Watch Dogs (Xbox One)

By Chip Tamplin

Published on Monday, June 2, 2014

I don’t think I’ve ever had more of an issue coming up with my final thoughts on a game than I have with Ubisoft Montreal’s newest open world adventure Watch Dogs. Like with most sandbox games, you’re given free roam and able to complete the main and side missions in any order you see fit. Thanks to the overwhelming success of Grand Theft Auto, more of these games are popping up and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Watch Dogs was originally announced and showcased back at E3 2012 and featured delays to polish the game. For the most part, Watch Dogs plays very well with very little to speak of in terms of glitches. There were a few places where I had repeated issues, but they were few and far between, especially given the length of the campaign and the overall level of content.

The campaign for Watch Dogs was very satisfying. It took me roughly twenty hours to get through its entirety. You play as Aiden Pearce, a rogue hacker whose niece ends up being collateral damage following a hotel robbery goes wrong. Naturally, Pearce seeks vengeance for the untimely death of his niece and you’ll spend the majority of the campaign attempting to track down the person responsible. Using the central operating system (ctOS), you’re able to hack into Chicago’s electrical infrastructure using your smartphone allowing you to do a ton of fun stuff. You’ll be able to use cameras to survey situations, change streetlights to cause mayhem and raise blockades to help you flee pursuers. You can also remotely trigger explosive ordinance from a distance allowing you take out multiple enemies with minimal direct involvement.

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As you complete missions and earn skill points you can improve your hacking as well other traits like quicker reloading, better handling while driving and many other options. With the amount of both main and side missions, you’ll have no issues upgrading your skills to help you. While you’ll receive huge chunks of experience for completing campaign missions, you’ll also have a ton of side missions to work through. You can steal cars, identify and prevent crimes and take down gang hideouts. The latter was my favorite. You’ll also have several mini games to play through. Shady men offer you drug trips. What’s the worst that could possible happen? Nothing, because you can experience an insane alternate take on Chicago that allows you to drive around a giant robotic spider and destroy the city. Yes, a gigantic robotic spider.

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As you play through the game you’ll accumulate quite the arsenal of weaponry. For the most part, I just used my silenced pistol and then switched between an LMG and shotgun depending on the situation, but stealth is certainly your friend in combat. For the most part you’re able to take the stealth route through most missions, but there are certainly times when the creators wanted to force you into open combat. I wouldn’t have had any issues with this if it wasn’t for the cluttered way they have the weapon wheel set up. When you open up the weapon and gadget wheel (holding LB) you’ll have four weapon options and four gadget options, alternating between the two. After holding LB to open the wheel, you’ve got to use the right stick to pick one of them and then use left/right on the d-pad for each section to cycle through to the weapon or gadget you want. It’s great that you’ve got so many weapons to choose from, but the cluttered feel makes switching weapons and gadgets in open combat obnoxiously tedious. I fail to see how they couldn’t have streamlined it to make it more user-friendly. Because of these added complexities, Watch Dogs’ open combat can take a major hit if you don’t anticipate what you’ll need before you need it.

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While there wasn’t any too crazy in terms of weapons, the gadgets that you’ll be able to use are a lot of fun. There are the standard IED’s and frag grenades, but you’ll also be able to use a virus called Blackout that will help you gain the upper hand at night and will temporarily disable ALL lights and technology in the immediate area. While you can use cameras to locate and mark all enemies, you can also use and craft ctOS scans that will mark all enemy positions on your HUD instantly, too.

One of Watch Dogs’ biggest strengths is how much information you’re able to receive in such a short amount of time. Walking down an urban street your phone fluently scans every pedestrian and gives you information on them including their name and some outlandish fact (“shot adult film in college”). These facts does a great job of humanizing all the random faces you’ll encounter around Chicago, adding a level of depth that other open world games have failed to do.

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One of the most ambitious elements of Watch Dogs is its online integration. At any given time you can be thrust into an online duel to out-hack some random player online. It’s a nice concept and certainly ambitious, but the fact they don’t give you the option to decline it was a major draw back for me. I did two missions in a short amount of time, both as I was driving to my next campaign objective and I was forced out of doing that and into this. Actions like this, for me at least, break my immersion in the game and turn me off from wanting to do something. You can turn it off, but then you won’t get prompts at all and it will negate any experience you’ve already accumulated in them. Seems ridiculous to allow you to turn it off completely but not simply give you the option of when you want to partake in them. The extreme’s is disappointing.

Watch Dogs has a few bumps here and there, but it’s to be expected with a game of its massive scope. For a game with its level of ambition, I can’t say I wasn’t skeptical of how it was going to be, especially given the delays it suffered in its release date. But thankfully publishers are learning that delaying games, as disappointing as it is for fans, is in the best interest of the game. We were all worried when it was delayed, but the finished product greatly exceeded my expectations. There’s no denying that the subject matter of Watch Dogs makes the game stand out, but certain persistent combat issues caused the review score to drop a little bit.

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Whether you’re driving through Ubisoft Montreal’s beautiful imagining of Chicago, shooting up gang hideouts or avenging a loved one, there’s a little bit of everything for casual and hardcore gamers alike. Ubisoft has already said they want to turn this into a franchise and I’m excited for what they plan to do next.

Watch Dogs is out now on Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and will be out later this year for Wii U.

The Good

+ Chicago looks beautiful...

+ Compelling story.

+ Varied side missions.

+ Fantastic upgrade system.

+ Tons of content.

+ ROBOTIC SPIDER DESTRUCTION.


The Bad

- ...the characters in it? Not so much.

- Cliched and underused cast of supporting characters.

- Weapon switch system is unnecessarily complex.

- Open combat suffers because of #3.

- Insta-fail missions need to go away forever.

- Not being given the option to ignore online hacking missions.

Verdict8

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