After a seemingly never ending release schedule of Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry games, Ubisoft decided to bring a brand new IP into the gaming world. Needless to say, a lot of people were excited. It did look great to be fair. A new open world game where you can hack into just about anything. You were the puppeteer and the city was at your command. Ubisoft really pushed it promotionally and it was a huge success sales wise, even being the fastest selling new IP ever in the UK. The sequel, Watch_Dogs 2 is due for release very soon and with that in mind I want to look back at the original. But did it ever live up to that expectation? Let’s find out.
You are Aiden Pearce, hacker extraordinaire. He’s not your everyday video game hero, in fact he’s more of an anti-hero. He’s not the nicest guy in the world. He’s a criminal, stealing money from anybody, rich or poor, he also doesn’t think twice about killing people in order get to his end goal. He’s a bad guy, but Ubisoft really seemed to try their best to portray him as a criminal with a heart of gold, but it just doesn’t work because of the things he has to do. That’s one of the complaints many people had with this game, the fact that the main character comes across as really unlikeable.
He’s basically on a revenge quest that’s also mixed up in some city wide conspiracy. I’ll give the writers some credit there are a few overlapping threads in the games story and it seems well thought out. Is it interesting? For the most part I guess, although there’s lots of lost exposition at times that can make it difficult to follow. You know, it’s one of those games that has a mix of cutscene as well as walking and talking exposition. While I commend the effort walking and talking doesn’t quite work because you’re often too busy driving or doing something else while you’re getting fed this information and it’s almost impossible to take it. You end up just waiting for the next yellow marker on the map to appear and see what happens. I think there’s enough of a story here for people to enjoy, you just need to really pay attention in order to enjoy it.
It’s an open world game akin to the Grand Theft Auto series, a series which it very much tries to emulate. You have the city of Chicago as your playground and it does feel like a living, breathing city. You drive around, steal cars, find little secrets, do side missions, and of course do the main story missions. It’s a style we’ve seen countless times since Grand Theft Auto 3 made it work so successfully. There’s no shortage for open world GTA styles games. Except on the Wii U. Watch_Dogs is the only GTA type game on the system. Sure there are other open world games like Assassin’s Creed, but they’re not really the same thing.
I think that this situation can seriously affect wether you think Watch_Dogs is worth your time or not. If you’re a Wii U only owner like me, I haven’t been subject to these countless open world games for quite a while, so Watch_Dogs is more of an interesting proposition than if I had a PS3, PS4 with me. Saying that, this game did try to do somethings different.
I think the best thing Watch_Dogs does is with its mission variety. While there are some standard missions like killing all the bad guys, there are some inventive stuff thrown in too. My favourite part was when I was looking through a cctv cameras and I had to guide another character away from danger.
There are some missions that don’t quite work well, like stealth missions when driving, they can be pretty frustrating, but overall there’s a lot to like. There are a few side mission varieties such as convoy take downs, gang hideouts and so on; Watch_Dogs is packed to the brim with things to do if you really want. Or you can do what I did and mostly concentrated on the main plot, only dabbling in other things once in a while.
The big gimmick Watch_Dogs has in its hacking. Since Aiden is a genius at it, he can just about hack into anything; to spy on people, hinder enemies or even steal money from bank accounts. It’s an interesting concept and when it works, it really works well. Like I previously mentioned, guiding a character away from harm by hacking in to security cameras to see guard movements is great but as a whole I just don’t think it quite lived up to its full potential.
There are various different hackable things in the city of Chicago. You’ll be spending a lot your time hacking in to security cameras to observe things from a distance or cause chaos even though you’re not there. For example, if there is something hackable such as explosives or burst-able pipes, you only need to be able to see it from a camera in order to do it. It’s a great idea because you can often take out half of the enemies in a mission without even being there.
Some things are more difficult to hack than simply holding the Y button. This results in a mini game of sorts where by you have to connect the circuits, allowing the hack to flow into the lock. Or something like that. It works kind of like the hacking system from the original Bioshock with its pipes. I’ll be honest, this part of hacking I didn’t like. It felt like padding, it slowed the pace down and it never felt inventive at all, just a simple puzzle that really didn’t need to be there.
