Platforms: PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Windows, Wii U
Like the overflow of hype there was for Destiny, it was similar with Watch Dogs although not quite as much. When the first gameplay trailer was unveiled there was something about it that got our attention. But come release date, it kind of fell apart for some. I didn’t buy it at release because I heard some negative reviews about the game (which was back when I wasn’t reviewing games) and that influenced my judgement of the game. However I decided that enough was enough and I wanted to find out for myself what Watch Dogs was like. While I agree that some parts of the game are excellent and well developed, other parts could do with some refining. I’ll go through all the fun things you can hack into and why it’s not all that bad in this Watch Dogs review.
A lot of people hyped it up way more than it should have been and because of that, a lot of people seem to be disappointed. And it isn’t a bad game at all. A lot of people expected too much of the game. Although Watch Dogs isn’t a bad game, I’d say it was averagely good.
Watch Dogs started off with a strong introduction and early story missions but as soon as Act 2 hit (5 Acts in total) I quickly lost interest in the campaign. Although the main protagonist Aiden Pearce is an extremely boring character who’s phone has more personality than himself , there are some strong side characters like Jordi Chin (my favourite character in the game) who is an interesting character who plays the “joker” of the game and a supplier of certain explosives for Aiden. Overall, the story was lackluster and didn’t really offer anything exciting.
Hacking, hacking everywhere
The sole purpose of the game is to hack everything, meaning you can hack traffic lights to phones to bridges and it was the most fun aspect of the game. As you traverse around Chicago you feel like you have all the power in the world hacking banks, exploding phones and causing a blackout with the push of a button. What’s not to love about that? Although it’s a very simple mechanic, it’s what sets it apart from other open world third-person games like Grand Theft Auto and without this mechanic, it would have been a GTA clone. As a result of the ability to hack almost anything, Watch Dogs was far more enjoyable than GTA (which didn’t really have an exciting new feature). All this hacking calls for the question of who the real villain is. Is it Aiden for hacking all these innocent people and putting them in harms way as he blasts his way to get to his enemies or is it Aiden’s enemies? I like to think it’s both, kind of like a Dark Knight!
Speaking of hacking, Chicago has a gigantic, little weakness of being connected to one single network, ctOS. Why would a whole city rely on one network? This is one of the things that makes Watch Dogs interesting because it shows a potentially very real threat of what could happen in real life, everything would plunge into chaos. Of course it’s highly unlikely that this would happen and it’s just a silly concept. But in the case of Watch Dogs, it’s all fun and games and I thought it was an interesting part of the game.
The combat in Watch Dogs was both enjoyable and disappointing with gun combat being great fun but with extremely generic weapons that you see in almost every action game. Shooting on the other hand is one of the most enjoyable features of the game and what makes it different from its competitors is the strategy involved when infiltrating a guarded building. Unless instructed otherwise, you can go about some missions however you feel like (either via a stealthy approach or going in all guns blazing). Being able to take down your enemies without having to face them by exploding their phones, exploding pipes, causing distractions and if you’re like me, using only a silenced pistol to take down enemies one by one!
Usually in games like open world third-person games players are able to shoot while driving. Remember how fun it can be in GTA? Well in Watch Dogs you can’t do anything of the sort. The only thing you can do is hack and use Focus to slow down time (woah now we’re treading onto supernatural territory here). If anything, the Focus has got to be the most random and out of place mechanic in this game (11/10 for being totally random) so I think it’s just there because it’s cool but it does make the gameplay feel a bit more exciting and different to other open world third-person games. Although what you can do whilst driving is hacking and it’s great fun when you want to cut off pursuers by lifting bridges, creating traffic accidents or raising bollards!
The multiplayer aspect of the game I really didn’t like as the online felt really boring and pointless so I never really played more of it, hence a huge focus on the single player aspect of the game in this review.
Is this driving?
Driving is one of the three methods of getting around the city of Chicago, trains and fast travel between stations and “safe houses” being the other modes of transport. With driving being the most common form of transport in Watch Dogs, it’s really not the most impressive because of how clunky it is and the more you do it, the more tedious it becomes. It kind of follows some rule where faster cars tend to be sacrifice a lot of handling for the speed (I’m looking at you Lamborghini look-a-like!) because sometimes a car might randomly skid or slide or just go out of control for a second which might end up turning into an accident. And nobody likes clunky driving in a video game.
Also in the inevitable moment when you do crash, it’s just not believable because going at full speed at a truck with a super car will still make the car completely functional and with half the damage it should have taken. Another example is going full speed with a motorbike and hitting something won’t fling you off the motorbike because…well Ubisoft physics. The point is I wasn’t sure what type of game I was playing at times, either a “realistic” open world third-person game or something like Saints Row 3 and 4 which we all know is the best example of the most ridiculous open world game that I’ve ever played!
Although most missions were repetitive, they were certainly more enjoyable than in GTA. In GTA it felt very linear, but with Watch Dogs you can take out opponents one by one or as you would normally do and blast your way through. For me the former was the more exciting approach because of the added strategy involved. This way, taking out the guards that could call reinforcements were always the top priority to avoid facing additional enemies
The game also has a “morality system” where your appearance to other is judged by what your alignment is (hero or villain). Killing, injuring, stealing and all those bad things make you more of an evil person in the eyes of the public and the more evil acts you commit, the likelihood of getting reported even by being seen, rises. It’s not really much of an impact on gameplay so you can pretty much disregard and play however you want. There’s no real reward for maxing out one alignment or the other like with the Infamous games. It would be great if there were special upgrades only available to each alignment to give the game an extra sense of progression or to reward players for their commitment.
Watch Dogs has a progression system where you gain experience to (from doing missions, using your skills more and so on) reach the next level and in doing so, gaining a skill point to spend on a skill tree. The skill tree is divided into four categories, them being Hacking, Driving, Combat and Crafting. For example one of the coolest skills in the tree is a crafted item that causes a complete blackout of the city which is pretty self-explanatory. There are some other skills that attracted my attention such as the disable vehicle alarms skill and the raise/lower bridge hack which of course raises or lowers bridges when you hack them. This can make for some great ramps and getaways. So overall the skill system is nicely laid out and offers some good rewards for levelling up.
Visually, Watch Dogs looks very nice on the PS4, Xbox One and PC and the city of Chicago definitely feels alive. Although compared to the E3 trailer there’s definitely a big downgrade to the graphical quality (which we haven’t learned from) but it still looks good, perhaps even better than GTA at some angles.
So is it worth it?
Overall Watch Dogs is an averagely good game with a fun new feature which is quite rare these days when it comes to gaming. The hacking feature is definitely what sets it apart from any other game in the same genre and although it’s not exactly logical having to use one button to hack everything, it at least tries to add a new feature and this is one of the things I did like about Watch Dogs. What makes it an average game is the other things like the driving, storyline, the random slow time feature and all of these didn’t really feel polished. Although if you’re a fan of open world games where you can drive just about any ground vehicle, hack things and shoot everyone to soothe the pain of Aiden’s loss (because it’s morally right to do so after losing someone close to you, right?), then this is a game for you. Otherwise I really wouldn’t say that it’s a must buy game and I’d recommend you watch some gameplay footage or borrow the game from a friend. Even then it’s not particularly expensive anymore (I grabbed it at £10). Thanks for reading this Watch Dogs review, if you liked what you read, please subscribe and follow for instant access to the latest game reviews and news!