Today, Ubisoft released their much-hyped game Watch Dogs on PS4/3, Xbox 360/One, and PC and Wii U. Watch Dogs features elite hacker Aiden Pearce and his quest for justice, a journey that takes the player through a highly detailed and futuristic Chicago. This game has been heavily promoted since E3 2013, and has been in development for around five years due to many setbacks and delayed launches. Ubisoft is most known these days for the Assassin’s Creed franchise, and there are a lot of similarities in how the games feel. There has been many comparisons drawn between Watch Dogs and the Grand Theft Auto series, as Watch Dogs is an open world sandbox-esque game much like GTA. It has carjacking, criminals, and ambiguous moral decisions, all set in a dense and living world. The main difference is in the core mechanic of Watch Dogs: hacking.
Basically, the entire city is controlled by a computer and your character has a phone that can influence that computer. This leads to causing blackouts, stealing money from bank accounts, and a LOT of carjacking. It also has a very nicely fleshed out profiling system that allows you to see background information on the many citizens of Chicago, and even occasionally lets you listen in on their conversations Big Brother style. The computer controls the city, and you control the computer.
Aside from the hacking, the game is pretty standard with it’s mechanics. It really is GTA gameplay with a technological twist and a more serious story, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering the success GTA has had. The has a lot of depth and really gives you a reason to be more subtle rather than going in guns blazing. It’s definitely more satisfying to remotely trigger someone’s grenade through a camera than it is to just shoot them. All in all, the game is very solid and enjoyable. But everything has a downside, and Watch Dogs is no different.
The game is called next gen graphically, but doesn’t do much that other recent games haven’t already. It’s a great looking game, but nothing compared to their early trailers that they showed a year back. This shows a bit of dishonesty on the part of the company, and that didn’t sit well with me from the start. The game doesn’t allow multiple saves, meaning that the Aiden you end up with at the end of the game is the Aiden you get. You can’t make two saves for a Good Guy and a Bad Guy respectively, which is a step back in modern gaming. The game is incredibly difficult to run on max settings on PC, even for well-made computers designed for gaming performance. This is due more to the poor optimization of the game than it is the good graphics. For consoles, the game is pretty much exactly what it looks like, while on the PC it’s definitely not as polished. It also requires Uplay, a Ubisoft-specific program that tracks your game information and achievements. This isn’t a huge deal, but it is a frustrating extra step. There is multiplayer,which includes getting hacked by other players, racing, and a “capture the flag” type team game, but not much variety within those modes.
Watch Dogs delivers an enjoyable and fairly unique experience, but I wouldn’t say it lives up to the hype of being groundbreaking. It’s a good game from an established company, and if it you like the sound of GTA with hacking, I’d highly suggest it. But maybe not on PC.