Watchdogs was my initial go-to game for the PS4, shoot, I even had it pre-ordered as a release bundle. when the news came that Watchdogs was going to be delayed I had mixed feelings. Upset because, well here I am back in November with nothing to play, but happy because whenever a game takes more time its usually for the better. While I cant say much about the technical aspect of what they fixed, a lot was still left on the table.
You are Aiden Pearce, 1337 hacker extraordinaire. After finding a way to hack into Chicago’s city wide network “CTos” you spent your days stealing information, robbing from anyone who walked by and basically being a pain in everyone’s ass. Eventually you pissed of the wrong people and they put out a hit on your life. While avoiding getting murdered yourself, the exchange left your 6 year old niece dead in a car crash, her death sent you on a spiral of revenge, with the promise to do whatever it takes to keep your family safe… all while doing the same things that got you in this mess in the first place.
Gameplay: Okay lets face it, most likely you took one look at Watchdogs and immediately thought “boy this looks like GTA”, and lets be honest, the comparisons between the two are numerous right down to the bullet time abilities while driving and shooting. The reason I make this comparison is because it is safe to say if you have played any GTA game, ever, you will feel right at home with Watchdogs play style. Outside of GTA comparisons you will spend most of your time “hacking” with your cellphone to send traffic lights haywire, exploding steam pipes, accessing surveillance Cameras and messing up pretty much anything electronic. Aside from a few mini-games of electronic “pipe dream” to switch digital circuts, you mostly spend your time “hacking” by pointing at something and hitting the HACK button, this gives the feeling of hacking being more akin to a magic wand than anything else. Watchdogs really shines when special missions require you to use hacked cameras to locate enemies or even guide NPCs to safety, nothing is more satisfying than drawing an enemy close to something you can blow up all while being far away and safe from attacks.
Story: The phrase “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the Villain” has never rung so true in a game (heh Batman). Although Aiden feels he is doing good work and saving the people. The fact that he is willing to steamroll anyone, including his family, to get his revenge shows that he is not a merciful or forgiving man, but is in fact a monster who only leaves bodies behind him. Characters you interact with even point out the fact that what Aiden is doing is madness and a hellbent vendetta that will only get himself and his family hurt.
One of my biggest pet-peves is when a movie has a very obvious solution right off the bat that would solve all the main characters problems, but they do everything to avoid this option. In Watchdogs Aiden’s best option is to simply stop being a Dick, then he and his family could have lived the rest of their days as a happy bunch, shit even Aidens sister (you know the one who lost a daughter) could handle grieving better than Aiden, perhaps Aiden just needs to watch Frozen and LET IT GO! haha In Aiden’s defense,I guess once you open Pandora’s box you only want to know how deep it gets.
Sound: Most of the voice acting was done well except for Aiden, Aiden’s voice was waaaay too much wannabe Batman, I know he is supposed to be “the Vigilante” but come on, all that was missing was for Aiden to say “I am the night” or something stupid (heh Batman again). Another major negative was the music for the in game Radio was just pathetic. I mean, the setting of Watchdogs is the near future right? So why are we still listening to rejected 90s/2000 music? ie second rate songs from Wheezer, Smashing pumpkins, Wu Tang Clan and even Alice Cooper…Don’t get me wrong this music was fine 10/20 years ago but in a futuristic game shouldn’t the music be a little more…uhhhh current? On the plus side the games original score is amazing, and since I always turned off the music once I got in a car anyway, the game did a good job matching music to the mood or action sequences on its own.
Graphics: Unfortunately until Ubisoft finally decides to only move forward with next gen nobody is going to have a perfect experience with them. Yes the game does look nice, but nothing better than what could be found last gen, also last gen players will be hindered with draw distances/times and particles, so no one wins no matter what version you pick up, except Ubisoft /rant.
Ill also point out that every NPC, that was not a major character, was ugly as hell, even during the end credits they did a news cast scene, and I swear I could count the polygons used to make the news anchors face, the lip syncing was just horrible too. While effects as smoke or digital tears look nice, there is never an opportunity to have a far view or get up high to really take in the beauty of the game, this resulted in every street just looking like the last and never really gave you much of a “graphical wow” Obviously the game still looks good for 2013 and graphics aren’t everything, but I cant in good conscience state that this is a graphically good game for 2014.
Before I get into gripes, as there are a lot, let me talk about a few awesome points of Watchdogs.
