Published on June 2nd, 2014 | by Edwin Millheim
Watch Dogs Xbox One Review
Summary: Watch Dogs, a twist in gaming with exciting results... please Ubisoft, can we have some more?
Genre: Open-world Action
Format: XBox & PS4 (Reviewed on both consoles)
Reviewer: Edwin Millheim
It’s like grand theft auto, but not….Ubisoft’s latest offering into a new franchise to entice us all with the premise of hacking information, using this as weapons, gunning, running and car chases…. and action is Watch Dogs. Where guns are not the only weapons of choice, but the use of information and hacking into just about anything you can imagine. It flies in some points and meanders along on others. The mix is a nice ride though with a game you just can’t put down.
The saying goes if you can get into the net, then everything is there. It’s yours….. These days even a city’s infrastructure is controlled somehow in some way by computer. Imagine having access to it all. In Watch dogs, you do not have to imagine because it does a really good job at making the player feel like a super bad ass hacker. Targeting individuals brings up some general information about them and something’s they may not want others to know about them, and if you have ever seen the T.V. show “Person of Interest” the effect is a kin to when the super computer in that show is scoping people out through the various cameras and Satellites around the world.
The premise the character and story and that characters motivations in “Watch Dogs” are a bit of old school with a twist. Revenge is of course the ultimate motivator to any story. Players are Aiden Pearce in the game, and the opening events to the game set everything in perspective. While the Aiden’s motivations tend to skew throughout the story, the events that take place that sets him on his ultimate path are a punch in the face. Told in true cinematic story form that rips at your heart and one can understand that Aiden tends to blame himself for the events… so it sets him on the path of not only revenge, but redemption.
Our hero Aiden at times seems to be a bit conflicted though, not an ounce of anger slipping through, even when having someone dead to rights in hand that had a part in the tragedy. We can let this pass because of the excellent ride and the quirky often interestingly likable characters we meet along the way. Some you know are very bad people in their own rights but their personality that comes forth makes you like them in some macabre way.
Aiden being a hacker has the ultimate piece of equipment. His Smart Phone. It’s through the smart phone that so much of the game put the twist on things in a rather interesting way. With the smart phone players hack into just about anything in the game, impacting situations and at times getting into hard to reach areas. Imagine if you will having to get up to the roof top and past double barbed wire security fencing. Hacking into strategically placed industrial forklifts and scissor lifts offers interesting solutions to the dilemma.
Imagine tapping into the traffic system and changing traffic signals to give you the advantage if you’re being chased, or blowing an electrical panel at just the right time.
Our pal Aiden can even make some extra money by hacking into targets phones and stealing bank information and then visiting an ATM to get a hold of his ill-gotten gains. Hacking is a main lynch pin part of the game.
There is so much hacking to be done it can come off as rather over whelming at first, but the designers have given us so much to play with and explore it sparks that adventuresome streak in just about anyone and the game is the perfect platform to explore an interesting and vibrant city. While the world of hacking is BIG, Here in the game Hacking is pretty much easy, just target what you want and hit the right button for a few seconds and the information flows right to you. As Aiden, the hacking play is tapped into the heart of it all.
Much like the places in UbiSoft’s other franchise Assassins Creed, as players explore the city, there are towers that can be hacked into and open up new side missions and information for areas of the city. Expanding the possibilities and adventures even further. It’s always fun to just explore, you do not have to stick to the main mission stories to get enjoyment and adventure out of this game. Free roaming is just as much a blast if not more so.
The game throws some interesting challenges at players. A decent mix of gunning, hacking and stealth elements are represented and if you throw in the figuring out what elements in an area to hack to get what you want there are minor puzzles to be had also.
The character has several skill trees that they can purchase more skills from, enhancing their already impressive skills. It’s all accessed using the smartphone interface. It’s here that the player’s choices impact on how the game is played. Getting one skill over another is all a matter of choice in what skills the player wants to bring to the table. Invest in a lot of combat skills or throw it all into hacking and work your best to be a stealthy player, and leaving no trace of your passing. Well almost no trace. The hacking branch in the skill tree is a main draw since the main idea of the game is hacking. So investing points into hacking would be a good idea. Because becoming a very powerful hacker will make parts of the game a bit easier for the player.
