Sit, stay, roll over, Hack. Good boy. - User Reviews - www.GameInformer.com
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Sit, stay, roll over, Hack. Good boy.

There is no problem with aiming high, but when your reach exceeds your grasp people tend to end up disappointed with the results.  Such is the main gripe with Watch_Dogs. Ubisoft promised a genre-defining juggernaut and instead have delivered something lesser, whilst by no means a bad game, Watch_Dogs suffers from an over hyped marketing campaign and unfulfilled promises. 

 I am the Night! 

  Set in a near future Chicago Watch_Dogs, follows Aiden Pierce an outlaw hacker on a quest for vengeance after a job gone wrong costs his young niece her life, and whilst this premise is about as clichéd as they come Watch_Dogs does a good job with it’s story, creating compelling arcs and really making the villains people you despise.  Aiden himself is somewhat of a stock character in the mold of Batman, but enough is done with him to let you understand his pain and that this ‘quest’ of his is one entirely of his own making and seeing it through does not make him a hero.  Unfortunately the tone of a vengeful antihero is somewhat undermined by the open world game play. 

  Whilst the Aiden of the story was determined to do the right thing and eventually earns the begrudging respect of the citizens, outside of this he swerved down pavements at full speed and often opened fire indiscriminately with a grenade launcher killing dozens, it thus comes across as hollow when Aiden bemoans what has happened to him, whilst at the same time leaving enough orphans to keep Batman in partners for decades. 

  It is to it’s detriment that Watch_Dogs, allows you ‘moral choice’, as whilst your open world actions affect how Aiden is viewed by the public, the story will only have a positive effect on his ‘Reputation’ thereby rendering the system moot and undermined player choice.  Also whilst it may be unfair to continually compare Aiden Pierce with Bruce Wayne, developers should take note, Batman is a hero not because he goes outside the law to achieve ‘justice’ but because he has a line he will not cross, whereas Aiden’s ‘hero’ attitude and the respect people of the city have for the ‘Vigilante’ comes across as both insensitive and insane when I have just blown up entire neighborhoods just so I could catch one purse thief.

 WatchDogs2

Trust me, he looked shifty...

Fetch

   This disconnect between story and gameplay is however only one area in which Watch_Dogs flounders.  The game also struggles to craft a compelling world outside of the main quest.  Whilst side missions are numerous and varied (everything from chess to the well covered Robot spider rampages), outside of 4 more extensive side quests they come away feeling inorganic and forced upon the world, especially when the rewards for completing them pale in comparison to weaponry you can buy or skills you can earn anyway.    You will most likely find yourself doing the minimum number required for a reward and then never play them again. 

  Especially tedious are the abundance of missions that force Aiden to race across the city all while not causing damage to the car he has been tasked to deliver.  These  ‘Fixer’ missions serve only to highlight the quite frankly horrible driving mechanics and show you just how Chicago is seemingly held together with nothing more than spit and prayers.  Indeed the driving so often becomes an ice-skating irritation that I often found myself using an and all methods to use the far superior feet of Mr. Pierce, with the on foot controls and movement of the character (Got to love those pockets) and gunplay all being incredibly satisfying.

 Watchdogs4 It's less awesome when you do this to yourself for the hundredth time

Balancing Act 

  However we should not be quick to dismiss Watch_Dogs, whilst the game is far short of what we expected it still succeeds in several areas.  There is an abundance of content and the hacking mechanic, whilst simply, is incredibly satisfying.  Being able to hack into the phone of any NPC and discover tidbits about them helps to create a sense of living within this world, these people have lives and you are given the power to alter them, mainly through draining their banks accounts but it is successful in forcing you to in a way examine your own morality, it may be acceptable to drain the funds of an alcoholic playboy but what of the cancer sufferers? The single parents? The destitute? The small bits of information given to the player do a great deal in humanizing NPCs and I will admit feelings pangs of guilt when I accidentally robbed a cancer survivor of their life savings.  Perhaps if this had been a greater focus of the morality system the tonal shifts of the game could have been better held together. 

 WatchDogs4 Well he's only himself to blame...

  Of course as we are talking about one of the ‘system sellers’ of early next gen it behooves us to examine the game from a graphical perspective.  Here again the game is just shy of greatness, a lot has been made (and will likely continue to be made) of how the game looks compared to it’s reveal, and whilst it is perhaps unfair to expect that level, it is clear that the game may have been better served by being a next gen exclusive.  It is by no means an ugly game, indeed the rain effects and many of the environments are great, they are not however breathtaking.

 On a final note the multiplayer modes that accompany the game are little to write home about, all standard modes that you have come to expect are included, as well as the unique hacking games you play against other single players.  No mode stands out as worthy of any real investment, and outside of trophy hunters you will likely find yourself engaging in a few chases before you forget the mode exists.

 watchdogs 5 This? Oh god no...why would you think it looks like this?

Old Faithful

  Ultimately Watch_Dogs is not a genre shattering game that showcases the true possibilities of this generation of hardware; instead we should view it in the same light as the first Assassins Creed.  Both are good games with fascinating stories and premises let down by there gameplay.  However the foundation is strong and you owe it to yourself to try these games and like Assassins Creed Watch_Dogs has the potential to become staple of AAA gaming, all it needs is time and refinement.  When the inevitable sequel roles around we will likely see it’s true potential but for now we have to settle, settle for a game that is all round good, occasionally great, but never more. 

Comments
  • Nice review, man. Really enjoyed the read.

    The part about catching the purse thief made me laugh out loud

  • "when I have just blown up entire neighborhoods just so I could catch one purse thief." My play style has mostly been in care of the public. So it was only running and tackling for me. The parts I've played through, are mostly with me being stealthy and such. I've not gotten into any crazy shootouts yet, even with all the criminal convoys. Oh god, I skipped the fixer missions, at first. After struggling with the first two while exploring in chapter 1, I didn't want them, but then I hijacked a car that had awesome [or Watch_Dogs] handling, the cars had stats. After getting all the upgrades, driving was much better for me. I'll be skipping this series until it's gotten to Watch_Dogs 2.5 or something, and then Watch_Dogs 2 might end up being the best, gameplay wise. Looking at you ACreed.