- First, there is a Shit ton to do in this game as beating the main missions is only about 40% of the game. There are hundreds of side quests, hidden items and extra hacks you can do all over the city. While some things do just feel like filler it also made the world feel a lot bigger than it is. If I were 15 again and only had enough money to buy one game for the year, Watchdogs would be an excellent choice as there is plenty to do to keep me entertained and busy for a long wile. As a grown ass man, I have lost all motivation to even attempt to Platinum this game and am ready to spend my hard earned money on something better.
- Second, Augmented reality. There are a few mini games that will place a digital front on the game you are already in, IE blasting digital aliens with a fake gun or running in a digital maze to collect coins. While simple games, they are actually something that could happen here in the near future and were fun distractions between the story line. Digital trips are another mini game where you “trip out” as if on drugs but its all done digitally (don’t ask me to explain it) Games like bouncing across Chicago on giant flowers or running a muck with a giant rocket launching Spidertank (yes Spider TANK) are fun arcade style distractions within the game….game within the game.
- Third, While I am usually against adding multiplayer to a single player game. The Online portion of Watchdogs is actually fun and entertaining. Rather than focus on the typical death match, Watchdogs took a hacking/espionage aspect to it. While racing, team death match and other typical Multiplayer experiences do exist, I found myself having the most fun hacking into or monitoring other players while trying to remain hidden. The rush of being hunted while you hide around the corner is extremely exciting and 100x more intense than anything from the story line, this alone is well worth the play.
- First things first, I don’t know how you can make driving so horrible when 99% of the game requires you to be driving, it was so bad that if I was less than 300 meters away from my next objective I would rather run than find a car to ram into everything or risk hitting civilians. It gets easier over time but it still boggled my mind how horribly slide-y everything feels.
- I know I said Graphics aren’t everything, but the best graphics in the game are during main menu, when its showing pre-rendered snippets and the loading splash screen of Aiden’s face (see header image), both examples are no where near a correct representation of what you are going to experience in game.
- Money is absolutely worthless, aside from buying extra outfits for Aiden (la-di-fucking-da) or extra guns (that you find for free everywhere) there is no real reason to use money, actually thinking about it you could easily play the entire game without spending a cent. Because of this your rewards of cash feel just pasted on.
- Speaking of rewards, the level up system, while cool, is also ultimately worthless. Sure unlocking all the available hacking systems is necessary but who spends skill points on “getting more money from an ATM”? Who cares? One “hack” allows you to disrupt a perusing helicopter, while this is a great hack to have, it is impossible to aim straight up at any time in the game (you know, where helicopters like to hover) so you have to first get a viewable angle. Second you cant do this from a car, So yes when you are being chased by a helicopter you better disable it before you get in a car or else you will have to: STOP, Ge tout of the car, aim at the helicopter and then disrupt it…#1337HAXOR.
- The story is just painful, *spoiler* Aiden ultimately is just a horrible monster bent on destroying everyone and anything that stands in the way of his warpath for revenge, even the family he swore to protect. If it was Ubisofts goal to make you hate him and resent everything he stands for, Good on them, but the way they constantly try to spin that he is a vigilante just seems forced, a hero of the city doesn’t kill everyone he talks to and cause billions of dollars in damage (IMHO).
- There aren’t any real choices you can make to effect the story, so since its all predetermined, you deciding to kill or not kill doesnt matter, enemies or civilians, Yes you could kill every innocent person in the game and it would still call you a Vigilante.
- One mission, I specifically made sure not to kill anyone, did non-lethal take downs on all enemies, the resulting cut scene at the end of the mission talked about how I killed all of them. So play the game however you want the end result will be the same. On that note, sneaking is your best option, in a gunfight Aiden is not the strongest as bullet time wears down fast, luckily AI is pretty dull and will usually hunker down as a group right next to explode-able items.
- Lastly, while not a major gripe it does show the lack of attention the game received. At the end of Watchdogs’ credits (which are about 10 minuets long and unskipable) the songs for the credits end, but the credits keep going, instead of loading another song the game defaults to the last sound effect in the game (your idle car) and just plays the rumble of the car over and over again. I mean how do you mess up timing your credits to music? So the last minuet or so is just the final credits and publisher credits displayed to the repeating sound of an engine in idle…#MUSTABEENHAX
Over all I cant quite WFTBB this game, no matter how much I want to, the extra stuff in the game and online play make it just ejoyable enough to warrant a play and since online is a big part of this, its better to have it now than wait and have nobody to play online with. In the end the World of Watchdogs was left with a lot of interesting ideas un-touched or explained, Ubisoft had a chance to make an amazing game where data manipulation is king and algorithms could control your life, instead we were left with a blind quest for revenge.