In true Ubisoft fashion, there are plenty of side missions and activities to keep the player occupied for hours on end. Heck you can explore this city till your heart’s content and never touch on the main missions. Some of the side missions for instance include finding out and then stopping a crime and apprehending the perpetrator. Once you choose the mission a way point guides you to the area and then you have to find the potential victim and the crook.
Now you can stop the crime by simply letting the crook see you and take notice, they then do not try to go through with the crime. This leaves them free to try again some other time though and you do not get a successful side mission notice. The hard part it seems is knowing just when to intervene. There have been too many times I saw the crook stop the victim and looks like they are about to attack or rob, but as I step in they notice and stop what they are doing…the message that I more or less failed comes up. So timing and not being seen till the right time is essential. There is no try the mission again here, you just fail. In regards to mission as a whole this puts some pressure on the player a bit since making a mistake during a mission can screw your characters day up. There are no saves that keep stages in the game, so until a player masters some finesse and timing in mission execution they best be ready to start mission again from square one. So as a gamers perspective the stakes are high in those respects to pull things off without a hitch and it can be very gratifying to do so.
Other than those main campaign missions there are a surprising amount of side missions and distractions to be had in the game. On top of what was just mentioned, there are fixer contracts that have you pitted again the police as you try to deliver a hot car for instance. There are even criminal convoys to take out before they reach a destination.
The developers/designers upped this with raids on gang hide outs, here are some very challenging missions. Players will have to use Hacks, stealth and all the tricks they can muster to be successful.
In a pleasant surprise there are even distractive activities. Including poker, shell games, and chess amongst other intriguing things.
The game missions offer plenty of challenges, even at the easiest level police chases can be relentless, if you manage to evade the police units dispatch will go into a grid search using the electronic surveillance systems. At this point it seems to throw everything they have at you. Including air support in the form of a police helicopter. It’s tough but what a rush, let’s see if you can manage to evade in a high speed high stakes chase without causing any civilian casualties.
Now by way of weapons, Aiden has a collapsible baton he makes good use of. When it comes to lead slinging though there are a satisfying number and types of pistols, rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers and shotguns to be had in the game. All of them are satisfying to use. You can make your gun purchases in a gun store in game and also refill ammo this way.
In regards to weapons. If you openly have your weapon out, the surrounding population reacts appropriately. Now if you fire off some shots, some witness in the area will end up calling police. So some common sense is needed in your game play, unless you want the police to come visit you of course.
If we chose anything to be a bit critical about it would be some of the driving mechanics. We understand that the devs perhaps went for different driving and handling feels depending on what vehicle your character is driving around in. But there are times that driving just does not feel very solid. Especially not if you’re in a high speed situation. It takes some finesse on the controls to get used to the different vehicle handling. When you do get used to it, and you will. The fun begins. The Vehicles your character is in can take… it seems… massive amounts of damage before coming to a halt or having catastrophic destruction done to it.
Other than minute oddities (It’s a game for Pete’s sake people! And the car weirdness…) the game is solid and inspiring and lays a solid foundation to the franchise if they are planning to do follow ups to the game in the future. It’s a nicely polished game, even with some of the oddities with the character and his motivations and skewing of those motivations throughout the game.
If there is just not enough for you in the single player… (Yea right) or you just like to pit your wit against other players, Watch Dogs offers a heaping helping of Multiplayer modes that will make any multiplayer a happy hacker. Once a player has access to the Online Contracts app. In game players access the app via the characters smart phone of course. The online aspects have all the twists and turns, only with thinking opponents. Some of the experiences are much like other game offerings and have a free for all feel. Others have a nice cat and mouse feel, only the mouse carries weapons.
The game looks awesome just not as hardcore as one would expect for Xbox One or PS4. You have to really scrutinize the difference and then if you do… what’s the point really? The game looks great on all three of these platforms. In regard to the PC, if you really want the high quality graphics… If you have a PC and video card that will support it, you can run Watch Dogs at an ultra-high level. I enjoy the feel of the game controls when it comes to the Xbox One and PS4.
Whatever platform you choose to get the game on, Watch Dogs is the one to get your hands on. We hope this is just the first in an exciting new game series. Bring it Ubisoft!
Have fun play games.