Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: 5/7/2014
Also Available On
Watch Dogs is supposed to be the next Grand Theft Auto III! The next-gen revolutionary open-world game! Well, there’s one big flaw in all that hype. Watch Dogs was developed for last-gen consoles. We will never get a truly next-gen experience until a game is made specifically for next-gen consoles and is no longer ported to last-gen or has those consoles in mind. With that said, Watch Dogs is a solid open-world game, but it feels limited due to the scope that it tried to create.
You are Aiden Pearce. A vigilante hacker is trying to exact revenge on his niece’s death. You get involved in a huge blackmail hacking/drug ring while operating Chicago’s own connected grid. This online grid is called CTOS or Citizen Operating System. Chicago has cameras everywhere (even in places they aren’t supposed to) and is storing all the data on servers. Hacker groups are battling for the data while some have blackmailed city officials. It makes for a pretty twisty story, but that falls flat due to the story being dragged out for too long. One thing that an open world needs are strong characters and Watch Dogs is lacking that. Each character has potential but they are missing that certain something to make them more than generic or they don’t get enough screen time.
Outside of the so-so story is the so-so gameplay. Now the gunplay is solid with a great cover mechanic and a weapon wheel. You also get the electronics on your side such as the gimmicky “camera hopping” ability. You can hack cameras around an area to stealthily blow up stuff and distract enemies. It kind of felt like something similar to the Batman Arkham games. Some enemies have grenades that you can explode remotely that are on them, disrupt their comms, disable reinforcements, etc. This stealthy way of combat is actually pretty fun but gets old in the end because it becomes predictable and almost too easy. Gunning it all the way is tough because you die so quickly. A few shots and you’re dead.
Most GTA-like games have wanted levels and cops that come after you. Watch Dogs does something rather unique in the sense that you can use the city against the cops. With the push of a button, you can raise bridges, activate blockers, blow up underground pipes, change traffic lights to block intersections, etc. I just found that the cops can find you way too easily. You are able to craft gadgets to stop enemies. One such item is the Jam Comms. This is used when police are trying to find you. When this happens yellow circles will appear on your map and you much avoid them until the search is called off. I only ever avoided this once in the whole game. My only option was to be found and then escape the police.
Another gameplay element that open-world games have are mini-games. Watch Dogs is full of them but neither of them is interesting, including the side missions. Being able to prevent crimes, AR time trials, online contract hunts, etc. These are all interesting the first time, but after that, I lost interest. I have yet to talk about what caused Watch Dogs to get such hype and that is the profiler. When you pull out your phone every citizen’s info is displayed. Their job, income, what they currently do/dark secret, and sometimes you can hack their phone conversations or steal money from them. Now, this may seem like a big deal but it’s all randomized and after a few minutes of exploring this you just won’t care anymore.
That’s the main problem with Watch Dogs at the end of the day. You just stop caring about more and more things as you play. When you start off you’re completely confused about how to use this new hacking/profiling ability. It all seems overwhelming. Once you play for a few hours you start checking off what’s interesting and what’s not in your head. That’s usually not a good thing for a game. Watch Dogs brings a lot to the table but none of it is outstanding or memorable. The graphics are also decent, but even for PC and next-gen consoles there are some ugly spots, the character models are dated, and it all just feels like a last-gen game with a next-gen coating of polish slapped on top.