Call me silly but I like to turn things into metaphors. For example, hackers remind of mages from rpgs. They can wield a lot of power that can completely clear rooms, but need time to get underway and they piss themselves when someone gets in their face. So when I first heard about Watch Dogs, I was looking forward to a stealth heavy, slow paced game where it was about painting your enemies into a corner.
But as it turns out, you're not actually a mage but a fighter/mage so if something refuses to play by your rules you blow its brains out.
And not in a good way like a true mage would be forced to do.
Watch Dogs stars criminal hacker/fixer Aidan Pearce, a man on a mission after a botched digital burglary resulted in a botched assassination that killed his neice and now he wants revenge. Although I'm hesitant to call Aidan a hero because he ends up with a body count that would make the Joker jealous. Every once in a while he would mention it as though it was a problem but the he'd suppress the whole chain of thought and kill some more bad guys.
But Dave, why would that make you hesitant to call him a hero? He's not Batman but he's stopping crime.
I could argue the Batman point seeing as how Aidan never stops trying to sound like him, but the real reason I wouldn't call him a hero is that he steals cars from everyone in sight, fights the police, and robs the living shit out of everyone who was ever unlucky enough to try online banking. At one point I came across an audio log made by someone else trying to find a way to control Aidan, noting his unusually strong moral code. I wondered if I could present that tape as condolences to the families of the twenty-odd policemen I'd just killed to lose my wanted level.
Maybe I'm biased against the story since I ran through the campaign in under twenty combined hours but by the end I was just glad to have it done. Aidan himself just wasn't compelling enough by the end and the conclusion is sort of lackluster and missing the weight it kept hinting at.
But the story still manages to bring some belief thanks to the stellar characters Aidan meets. The cast of Aidan's allies, enemies, and those in-between are such well fleshed and vivid characters that I hope any future DLC for the game finds Aidan dead in a ditch, having hacked his brain off so I can follow the other characters around.
Although I suppose that would change the gameplay from what it currently is. I've heard Watch Dogs's (And it is apostrophe s, because Watch Dogs is a singular title) gameplay compared to Assassin's Creed and Grand Theft Auto, but I feel it reminds me mostly of Splinter Cell. The player starts off a level trying to be stealthy but inevitably shit happens and you put down the silencer and grab the grenade launcher.
Aidan's phone is a god of hardware in the game can hack streetlights, power breakers, doors, cameras and even the ENTIRE CITY POWER GRID. While hacking again is supposed to be quiet and stealthy, there's a generous amount of gameplay where Aidan's hacking ability is relegated to making everything in sight explode so that he doesn't have to waste bullets. These sequences are what make Aidan feel more like that fighter/mage because the game likes to throw in required confrontation sequences with bad guys who have come for you even if you were undetected the whole time.
Of course you can run from a lot of these fights but I wouldn't suggest it because that involves driving and driving is something you want to do as little possible. It's probably because the character has his phone in his hand but the driving handles terribly. There are several parts where you have to wreck someone's car but can't kill them leaving your grenade launcher useless. And while Aidan can hack the city to raise blockers and turn all the stop lights green there's no guarantee the quarry will even go through one of those hacks leaving you with the option to ram them. Why not just shoot at the car? Because you can't shoot while im a car.
I'm going to use the bathroom while I let that sink in.
You can't shoot while in a car.
Of course the game is hack based and when they are at hand they can stop a car in its tracks--avoiding spoilers--there's a point in the game where Aidan loses the ability to hack road obstacles. This leaves you absolutely defenseless and I found myself sandwiched between not two, not three, but FOUR police cars all trying to crush me to a stop. I have to admit I was fucking impressed by how well those digital officers synchronized lining up with my car and I wish I'd had the presence of mind to record that, but I had been raging at Aidan's uselessness.
Cops can shoot from their cars, by the way. It must be a perk for full Fighters.
Where the gameplay really shines is in the stealth focused missions. It here that the advertised hacking shines as Aidan can jump from camera to camera, infiltrating entire structures without stepping inside. There are plenty of opportunities to hack the enviornment and distract or kill guards so you can sneak past unseen, and the parts where I used the enemy's own cameras to find their leaders, hack their things for passcodes, and break into their mainframe while Aidan stood smiling at the gate guard were some of my favorite moments.
My other favorite moments came from the many side activities through the game. Watch Dogs has a modest amount of collectibles compared to other present games but makes up for it in fifteen craploads of actual side missions. There are convoys to ambush, gang hideouts to hack and invade, spot the ball, chess, drinking games, crimes to stop, and a neat thing called digital trips.
Because having a fighter/mage confused about his alignment do real drugs would send the wrong message, Aidan can participate in a digital trip. From what I can tell, a digital trip is caused by an audiowave that [SCIENCE] so that you experience a specific trip. These trips can send fighting robot overlords, bouncing off flowers like trampolines, or riding around in a spidertank.
You read that right. Spidertank. Eveb arachnophobes have to admit that's REALLY AWESOME.
If you exhaust that, there's also an online mode for players looking to test their skill against others. I guess Ubisoft was feeling jealous of Dark Souls's invasion syatem because it's lifted straight from them. At any point when you aren't in a mission or activity you can invade or be invaded by another player. The invading player has to hack the invaded player and steal their data without being caught while the invaded player starts trying to fuck them up. It's difficult since most players by this point participating in the online modes have the benefit of experience and are likely to win everytime. Fortunately like Dark Souls invasions can be turned off, although instead of being killed back into an undead like in Dark Souls, the player has to uncheck a box in the pause menu system and then work past at least two "Are You Sure?" boxes. It made me wish I could just be an undead because it was a lot less of a hassle to deal with.
In short, does Watch Dogs have issues? Yes. But does that mean you should skip it? No! Watch Dogs does pull a puppy and crap on the carpet once in a while, but then it chases its tail for five seconds and you remember why you got it. In my opinion, Watch Dogs is exactly like that puppy and you will want to play with this puppy.
Besides, if you don't you'll miss the hackable phonecall of an ex-Abstergo employee telling his friend who was a Templar and who wasn't (The Three Stooges were mentioned).
Labels: Review, Watchdogs