In a world where everyone and everything is at a man’s fingertips, Chicago’s darkest secrets come to light. Aiden Pearce’s quest for revenge leads to forays into Chicago’s dark underworld of human trafficking, gang activity, and corruption. Although this story could easily have all of the fixings of a world-class game, Ubisoft failed to deliver with “Watch Dogs.” From the lackluster graphics to the poor driving mechanics, the game certainly is not the blockbuster it was made out to be.
On the Playstation 3 edition, the graphics lag well behind where they should be. The reflections are extremely simplistic, often not showing Aiden when the player stares directly into the glass. The character models lack detail during the actual gameplay and leave much to be desired. Although the characters themselves may be quite simple, their descriptors are quite varied, which makes traveling on foot somewhat interesting. Every NPC is labeled with a name, profession, and something about themselves. These details range from boring and simplistic to well thought out and amusing. Ubisoft even included references to their other games such as Karl, the former Abstergo employee. The player has the ability to hack these citizens and take money or information.
The main hacking sequences are reminiscent of those in “Deus Ex: Human Revolution.” The player must send a signal through a series of pathways to the final unlock node. However, some nodes cause a countdown that will set off an alarm and lock the player out of the system. Sadly, the complexity of the hacking was lost when vehicles were added. A simple press of a button can cause barriers to raise, steam pipes to explode, and traffic lights to change. This oversimplification of the hacking system makes it too easy for players to take out targets once they have the proper upgrades. A blue marker indicates when to hack to destroy a pursuer, and then it is simply a matter of watching the screen and hitting the button. The skill required to take out the enemies is minimized; it nearly becomes a game of button mashing whenever the player encounters something that can be hacked.
Some minigames require the player to race against the clock, and often the hacking component actually gets in the way. Although it may look as if the player is hacking the gate right in front of him, the game may decide that he should hack the barriers slightly farther down the road. This problem alone makes these races extremely difficult, and this is even before the driving mechanics come into play.
Driving takes center stage in “Watch Dogs” and, as such, should be much better than it is. While players certainly get better with practice, new players may find it nearly impossible to drive any car. A common complaint is that any little touch on the joystick would send the vehicle zig-zagging down the road and it was nearly impossible to recover from this situation. This problem made early missions extremely frustrating as the only car available may have been a performance car with poor handling. These types of cars only made the problem worse.
One of the few positive aspects of the game was the actual fighting. The hacking actually helped in these instances and made the game quite entertaining. Players could take advantage of security cameras to fully understand the locations of all of the guards as well as their armor and weapons. Most notably, players can take advantage of enemy explosives and time the hacking to maximize the damage. In this way players can be stealthy and get through many, if not all, areas without even drawing a weapon.
One of the more innovative aspects of “Watch Dogs” is the online component. Unlike many other games, the multiplayer mode was combined with the single player story. Players can hack each other at any time and interrupt one another’s missions. While this interruption can be quite nerve racking and frustrating, it certainly makes the game more interesting and forces players to stay on their toes.
Although “Watch Dogs” was certainly not the blockbuster Ubisoft intended it to be, the game certainly has its strong points. Once players can get past the poor driving mechanics, the game is an amusing adventure that’s perfect for a weekend afternoon.