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 Up
Most 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 locations.

The Right Skills
Watch 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 while driving.

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, Evade
Car 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 Fight
As 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 Approach
Watch 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 Personal
You 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 Money
Thanks 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 duration.

For more on Watch Dogs, read our review, and check out out recent episode of Test Chamber featuring the game.