Watch_Dogs was one of the games I’d been anticipating the most this year. When I first saw the trailers back in 2012, I thought it was an amazing concept. As more time went on, however, I started to realize one very important thing that had skipped my mind so long ago….Ubisoft was in charge of this. If Ubisoft was in charge of it, Watch_Dogs was going to either be Tom Clancyish or Assassin’s Creed with guns. I would like this to be evidence of my massive psychic ability, because guess what? It was Assassin’s Creed with guns.
Now before I continue, I want to point out that I very much enjoyed this game. Not for its gameplay mechanics, but because the story itself was pretty bad ass. You play Aiden, a talented hacker who lives in the not-so-distant future Chicago, run by the super mega “Blume” corporation. For some reason or another, every part of the city has been integrated into one giant security network called “CtOS”. Security cameras, power stations, road lights, security systems, communications, everything is linked into one network that is constantly monitored by Blume. They have voice and face recognition software that allow them to ID anyone within the city. Naturally, the company abuses this power by being shady assholes, gathering information on everyone – using that to blackmail and manipulate government officials. People who have the talent to manipulate the system can also gain a huge advantage as well. As Aiden, you can hack bank accounts, ID criminals, steal cars, scramble security coms, and even shut down the city all from your phone.
So what’s the whole drive in this story? Aiden uses the CtOS system to rob a hotel filled with the rich and powerful. Sadly, someone else spotted Aiden doing so, and it ends up him getting gunned down on the freeway with his young niece and nephew in the car with him. Aiden survives, but his niece dies and his nephew is traumatized by the incident. This stirs one massive hate boner within Aiden, and you spend the entire game following some big chain of events that leads to conspiracies and murder. You can either be known as a Vigilante, who hunts down criminals and helps the people of Chicago during your little trail of revenge, or you could be known as a cold blooded sociopath that guns down anyone or anything that gets in your way. Depending on what you do, your city either loves you or hates you, while Chicago reacts your actions, by: the NPCs actions on the streets and news broadcasts that pop up as the game goes along.
That’s the highlight of the game however. Though the story is quite epic, the gameplay itself leaves something to be desired. As I said, it was either going to be Assassins Creed or Tom Clancy-like gameplay. It turns out Ubisoft used both ideas. The city allows for the whole free roaming shit that’s in Assassins Creed, while also using cover stealth mechanics from Splinter Cell. The game is filled with meaningless and rather boring mini-games: ranging from poker, gang raids, to just boring races. There are a few side quests that are actually pretty cool, like following the trail of a deranged serial killer and busting a human trafficking ring. But even then, it’s still just a bunch of missions where you go from place to place hacking a camera, taking a picture, and moving on.
The majority of the story missions are rather bland as well. It’s either driving to one location to shoot some guy, or hacking a whole bunch of cameras, to hack consoles and what not, to hack more shit, only to find a guy and shoot him in the damn face.
You have a wealth of hacks and abilities that you can unlock by leveling up, but in the end, you will only want to use a minority of skills through the majority of the game. Explosives are rather useless, and I only used a few guns out of the bazillion that you can buy. Most of the unlockables you get from doing side quests are quite useless, and most of the cars you can purchase or snag are about the same.
Driving is TERRIBLE in this game. Even with the buffs, your car just…turns and runs like a pig that’s been weighed down with lead, and thrown in the mud. Driving has to be the worst part of this game. It fucking astounds me since Watch_Dogs was originally supposed to be a driving game. You would think they would have the driving part nailed down because of that little fact, but Ubisoft tends to skip a lot on the polish. I won’t even start on the multiplayer! That crap still makes me pass out in a pool of my own blood that gushes out of my nose from the mounting anger and frustration that the glitchy shit brings. To make a long story short, all the things you have seen in every demo, video, and E3 preview are WRONG. It’s buggy, impossible to connect to people, and just an overall mess.
Despite all these numerous flaws, I would advise you checking it out. Maybe pick it up on sale or something, but it has a really good story that I look forward to checking out later in the future when future DLC comes out. The ending kind of flopped on a cliffhanger, but that’s what you need to expect from most Ubisoft games. Watch_Dogs is a prime example of great storytelling for a video game. Now if they could just nail the gameplay portion, this title would have been perfect.