We may be a little late to the party with this review of Watch Dogs, but when a game has so much to it, I always to take my time in order to be able to give a fair and honest opinion of it. Watch Dogs, released on the 27th of May, was developed by the guys at Ubisoft Montreal, and received high levels of hype across the gaming world since it’s announcement in 2012. When a game receives this much hype, which was generated mainly by gamers themselves, an expectation lives inside the gamers mind. We feed off the short gameplay videos released by the publishers, the stunning screenshots that countless sites scramble to upload aiming to be the first to show their readers, and then we read all kinds of previews and opinions about it. All of these serve to feed our vision of how a game should look and play, and when the public finally get their hands on the game, they are let down simply because of the vision that was created for them by, well us the press, among others.
Watch Dogs is such a game, one that was hyped up by the press all the way to launch day, and then given, if I am honest some very unfair press, when most of the press were already aware of exactly how it played and looked during the hype. I am one of the normal gamers among you, not getting any time with Watch Dogs until the day of release, so what follows is my fair opinion of the game.
Watch Dogs is set in the city of Chicago in the near future, where everything is much like today. People going about their daily lives dependant on the technology that surrounds us, something we can all relate to as we constantly fiddle with our phones and Ipods no matter where we are. Aiden Pearse is one of those who has been able to make a living from our reliance on this technology, easily being able to hack our bank accounts, conversations, and entire private lives at the press of a button. Aiden is the modern day hacker, on the move. While doing one of these jobs with his partner, something goes wrong and triggers a system alarm, he has been found, and now they want him. The company put a hit on Aiden, making a mistake they kill his niece. This is the bones of the Watch Dogs story, one of revenge for his niece, protection of his family and payback on those who caused it all.
The gameplay in Watch Dogs has been likened to the GTA series, and I suppose in some ways that’s fair, but I am probably among the minority of gamers when I say that I don’t like GTA and never have. It is one of those game that I have never been able to sit down and play for any amount of time. Watch Dogs on the other hand has completely dragged me into it’s world to the point where I am finding it hard to put down. The city itself is stunningly created, with realistic lighting, weather effects and time of day, it is probably one of the first games to start showing us the power of the new consoles. Throughout the city you can do pretty much what you wish, from stealing cars to taking digital trips, which by the way are just brilliant. As Aiden is a hacker, this is where most of your missions will begin, by hacking cameras to spot enemies, or infiltrate an entire building without even setting foot inside, right down to taking out enemies by triggering the grenades they carry. All of this comes into play during every fight and enables you to turn the odds in your favour. Hacking is also available throughout the city, on traffic lights, citizens, barriers and bridges to name a few, all of which will come into play more often than not. Citizens will often be carrying rewards so it’s advisable not to ignore everyone you come across.
Firefights are also a main feature in the game, and you will often find yourself hiding behind cover taking fire from all directions, the trick here is to keep calm and use the environment around you to even the odds. Even helicopters can be hacked, and their on board snipers can be shot, a steady aim and fast hacking can dispose of any enemy you face. Taking time out from the missions to explore the city, you will find all manner of side missions such as, Fixer contracts, Investigations, Races and even crimes to stop, each of which will increase your reputation. Your reputation is important as you move around Chicago, a bad rep will have citizens calling the police more often than not when they spot you, where as having a good rep means you become a hero to the people, and the police won’t be called on you so often. Sometimes, when you hack a citizen, they will place a call to have a contract put on your head. If you don’t get to them in time and grab the phone your game will be hacked by another player. Finding the intruding player before they get all the information is sometimes quite difficult, even with the help of the decreasing circle to indicate which area they are hiding in.
This is just one of the ways in which Watch Dogs deals with multiplayer. You can play all manner of multiplayer by simply accessing the online part of the map where you can choose between all available games. Myself and a friend had a go at these modes and I found them surprisingly fun, especially the 4v4 team mode where you have various objectives to complete across different sections of the city. I am not one that enjoys this sort of online play normally, but it was more than satisfying to play, and left me hungry for more of the same. One of my favourite things to do while I am getting about town has to be the digital trips, these are I suppose the equivalent of getting high in the game. Among my favourites are the Spider and Flower trip, the first one puts you in charge of a giant mechanical spider and you have to complete various objectives like killing 20 police officers or wrecking so many cars. The other is, well it’s the sixties high, where you are flying among the flower power, from one flower to the next, these trips never get old and you will probably find me high on these at least once an hour. Another thing that amazed me about Watch Dogs was the cars available to the player, each car, truck or bike drives and handles differently. This is no mean feat, if you think about it, the game has to include a complete racing game running in the background, on top of everything else that is going on.
Watch Dogs is a game that has delivered on so many fronts only to be given bad press for doing so. I am not going to bamboozle you with fancy words to describe how it performs, or how it fails in the eyes of others. I am here to give you my opinion. Watch Dogs is a hell of a game, a technical masterpiece, that creates a stunningly beautiful world and fills it with interesting content for players to enjoy. It gives gamers something for everyone, a host of multiplayer options, a single player campaign, side missions, shooting, driving, hacking, stealth and the freedom to try all of these as and when you want. If you cut through the bullshit of others, and play the game before forming an opinion you will be surprised in may ways by what Watch Dogs has to offer.