One of the coolest ideas presented was the ability to hack simple environmental things like traffic lights, bridges and barriers. While not particularly interesting at first, it could give you an advantage over pursuing enemies in the many car chases the game throws at you. Raising a bridge just as you finish crossing and leaving your pursuers stranded was just one of the possibilities presented to us. In reality, the opportunity to use these to their fullest potential is very minimal, and their effectiveness needs to be questioned too. I can only think of one time during my play through where actually switching the traffic lights resulted in a car take down. That’s a shame.
When your hacking opportunities start to dwindle then you have to resort to good old pure violence. There are plenty of guns available and the combat is pretty excellent. Aiming in third person is accurate and responsive, it doesn’t feel cumbersome or tacked on like some other games. The cover system is fairly standard but again, it doesn’t feel awkward in anyway. Overall, combat is a pretty smooth experience and is just as viable as an option as anything else in the game.
In Watch_Dogs there is a skill tree system where you can upgrade your abilities or slightly change the mechanics of the game to be more in your favour. You unlock skill points by doing missions and basically doing everything the game has to offer. Even the small insignificant mini games like poker and chess can help out with different things and that’s another commendable thing about it. For me personally, within the first few hours of the game I was upgrading as much as I could. Later on though I sort of forgot about it quite a lot and didn’t bother with it as I didn’t feel the changes were hugely significant, I was getting on just fine without them.
The presentation is what you would expect from a triple A Ubisoft game. Tonnes of things to do, if you really want, pretty decent voice acting, the music is top notch too. There are a handful of eclectic licensed songs on the radio, although it seems pretty meagre compared to what Rockstar offers. The original music is actually excellent which isn’t something you’d might expect in a game like this. Seriously, take notice of it.
Graphically it is fine, I suppose. Realism wise, it’s up there with the best on the Wii U, but compared to what you can get on other systems it’s pretty middle of the road. Personally I’m not one for noticing frame rates or seeing when they drop, so maybe I’m not the best person to talk about it, but I don’t think it’s too bad. The only time i noticed anything was when you’re driving at full speed, but even then it wasn’t that bad for me. Maybe I’m not demanding, or I just can’t really tell.
I think the biggest technical issue I noticed was the sound mix. There are lots of sounds going on in games like this especially when things get hectic, but I thought the sound was especially all over the place here. This is particularly noticeable with car collisions, where the sound is so pitifully weak or just not there at all, it’s really quite distracting.
Now there is online play for this, but to be honest I’m not going to go into it. It’s just not something I’m interested in trying at all, despite the games best efforts to direct me there. Even if I was interested I doubt there’d be any people on the Wii U to play with.
I quite like the cover art for the game. It’s a little on the generic side, what with having the main protagonist trying to look badass while staring off into the distance. But I like the cold tones, it’s quite bleak and the stylised writing is pretty cool. It also gives you a damn good idea about the game. Guns, hacking and a miserable protagonist. Overall it’s a well done cover.
Watch_Dogs for Wii U is fairly easy to get hold of, you can get it brand new for about £20. Strangely, it’s more expensive now than it was a few months after release. I remember buying it brand new in Toys r Us for just £15. It’s also, sadly one of those multi platform games that has the Wii U Tax, whereby it’s cheaper to buy on other systems, so you need to take that into account. Unless your only system is a Wii U, or your collecting for the system, then you might want to get it on PS3 or Xbox 360, or the complete edition for PS4 and Xbox One, which rather comically go for around the same price. Honestly, the Wii U version might be the last version you want.
Overall, Watch_Dogs is actually a good, well made game that’s really unique on the Wii U. Obviously if you’ve played open world games like this before, it might not be all that special, probably middle of the road for some of you. But personally I don’t have open world fatigue and so I quite enjoyed it. I’ve had this game in my collection for well over a year and this is the first time I’ve played and I’m glad I did. If you’re a Wii U only owner then you might want to consider it, but gamers with numerous systems have plenty of other options for this style of game. It’s a game with some decent concepts, not all of them work nor do they feel like they reached their potential, but there’s still enjoyment to be had from them.
What did you guys think of Watch_Dogs? Did you enjoy it or was it just another average open world game to you? Do you plan to pick up the sequel? Let me know in the comments below!