Watch Dogs ReviewClayMeow - May 27, 2014
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Watch Dogs was my E3 2012 Game of the Show and my E3 2013 Best Action-Adventure Game. To say my expectations were high would be an understatement. This was the game I was looking forward to most, but was I setting myself up for a major letdown? Would Ubisoft's most pre-ordered new IP ever be able to live up to the hype?
Twenty hours in, I've hacked government buildings, caused city-wide blackouts, chased down criminals and convoys, escaped from prison, engaged in massive gunfights, caused huge explosions, raced through the streets, tailed people using only cameras, hacked ATM machines for free money, and carjacked a fire truck, ambulance, and ice cream truck just because. And yet there is still so much more I know I have not discovered. Watch Dogs starts out slow, but give it a little time to get warmed up and you will be richly rewarded. Comparisons to Grand Theft Auto will surely be made, and are certainly justified, but there's more to it than that. It's Grand Theft Auto meets Assassin's Creed meets Splinter Cell. It's an open-world adventure. It's a cover shooter. It's a stealth game. It's a racing game. It's not going out on a limb to say that it likely has more variety than any other game, disregarding mods.
Watch Dogs starts with a cinematic that explains some back story before fast-forwarding eleven months and granting you control. As seems to be the norm with open-world games, the game starts out linear, presenting you with a tutorial of sorts. You control Aiden Pearce. He's not your typical hero; hell, he's not really a hero at all, as you may have surmised by my aforementioned list of "accomplishments." Most characters in the game refer to him as a vigilante and he has just one ultimate goal: revenge. Revenge fuels everything he does and he'll do anything to seek it, even if it means getting in bed with criminals and killing cops.
The five-act campaign consists of 39 missions and provides a lot of variety; though hacking something is almost always prevalent in some form or another. Of course there are also a plethora of side missions, mini-games, and Digital Trips to partake in too. The latter drastically alters gameplay mechanics just for the sake of offering something different, which is a bit odd since there's already so much to do without them. Still, who the hell would complain about optionally being able to slaughter demons or control a spider tank (which is completely badass, in case you were wondering)? The more options the better! And Watch Dogs has options in spades.
Hacking is quite fun and makes you feel like a complete badass. Maybe not in the same way the Batman Arkham games do, but pretty close. Hacking is pretty easy – simply look at the device you want to hack if it's within range and hold down Q (default). Anything you can hack has a "Q" icon above it and says what you'll accomplish by hacking it, such as "Explode". While eavesdropping on conversations is certainly fun, it's not quite on the same level as luring enemies and then causing an explosion to take them out, or hacking their comms and then sneaking in for the brutal melee takedown. At any time you can press CTRL (default) to enter Focus Mode, which slows down time briefly. I often forget to use this, but it's particularly useful in high-speed vehicle chases and escapes, allowing you raise bridges or burst steam pipes as you drive past them.
While hacking is awesome and offers up a lot of different opportunities, if there's one disappointment I have with the game, it's the lack of interactivity outside of hacking. While it may seem minor, I'd like to be able to enter a bathroom and run the water. I'd like to be able to pick up the basketball I found on the ground and shoot some hoops. I'd like to pick up that prostitute on the corner and take her back to my place; okay, now maybe I've gone a bit too far. But seriously, despite the plethora of activities to do, little things like that would improve immersion.