at Ubisoft. You play as Aiden Pierce, a mercenary out for revenge when his 6 year old niece is accidently killed by hit men paid to kill him. I won’t ruin any of the story here but it was an unexpectedly weak revenge plot full of cliched underground intellects hell bent on crushing the big bad corporation. I expected more from the story and the characters but instead we got a two dimensional main character that was neither charismatic nor relatable in any way. I found it hard to get behind his masacre for the love of his deceased niece. While the sub cast were suitably cliched as Aiden, the voice acting and animation were top notch. This revenge story has a standout point though and it turns out to the premise for the entire game. Aiden Pierce uses his trusty smartphone to hack into an advanced security and information system called C-TOS. This system controls all of the electronics in the entire city of Chicago and Aiden can access this with the swipe of his finger.   This hacking element is the selling point for Watch_Dogs and it has been implemented wonderfully.


For the first time ever, hacking has been made fun and it’s uses are plentiful in Aiden’s story of revenge. Nearly everything in the city of Chicago is hackable. You can hack ATMs to get money, open gates to secluded areas, remotely operate security cameras, hack into people’s phones to listen in on conversations or read emails. The hacking elements has been superbly implemented especially when it comes to driving. With the simple push of the square button Aiden can control C-CTOS to change traffic lights, put up barriers, raise bridges and even blow up half the road using steam pipes all the while driving a high powered super car being chased by the cops. It may sound confusing and complicated but Ubisoft have implemented the hacking element in such way to make it simple and fun. The hacking interface blends perfectly with the HUD so that it doesn’t get in the players way while they are traversing the city.


Speaking of traversing, it seems that Watch_Dogs has taken a leaf out of Assassins Creed book when it comes to parkour and city traversal. While Aiden can’t climb every building and traverse roof tops, the fluidity of Aidens movements as he scales over objects works great and with the simple press of the circle button the character will scale over most objects with ease. Surprisingly for an open world game, the shooting mechanics are excellent and have an accuracy and feel akin a military third person shooter rather than the loose shooting of a GTA game. I found this to be immensely satisfying and the array of weapons at the players disposal will please any gun hungry nut. In addition to firearms, Aiden can craft weapons like frag grenades, remote explosives and non harmful devices that disable enemy comms.


Like every open world game, it lives or dies by its world and Watch_Dogs is no exception. As stated above the game is based in the city of Chicago and Ubisoft must be commended for their attention to detail. Every street and side street is full of detail with civilians populating every area going about their daily lives. The city looks great but I felt that something was off. The game has a dull feel about it, it is unknown if this was intentional or not but I didn’t like it. After spending only a few hours driving around in the city I felt I had seen all that I need to. I didn’t want to explore because most of the areas looked and felt the same except for the occasional time you are required to go to the suburb in the outskirts of the city.


Of course what would an open world game be without the addition of side missions for the player to do. Thankfully Ubisoft have created a nearly overwhelmingly amount of side missions to do. These range from destroying convoys, stopping crimes, distracting the police by causing as much mayhem as possible to conducting murder investigations. For completionist there is a lot to do in Chicago and I didn’t find myself getting bored as I did with the main campaign. If a plethora of side missions are not enough, Ubisoft have created the much anticipate and over hyped multiplayer component to the game.

There are a few modes to try out online and most of them are good. At the touch of a button you can invade another person’s world where you have to stalk them without being noticed. The premise might sounds simple but it is easily the best part of Watch_Dogs. This mode is tense and incredibly addicting. If you manage to get yourself caught by the other player, the game changes and you now have to escape without getting caught. Other modes include street racing and racing through a number of checkpoints while another player is using C-TOS to try take you off the road using any trap at their disposal.


Watch_Dogs is not only a PS4 game, it was also released on PS3 and it shows. The game looks good in parts but it never blew me away. While the characters are full of detail in the cutscenes, they lack it during gameplay. The PS4 version has better textures, AA and resolution so if you have a PS4 make sure you pick this up over the PS3 version. Although this is great for the PS4 version, the whole look of the game seems off and I hope for the inevitable sequel they pick a city with a lot of variety and scope for the artists to go nuts.


Watch_Dogs promised so much but fell short in a lot of ways. Although the main story is your standard revenge affair and the main character is a walking cliché, the game shows a tonne of promise. This was a solid first entry into a franchise that will hopefully rival the likes of Assassins Creed and GTA in the future. Ubisoft can learn a lot of things from Watch_Dogs and I am excited to see what they can create for Watch_Dogs 2. That being said, if you want to roam around  Chicago city causing havoc and stalking other players online, give Watch_Dogs a try.



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