Review: Watch_Dogs: Modern Day Assassin’s Creed?!

Wow, talk about a hyped game! Ever since its introduction during E3 2012, Watch_Dogs has been on everyone’s list as the next generation’s open world game. Well, I’ve been waiting for the game for some quite time now, so here’s our review of Watch_Dogs.

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Story: 7.5/10 Soo Cliche, yet sooo..Exciting!

We’ve heard it before, family member or close friend or important person dies in front of protagonist, protagonist goes into justice mode. Yes. That is exactly what you are playing in Watch_Dogs. A little background story though: You play as Aiden Pearce, a seasoned hacker in the criminal underworld. As you hack your way into getting some cash, you run into the people who’ll be responsible for the death of your little niece and as a hacker, you shall now seek vengeance upon those who did you wrong! By any. Means. Necessary….unless you play as a good vigilante…it is as cliche as it can get. The cliche isn’t a bad thing if you know how to execute it, I mean, look at The Last of Us we’ve seen a story like that before too. But this isn’t the Naughty Dog’s masterpiece, so the story isn’t that special, though it is pretty exhilarating.

Even though you’ll roll your eyes a couple of times, you’ll find that the story is pretty exciting. Like a combination of Die Hard and Mission Impossible exciting. You’ll be curious to see Aiden’s progress into solving his mystery and the thing that will keep you hooked is the use of hacking and the other characters aside from Aiden.

See, Aiden just looks cool as a character, rocking the hat and trench coat thing, but his character is lame! Yes, he has trust issues and yes, he has a reason to be, but he’s somewhat of a dick. Specially to the characters who stick around you throughout. His main personal trait is intimidating those he meets and glare into their souls as if he’ll just shoot you in between the eyes. He’s basically Batman without any redeeming qualities of the Dark Knight. Drowned with sorrow, his instinct is to simply act, even though he creates brilliant plans within his own monologue! Did we mention he has a growl-like voice similar to the Batman Christian Bale portrayed? Yeah…

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Luckily, his band of misfits just makes the story that much more interesting. For starters, you’re teamed up with Clara, a female hacker who will guide Aiden as he ventures deep into the crime that haunts him. T-Bone is an ex-hacker who is your “down with the corporations” madman with paranoia. Then you have Jordi Chin, who is basically the coolest character in the game. There’s a need for a special mention for Jordi because his character is just a delight to watch. He practically has the charm of Lex Luthor with the insanity of the Joker. His main job is basically the underworld’s PR specialist, basically making murders look like accidents and having contact with people with a set of skills and benefits. The characters make a fine chemistry together, even if Aiden isn’t that interesting.

The story will have it’s own twists even though you’ll see some coming a mile away, it’s basically what Aiden and his crew does that keeps the story in an exciting form. I’ve encountered times where I personally had to chuckle a little on the narrative’s moments but it was a fun ride none the less.

Gameplay: 8/10 Become a digital weapon!

Here’s the kicker behind the game: your hacking abilities. Hacking around Chicago is refreshing in a game. It is one of the few games where you get to literally control the city all around and affect the environment and the people in it. At the beginning, you’re limited to the profiler and a couple of hacks where you mess with stop lights or burst circuit breakers on walls, but as you progress, you can upgrade your abilities where you can cause black outs within city blocks or blow a whole steam pipe underground to escape the fuzz (Cops in plain English). The profiler is a nice addition as it is a novelty. As you play, the profiler becomes more apparent in humanizing NPCs as you discover little snippets of facts about them. You’ll also have access to certain people’s conversations and text messages, revealing side missions where you can obtain hidden items scattered around the map or a crime about to happen.

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There are a lot of side activities available to you, the most popular one is the Digital Mind Trip. These mind bending segments come in four flavors: Madness has you inside a souped up vehicle as you moe down “daemons”, increasing your multiplier as you run them down in carnage. Psychedelic is a platformer where you bounce from one flower to the next. Alone is your Metal Gear-esc gameplay where you avoid patrolling search lights and disabling com-towers to “liberate” areas of the walking watchers and then you have Spider Tank where you simply destroy Chicago and complete destruction objectives as you progress further into the mayhem. Accompanying the Digital Trips are numerous past times and other side quests like investigation, augmented reality games, chess, drinking games, just to name a few.

Aiden’s cellphone isn’t the only thing in his arsenal, he can make use of several firearms from pistols to shotguns as well as craft items like the homemade IED. Components for crafting can be both bought and sold and you can also customize Aiden’s looks through clothing stores found across the city with predetermined clothes and color.

