How much fun you will have with Watch_Dogs will completely depend on a) how much you care about that E3 trailer and b) whether you enjoy Ubisoft’s already established open world formulas. Getting it out of the way – technical and graphical expectations have not been met, but you know that by now.
On the other hand, while not a complete revamp of the third person sandbox genre next-gen pundits were hoping for, Ubisoft Montreal has transitioned the well rooted Assassin’s Creed mechanics into a modern-day setting; no doubt about it, this game is Assassin’s Creed: Press □ To Hack.
The game falters when you are all but forced to have a shootout or a race, as the racing and shooting mechanics are equally as clunky. If anyone actually enjoys the back heavy steering of the cars, then they need to rethink their lives.
Luckily stealth and jumping between cameras to hack is fun, and you will be doing this a lot. But after a dozen games of a dressed up Pipe Mania, you realise that the hacking is not as innovative as Ubisoft Montreal would have you believe. Side note: Does Ubisoft Montreal know that Bioshock already used Pipe Mania as a hacking mechanism?
Sadly, the games profiling technique is little more than window dressing, and ultimately becomes yet another spin on the Arkham series’ detective mode. That said, the in-game cameras act like Batman’s gargoyles, giving Adrien the opportunity to quickly take out enemies unseen before sweeping up the remainder.
That square button is an enticing option throughout the game, and I often found myself just blowing up roads and raising bollards to my own inconvenience, just because the prompt was there. It’s a constant ‘don’t press the red button’ scenario, but the samey context sensitive actions quickly reveal the limited sandbox that Chicago really is.
The real problem with Watch_Dogs is Aiden, and the way Chicago address his him as ‘The Vigilante.’ Aiden’s character has been realised in such a flawed manner that it will leave many players confused. News reports reveal that Aiden Pierce is the name of the vigilante; however, no one seems to recognize him unless he is robbing a shop, stealing a car or shooting someone in the face. But when Aiden’s nephew and his deservedly worried therapist do not recognize Aiden running around on the news you have to wonder how Aiden can cunningly elude everyone. You really have to wonder when Aiden’s own sister does not recognise her own brother causing mayhem in Chicago. This is not just a case of ludonarrative dissonance, it just dissonance – dissonance on dissonance on dissonance. And actually, the story is not very special. It has all the cliches, from ‘gangbangers’ to double crossing allies. I think there was one moment where I reclined in my seat and thought huh, didn’t see that coming.
All of this is not helped by the fact that Aiden is a complete dick. Nobody would like this man, nobody would give their live for him, and nobody would help him murder hundreds of people for the cause of one person and a bit of revenge. Ubisoft Montreal have a hard time trying to convince the player that Aiden is the good guy, but they also heavily push the fact that he questions his own actions. In reality, there is no redemption for Aiden; he is a downright horrible person. I understand that you can have conflicted characters, but Aiden does not pull it off. I felt a lot more pity for Trevor Philips, and that character was a far from relatable character. Self-pity and angst made me completely apathetic to Aiden’s plight, and not once did I hope that he would return to the inevitable Watch_Dogs 2.
*SPOILER* By the way Ubisoft Montreal, not shooting a man in the head after holding him hostage throughout the entire game does not mean that it is a good decision. For Christ sake, Aiden’s shot a million other generic looking people. He suddenly realizes that what he was doing was wrong? Really? *END SPOILER*
The game does have some fun, such as the now oft-discussed digital drugs which allow you to jump on flowers or shoot police as a giant spider-tank. It is fun… for a short time. But there is certainly a lot to do in this game. It’s just a shame that after one or two attempts at fixer contracts and preventing muggings, I realized that there was very little personality in these missions. In fact that is the game’s downfall; Chicago lacks personality, the weird humour lacks personality and more importantly Aiden Pearce lacks personality. The best and biggest personality of the game was in Jordi Chin, a character who shows that Ubisoft really can get characterization absolutely right when they want to.
So a good but ultimately flawed game with sadly quite forgettable multiplayer options. A good blue print for the series, and if Ubisoft can nail the personality issues and innovative mechanisms next time around, we will be in for one hell of a game.
Edible, yet slightly over cooked with a hint of what could have been.Please consult the rating guide for more understanding.