The lights are on
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!
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
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.
Trust me, he looked shifty...
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
It's less awesome when you do this to yourself for the hundredth time
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
Well he's only himself to blame...
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.
This? Oh god no...why would you think it looks like this?
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.
Nice review, man. Really enjoyed the read.
The part about catching the purse thief made me laugh out loud