But what about the mechanics of the game? Well there is good news and some bad news. The good: missions can be tackled in two ways: the stealth approach or the guns blazing approach. Either approach isn’t bad, depending the circumstances you’ve put your character in. The City of Chicago is small but densely populated with cars, people, alley ways, etc. When tackling CtOS towers, you have the chance of solving a platforming puzzle. You also have the chance of collecting items you can craft with and almost all crafted items are a joy to use. Most side quests will keep you on your toes together with the 20+ hours of the story line. Out of the whole game, I’ve got to give Ubisoft kudos for their AI. Whether it’s the crowd or enemies, you’ll see a huge variety in the AIs actions. You’ll find them conversing and even arguing with each other. Enemies will flank, throw grenades and form squads to take you out which brings a level of strategy for those who are very gun-ho. Sadly, the same cannot be said to allied AI which is fairly annoying to say the least.

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Now for the bad; I want to make it clear that these negatives are just minor things that doesn’t really interfere with the overall great experience of the game, just something that is worth mentioning. First off, side missions do get repetitive and for the most part the rewards you earn are little more than money or experience if anything. There is no incentive in completing side missions when it’s easy to attain experience and money otherwise, the only reason you’ll be doing side quests are for the sake of unlocking specialty items that you’ll likely, almost never use or you’ll be completing them for the sake of one or two useful abilities. Cars handle between the fine lines of realism and arcade-like that driving becomes somewhat infuriating at times, especially when you’re being chased by enemies who happen to be the best drivers in the game and will always somehow catch up to you.

Regardless of the downside, the game’s upside surely blocks out any issues you’ll encounter. Chances are, you’ll notice these when you get to them, but the sheer fun you’ll have in the hacking and messing around in the open environment.

Fun Factor: 8.5/10 Friends that hack together…

This game IS fun. And that’s the gist of it. See, there are a lot of open wold games out there, but if you factor hacking into the gameplay, it opens up a very refreshing feel to an old genre. The thing that makes Watch_Dogs stand out is the ability to affect environments, particularly in a city landscape in a simple manner that utilizes deep strategy. Causing steam pipes to explode and causing a city block black out creates a new strategy especially when AI is affected by it. There are a few games as good as this out there and if anything, this is easily one of my top choices. So how fun is the game?

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Well, adding to what was stated above, believe it or not, there is multiplayer present in the game. Now there are differences across the generations of platforms, but the game is still quite fun. Now if you’re on the PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One, you’ll get to play all the available multiplayer for Watch_Dogs which include: Decryption, which is the 4 vs 4 game, Intrusion, where you go into another person’s game and hack them, tailing, which is the same as Intrusion but without the hacking and Free Roam, where 8 players can go wild in the open world. Now if you’re in the previous generation systems, the ones omitted are Decryption and Free Roam.

I would take note of two of the modes that are a joy to play. Decryption is a blast when you have a whole team together working to an objective to obtain a device to decrypt. Team work is a necessity here since the game requires all the players to be within close proximity to make the decryption run faster. It gets intense when players bunch up on a car while shooting each other to attain the objective. On the latter side of things, Intrusion has you looking for another player online and planting a “backdoor virus” into their smartphone. The further the Upload bar goes the smaller the search area becomes to a player. If you’re on the offensive, it’s all about getting the best hiding spot and if you’re on the defense…well, do your best to find the bastard before he finished uploading.

Now, as I’ve said, the side quests does get pretty dull, but the good thing is that there are tons of it and in different varieties too. If you properly mix and match the mini games with quests, you’ll find a very enjoyable time. The only thing that will probably make you squeal is the repetitiveness of the objectives and the incentive of actually completing ALL side quests provides very little rewards.

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Final Score: 8/10 Very Good

Watch_Dogs is what you would expect in an open world game, full of city life and the addition of hacking brings the genre into a refreshing playing field. The problem is that the game seems to have a minor conflict in itself. Story is as cliché as it can, but boasts excitement for you to stick around and a great cast of characters to complement the tale. There are a bunch of mini-games but the do become pretty dull. Multiplayer is added, but nothing new where we basically wow ourselves and ask for more. You getting it yet? See, we’ve seen a lot of games with similar stories and action style before, but it is the extreme action and hacking mechanics that makes this game great! I’ve blown through multiple gang hideouts, criminal convoys and mini games int the game because they’re just enjoyable in nature. You’ll keep repeating objectives and playstyles you’ve done before in a game like this and you’ll tell yourself that you’ve done this before, but you’ll keep on coming. There’s enjoyment to be had in this game and they’ll keep adding more in the future DLCs. It is because of this we give the game an 8/10. So we urge you to buy the game for the sake of the experience you’ll get out of it. In the end, you’ll ask yourself: is the game genre defining? Not really. Is it fun though? Hell yes.

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