Watch Dogs

Watch Dogs doesn’t do any one thing spectacularly, but when seen as a whole, it’s a fun game with a lot to do

By Grayshadow, Posted 02 Jun 2014

With the push of a button you can empty someone’s bank account, trigger environmental traps that cause massive destruction or reveal every personal detail about another person’s life. In the world of Watch Dogs, your phone is the deadliest weapon in your arsenal and almost anything is hackable. These modern-day magical abilities give the player more to do than most other third-person shooters, especially when used efficiently.

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Our main protagonist, Aiden Pearce, is a brilliant and cold individual, demanding that he have full control of every given situation involving him. The supporting characters compliment Aiden’s rough persona with enthusiastic dialogue and soft-spoken threats. Character animations are wonderfully crafted, adding non-verbal expressions of doubt, anger and fear.

The world of Chicago is completely open. Each area is riddled with hidden items, side objectives and criminal activity. Stores offer new commodities like weapons and clothing that can be used to upgrade Aiden's weapons cache and physical appearance. The world, however, feels hallow; nothing happens unless you’re there to incite it. Unlike Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto, this world is meant to be a part of Aiden’s story instead of being its own distinguished world.

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The power of information is the primary focus in Watch Dogs. Everything in Chicago is connected to one infrastructure called the ctOS. Scanning a random individual generates information about their name, age, income, job and a personal fact about them. It’s small and randomly generated, but it’s shockingly good at humanizing the people in this world. Other than the meaningless reputation system, that fluctuates based on how many civilians and cops you harm, I was more concerned about harming a character after revealing sensitive information about them.

The story of Watch Dogs isn’t anything innovating. Aiden was targeted by a hit man after a failed job, with his niece dying in the crossfire. In the 20 hour campaign, Aiden will venture through Chicago’s criminal underbelly in search of answers behind the hit, and he will take revenge towards those responsible. The story goes through a series of hurdles that range from complex and interesting to completely bland. It’s a shame because with such intriguing themes like media manipulation and surveillance, Watch Dogs had a lot of potential to have some fantastic villains. Instead, most of the villains and supporting cast fall between mildly interesting to completely boring.

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You can extend your stay in Chicago with the steady stream of side-objectives available throughout the city. Most of these repeat the same pattern such as clearing another gang hideout, a foot chase, or locating a specific target. But so many types exist that you can easily alternate between one and another. By completing missions you gain experience to unlock new upgrades that booster Aiden’s combat, hacking, driving and overall survivability.

Unless you opt out, you’ll be regularly prompted to join multiplayer.  Activities include a race through the streets or a cat-and-mouse game where you infiltrate another person’s world and must either attempt to successfully steal sensitive information or eliminate the hacker. Those who played Assassin’s Creed multiplayer will be able to grasp the hunting and blending system easily. The Decryption game is the most entertaining, where one player must evade the rest. In one situation a player must evade cops and traps that are triggered by another player using the free iPad application.

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Watch Dogs' missions are varied, allowing the player multiple ways to complete them. Aiden is well-equipped and trained in combat, allowing him to stealthy invade any complex or violent fight and make his way inside. While enemies practice basic self-preservation tactics, they don’t offer much of a challenge. Some enemies are reinforced with extra armor, but plant enough bullets into them and they will go down eventually.

Watch Dogs does attempt to encourage stealth-focused actions by offering bonus experience and fewer enemies. The cover system allows you to automatically, or manually, move from one location to another. When you gain access to Focus, the ability to slow down time, making multiple silent headshots becomes easier . Most of the time you won’t have to resort to violence if your actions are prudent. Enemies won’t react to Aiden’s presence unless their awareness icon fills. In fact, players can sprint and tackle one enemy after another without alerting anyone, as long as they stay out of sight from other hostiles.

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If weapons are necessary, you’ll have enough guns at your disposal to handle any situation. Anyone who’s played a third-person shooter will be able to grasp the combat mechanics easily. The best part of the firefights is the ability to flank enemies. Unless they spot your new location, enemies will continue to focus their attention on your last location. Going behind a set of enemies unnoticed and pummeling them with bullets is fantastic.

Driving is fickle in Watch Dogs. Cartoonish physics and roads littered with breakable objects are entertaining to experiment with. It’s unfortunate though, that enemy cars possess some supernatural speed that prevents you from escaping without hacking. It’s great that you do have access to a large selection of musical tracks while you attempt to escape your ambitious pursuers.

Hacking is at the core of gameplay in Watch Dogs and is used in every part of the game. Some of these situations require pipe-turning puzzles; most of these interactions require a simple button press. It doesn’t become an annoyance repeating the same puzzle because these situations are rare and diverse. Redirecting money, stealing music, tapping into security cameras and many more options are available to you.

The ability to hack anything with a single device made playing through Aiden’s journey fun and dynamic. However, it’s not revolutionary. Instead, it’s a complementary approach to the open world gameplay. Watch Dogs doesn’t do any one thing spectacularly, but when seen as a whole, it’s a fun game with a lot to do. So get out there and start stealing some data.

Adam Siddiqui, NoobFeed
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General Information

Watch Dogs

83/100

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC, WII
Publisher(s): Ubisoft
Developer(s): Ubisoft Montreal
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Stealth
Release Date: 2014-05-27

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