The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
introduced players to Watch Dogs with an exciting gameplay demo that stole the
show at E3 in 2012. Since then, a six-month delay and rumors of a visual
downgrade have caused fans' faith in the promising new IP to waver. The final
game lies somewhere between the early next-gen hysteria and subsequent
skepticism; like most antiheroes, Watch Dogs gives players what they need, but
not necessarily everything they want.
Dogs follows the exploits of Aiden Pearce, a tech-savvy hacker hell-bent on
discovering who was responsible for the death of his niece and making them pay.
The story offers up a number of conspiratorial twists as Pearce discovers the
far-reaching powers of the Blume Corporation. The company's CtOS is the
interconnected operating system that Chicago runs on, and through his own
hacking prowess, allows Pearce to run Chicago.
first thing players will notice about Watch Dogs are its visuals, which are
indeed less impressive than the (literally) explosive announcement demo.
Ubisoft only provided PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game for our review, but
the graphics betray Watch Dogs' cross-gen status, and players should adjust
their expectations accordingly. Sometimes the game looks great; other times,
bland textures, sparse crowds, and the occasional pop-in of cars and objects
when traveling at speed fail to meet the new standard Grand Theft Auto V set on
last-gen hardware. The more important plus side is that Watch Dogs provides a
massive open world filled with plenty of interaction and few load times aside
from the initial startup.
many open-world games, the activities in Watch Dogs split your time evenly
between being on foot and in a car (or motorcycle or boat). The driving
controls are looser than I'd like, and are more reminiscent of the early 3D GTA
games than the turn-on-a-dime handling many modern games offer. Most objects
have a distinct feeling of weightlessness in the world; fences crumple like
tissue paper, light posts snap off and shatter on the ground, and cars spin out
of your way with minimal contact. Smashing through bus shelters and sidewalk
cafes without losing speed creates some Hollywood-worthy action moments, but
they come at a cost; ramming a pursuing enemy vehicle into oncoming traffic
only to have them blow through cars and be back on your tail a second later is
frustrating – especially considering you can't use weapons when driving.
technology is your weapon (spoiler!), and you unlock a variety of hacks to
eliminate your foes. Activating guard posts, overloading steam pipes, and
tripping traffic lights can take down vehicles with a single hit, and the game
signals when it's best to activate them. They work well, but are fundamentally
limited – you have to find them in the environment in order to use them.
This leads to a lot of circling around blocks and alleyways hoping to come
across a type of hackable item you've already unlocked to use on foes. Rather than
eliminating all of your pursuers via environmental takedowns, driving in Watch
Dogs is really about evasion – losing your tails just long enough to pull
into a secluded side street or parking lot and hide in your car (via an actual
hiding mechanic) until the heat dies down. Once I realized that, the
cat-and-mouse driving segments became more fun.
the other hand, the on-foot action is entertaining from the get-go and only
becomes more engaging as you unlock new abilities. Hacking items adds a
meaningful dimension to combat, allowing you to effortlessly hop between camera
feeds to get the layout of the environment, tag foes, and activate traps. The
solid shooting mechanics make full-scale firefights enjoyable, but Watch Dogs'
combat really shines with a stealth-minded approach. A focus power lets you
temporarily slow down time to line up headshots and take down enemies before
they alert their buddies; using the environment to my advantage and picking off
enemies one by one while remaining undetected never got old for me.
said, Watch Dogs' gameplay still has its problems. All too often, Ubisoft
Montreal forces you into the scenario it wants you experience; most missions
are bound to end with a protracted car chase, and sometimes backup guards spawn
no matter how careful you are. Additionally, the developer still hasn't learned
that tailing missions are boring and over-armored enemies that require multiple
magazines worth of ammo to take down are cheap and frustrating.
the whole, however, the campaign missions are entertaining, and provide the
right mix of interesting environments and gameplay variety. Guiding a
non-player character through a gang-controlled apartment building via security
cameras and crashing the secret auction of a human trafficking ring are just
two of the memorable scenarios that complement Watch Dogs' more conventional
action missions – which still feel fresh thanks to Pearce's hacking
powers. A wealth of unlockables and some interesting side content should keep
completionists happy for a long time. The Dark Souls-style multiplayer elements
are also engaging; having random players invade your game to hack your data or
observe you from the shadows adds a sense of urgency that going up against
non-player characters can't match. As boring as tailing an A.I. character is,
chasing after and observing another unsuspecting human player while trying to
remain unnoticed is exciting and amusing in a voyeuristic kind of way.
Watch Dogs' story doesn't live up to the gameplay, in large part due to Ubisoft
Montreal's inability to pick a tone and stick with it. Some characters, like
Lucky Quinn and Jordi Chin, are (relatively) understated and interesting.
Others, like Anthony "Iraq" Wade and Clara, are so overdesigned that it's hard
to take them seriously. Aiden Pearce is a mix of the two approaches; a
lone-wolf vigilante with a comically gruff Batman voice who can't let go of his
guilt for the death of a family member. Ultimately, Pearce is Max Payne without
an affinity for cheesy poetry, and while he offers up a few compelling moments
during the story, he's usually just a mope who can't stop staring at his
few thought-provoking and poignant moments of Watch Dog's story are undermined
at every turn by the general idiocy of the rest of the writing. Random civilian
chatter, enemy conversations, and the video feeds you frequently hack are
filled with crass, immature, and oftentimes offensive content, such as one
random NPC's diatribe about why he was justified for beating his girlfriend.
The GTA series manages to skewer American culture with a sardonic wit and a
tone that matches the style and stories of the series. In contrast, Watch Dogs'
more sensationalistic writing simply panders to every annoying stereotype of a
pubescent, mouth-breathing gamer; vulgar sex jokes, lazy insults, and
obscenity-laden outbursts are repeatedly served up without context or class.
Ubisoft's attempts to make you think about the random people you're hacking are
so heavy-handed that they come off as patronizing, and are undermined by the
same sophomoric humor. This NPC has brain cancer. That NPC was recently
prescribed diarrhea medication.
the end of the day, Watch Dog's story works as a basic revenge tale, and the
final few missions provide some gravity to the characters. Ultimately, however,
the main draw of any open-world game is the gameplay, and while not perfect,
Watch Dog's hacking abilities add an engaging and unique twist to the
third-person action. Ubisoft has another deserved hit on its hands, and I look
forward to seeing where the new series goes next.
review pertains to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC versions of Watch Dogs.
Read our review of the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions here.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.