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Watch_Dogs 2 Review

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Story:

If I am going to review a game, I will intentionally try to avoid seeing certain content about it. In this case, I did not know if I was going to get to review it, so I did see one thing that offered opinions on the game. The one comment from it that most remained with me was that the main character, Marcus, did not have much depth to him. Having played the game, I am inclined to agree with this, but at one point, about the time I really got to know the villain, I realized this may be intentional. Now, this is only a theory, but I think it makes some sense, so here it is.

The backstory to Marcus, as I said in the introduction, is that the system profiled him to be a criminal risk, which led him to be suspected of a crime he did not commit. This injustice is what motivated him to strike back at the system that profiled him, ctOS, which is now in its 2.0 form. The crime itself is never stated and neither is what Marcus was like at the time, or if that profile was exaggerated or completely inaccurate. This keeps his background quite shallow, but this might be an intentional decision to lead the player to fill it in for themselves. The theory I have is that despite Marcus being a defined character with his own voice, you are supposed to feel like you are in this world, fighting the same battles to stop the encroachment of technological control being used to manipulate people on a massive scale.

A few things support this theory, including that at the end of several story missions a video is played marking what you have accomplished. If the mission was to destroy the data a company had been collecting and sharing about its users, the video would detail how and why this data was collected, and shared so people will know the truth and hopefully support or join Dedsec. After the final mission, Marcus himself records the video, which is when I realized all of these videos might be meant to lead you to agree and support the same causes as Dedsec. Though less-directly supporting of my theory, another point is that 'followers' is used in place of experience in the game, so there is already an obvious in-game focus on gaining people's support. Of course there is a difference between non-existent people only represented by arbitrary numbers and the player.

 

 

Now, correct or not, this theory is how I am going to view at least part of the story and narrative, because it does make sense and provides a reasonable explanation for the lack-of-depth to Marcus. There is a problem with this theory, or interpretation, and that is Watch_Dogs 2 is an open-world game. You have side missions and whatever else to distract you from the main story, which will compromise the ability for the game to connect in the necessary ways to the character. You can go from a mission meant to return privacy to the people to hacking ATMs to mess with someone, diluting the story's messaging. A more linear and structured game would be a better medium for such a narrative, but this is not what Watch_Dogs 2 was ever going to be.

Of course my theory could just be wrong, in which case Marcus is really not an impressive or interesting character to play as. He is just someone doing stuff because he can and believes he should, but the source for this belief is not well established.

Around Marcus are the other members of Dedsec, who have some interesting relationships with him. Sitara is the only woman in this group, and along with her hacking skills she is also the graphic artist and lead messenger for the group. The graffiti and videos all come from and go through her. She also has a somewhat motherly role for the group, being very protective of it and the relationships amongst its members.

 

 

Wrench is another hacker, though apparently not matching Marcus' skills, who always wears a mask that hides his face, alters his voice, and expresses his emotions with characters via an LED array over his eyes. One can fairly quickly recognize he has some personal problems, which is part of why he wears the mask and connects very strongly with computers and other pieces of technology. During one mission you can actually access FBI files on him, confirming and explaining these characteristics. Wrench is also a skilled engineer, designing the weapons for you, and forms a very friendly, even fraternal connection with Marcus.

Josh is a high-functioning autistic hacker with extraordinary skills. While his limited social skills make him somewhat awkward, he has earned tremendous respect from everyone. Having known and worked with people with autism, as well as other mental disorders, I actually really liked seeing the character of Josh here. I am not an expert on autism by any stretch, but it seemed a respectful and accurate characterization.

There are other supporting characters that Marcus will turn to, such as a councilwoman, but they are a lot less developed than those in Dedsec. I mean I cannot even tell you how Marcus knows them, because while it is clear there are pre-existing relationships, they were never explained.

Technically there are multiple villains in the game, but most are faceless or only last for a mission or two. The main, overarching villain though is Dusan Nemec, who is the CTO of Blume, the company behind ctOS. At first he was not too special to me, just being a powerful and competent villain who is willing to manipulate and exploit people to his benefit. In one cutscene, my view of him changed (and it was shortly after this cutscene I thought of that theory for Marcus). In the conversation with him, it was revealed the level of control and perspective he has. While it is true he had plans he was putting in motion to strengthen his position, he also has the capacity to allow chaos and then reap victory from it, regardless of what happens. His house could burn to the ground, destroying all of his possessions, but he could walk away from the ashes considering what better neighborhood he could move to and how many bathrooms his new house will have. If you were the one to burn his house, he might even applaud you for getting through his security.

 

 

I like that in a villain, but, sadly, it was not quite maintained throughout the game, as some upsets seem to shake his confidence or he loses this ability to comprehend and compensate for defeats. Of course you do need to defeat him in the end, ultimately bringing all of his plans to failure, breaking him, but there is a part of me that still would have liked to see him remaining unbroken, or that he kept his confidence until the end.

Two final things I want to mention in this section is that some of the missions have interesting characters to them. For example, a couple at the beginning had montages, which felt appropriate but also a little unusual, as I did not expect them. They were fun to watch, and I actually wish there were more of them, if only to make the method of storytelling more consistent. Something else that really, and I mean really ticked me off was a typo in the subtitles for a conversation at the beginning of a mission. It was MacGyver misspelled with a 'u.' If I write it out as the game does now, MacGuyver, Word puts the red squiggle beneath it, because it is wrong, just wrong. Archie vs. Predator was brought up in this game, but they misspelled MacGyver, a word in the Oxford Dictionary! I could almost throw my arms in the air like Kermit right now, but I am not made of felt.

Anyway, the story is not one of Watch_Dogs 2 strongest points, but it is not bad. At worst, I would categorize it as weak as it never succeeded in pulling me into the experience, making me really want to advance it. I feel making Marcus a deeper, more interesting an engaging character would have helped, or having a tighter structure to the story, but the latter would be difficult to achieve in an open-world game.

 




  1. Watch_Dogs 2 Review - Introduction
  2. Watch_Dogs 2 Review - Graphics
  3. Watch_Dogs 2 Review - Story
  4. Watch_Dogs 2 Review - Gameplay
  5. Watch_Dogs 2 Review - Additional Screenshots
  6. Watch_Dogs 2 Review - Conclusion
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