The lights are on
The complex mechanics of Ubisoft Montreal's newest open-world
adventure can result in information overload for new players. Here's a spoiler-free
list of tips and strategies I learned over the course of the game to help you
get your bearing.
Open Things UpMost open-world games try to strike a balance between story
and freedom. Watch Dogs lets players start messing around in Chicago almost
immediately, but it pays to stick with the campaign missions for a while. In
addition to laying the groundwork for the story, the first few missions will
introduce you to many of Watch Dogs hacking, combat, and driving mechanics. Playing
to the appropriately named "Open Your World" mission will teach you most of
what you need to know and also open up all of the skill upgrades for purchase. After
that, feel free to peel off and do whatever missions and side content interests you. That said, you'll probably want to make hacking the CToS stations and
towers a priority; completing them will open up your hacking abilities in other
parts of the city, reveal even more side missions, and unlock fast-travel
The Right SkillsWatch Dogs offers players plenty of abilities to invest in,
but some are a lot more valuable than others. The first skill you'll want to
unlock is Focus. Located in the Combat category, this ability allows you to
temporarily slow down time, a la Max Payne, and makes Watch Dogs' stealth game
a lot more accessible. You'll also want to invest your early skill points in
more driving hacks, such as the guard posts, road spikes, and steam pipes
scattered throughout the city; because you can't use weapons while driving, the
more environmental options you have at your disposal, the better.
Once driving becomes easier, I recommend investing in
crafting items and enemy hacks to spice up combat. The crafting materials are
cheap to purchase (you'll also find them in the environment, but hacking citizens
provides Aiden with an unlimited amount of cash, so treat yourself!), and let
you build some powerful items. Two of the most valuable crafting items are IEDs
and Jam Coms. IEDs function as sticky bombs and are great for setting up
ambushes and taking down armored enemies; Jam Coms come in handy for
temporarily disabling communications for cops and enemies, and can be used
Finally, save up some points and unlock the skill that lets
you take down enforcers with melee attacks; these powerful enemies take an
absurd amount of ammo (and sometimes even multiple IEDs) to kill, so being able
to swiftly dispatch them by sneaking up behind them is a huge help – especially
later in the game.
Don't Destroy, EvadeCar chases work a little differently in Watch Dogs than most
open-world games, and the game doesn't do a great job of explaining how they
work. While you'll unlock plenty of abilities for taking down pursuing
vehicles, your main goal is still to get away.
Before the cops start chasing you, they'll conduct a search
for your location via radar. These searches appear on your mini-map as yellow
circles; when the circle turns completely opaque, you'll be spotted if you're
in its vicinity. If a circle pops up in front of you, it's sometimes best just
to stop and wait for it disappear again instead of racing through it.
Conversely, you can use a Jam Com to disable the search and buy yourself a few
extra seconds. If you have been spotted (or if a mission automatically
triggers a chase sequence), you'll have to lose your new pursuers. Using
environmental hacks can disable cars, but they're just as useful for cutting enemies
off and giving you time to use Watch Dogs' hiding mechanic.
Stopping and pressing the circle (or B) button turns off
Aiden's car and causes him to slink down in the driver's seat. As long as
enemies don't have a direct line of sight on your location, you'll lose them,
and they'll begin searching for you. A small circle will show up around your
location on the minimap; as long as enemies don't enter it while patrolling
before the timer runs down, you'll be in the clear.
In order to give yourself the best odds of evading your
pursuers, try hiding in out-of-the-way locations; enemies will check most
streets and alleyways, but are less likely to venture into parking lots or
places without proper roads. Pulling into the middle of a park and turning your
car off may look awfully suspicious, but the non-player characters won't know
the difference and are unlikely to go off-roading themselves.
Stand And FightAs I mentioned before, you can't use weapons while you're
driving a car. However, that doesn't mean you can't stop, get out, and take the
fight directly to your enemies. Whenever a mission objective tasks you with "losing
or eliminating" all of your enemies, consider switching to your ground game and
tackling the latter. Your enemies will be more than happy to stop and engage
you in a street battle, and if you're stocked up on explosives and ammo, you
can often make short work of them.
Other missions can be simplified by stopping fleeing targets
before they can drive off. One mission required me to chase an escaping enemy
from a marina, while he called in countless vehicles for backup. After failing
the mission a few times, I tried a different approach; I pulled out my sniper
rifle, activated my focus, and took him down with a single headshot as he
peeled out of the parking lot, allowing me to completely skip one of the game's
more frustrating chase sequences.
The Stealth ApproachWatch Dogs' combat mechanics hold up well in large-scale
battles, but unlike most video game protagonists, Aiden can't take many hits
before going down. Not only is a stealth approach the safer play, it's also a
lot more entertaining.
The silenced pistol is one of the first weapons you unlock,
and also the most important, as it won't alert other enemies no matter how close they are to you. Using your focus
ability will give you plenty of time to line up a headshot, shoot, and then
duck behind cover again before enemies enter an alert state. Make sure to use
security cameras to scope out a location first and tag all of the enemies;
doing so will make them visible behind obstructions, and also reveal other
hacking options, such as distracting them with a text message or an annoying
ringtone, or even remotely detonating the explosives they're carrying. It might not
be the sneakiest approach, but as long as you're hidden away, their startled
cohorts won't suspect foul play or call in reinforcements.
Up Close And PersonalYou can use security cameras to hack anyone you spot, but
there's a catch; some non-player characters will catch your electronic invasion
and call the authorities on you. If they do, you'll have a bounty placed on
your head, increasing the likelihood that you'll get invaded by another player.
Instead, do your virtual thievery by getting up close and personal; if the NPC
does attempt to rat you out, you can interrupt their call by using a Jam Com or
by knocking the phone out of their hand. Additionally, you can simply pull out
a gun and aim it at them. Doing so will also freak out any other nearby citizens, but
at least you won't have to worry about online intruders.
Spend That MoneyThanks to Watch Dogs' hacking mechanics, you'll rack up
plenty of money courtesy of the random people you pass on the street. There aren't
any big-money purchases you need to save up for in the game, so don't hesitate to
spend your cash as you acquire it. Use your phone to purchase new cars, which
can be delivered to a location near you any time you're not in a mission. These
cars don't cost anything once they're unlocked, and the higher-end sports cars
offer tighter handling that can make cruising through the city a lot more fun.
Weapons work the same way; once you've purchased one, it's yours forever.
You may also want to prioritize some of Watch Dogs' side
content, which unlock weapons, cars, and other bonuses – check the progress
wheel to scope out the rewards in advance. Here are some goals worth shooting
for: The first privacy invasion quest will give you a nice muscle car for free;
collecting all of the weapons crates awards you what is probably the best
weapon in the game, a silenced assault rifle; and playing ten rounds of the chess
survival game unlocks the final focus upgrade to max out the powerful ability's
For more on Watch Dogs, read our review, and check out out recent episode of Test Chamber featuring the game.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.