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Watch Dogs Review


Watch Dogs

Despite playing for twenty hours, I'm only about halfway through the main campaign; and that's with avoiding most side missions. While I obviously cannot speak to the entirety of the story, so far it's been pretty good. While it can be a bit predictable at times, there are still quite a few twists thrown in, and the characters are simply outstanding. Love them or hate them, every major character you meet has a unique personality and are beautifully voice-acted. Like, seriously impressive voice acting! (And yes, I found Aisha Tyler!) Perhaps even more impressive is that it seems Ubisoft was not lying about there being "over 3000 character kits and an almost infinite amount of unique profiler possibilities." I don't think I encountered one "clone" in my entire time playing, which is quite the feat for an open-world game. And maybe arguably a bigger feat is that the world truly feels lived in. You'll encounter people doing all sorts of random real-world things, like bending down to tie their shoes, pissing against a wall, and even performing a few other acts I won't mention.














Equally impressive is the world itself. I've never been to Chicago, so I cannot speak to the authenticity of Watch Dogs' Chicago, but what I can say is that it looks damn good and offers a lot of variety. Borrowing a bit from the popular social-networking app Foursquare, there are a bunch of real-world City Hotspots you can "check in" at; and yes, like Foursquare, you can even become mayor if you keep checking in on subsequent days. If you're a history buff, I certainly advise you seeking out these one hundred landmarks, as you get a brief background for each place when you check in. It's a nice touch that is yet another optional thing you can partake in.




The game also features a day-night cycle, which has an impact on gameplay, and dynamic weather, though only in the form of rain and storms, not snow; at least not that I've encountered yet. Now if the seasons changed based on the real-world seasons, that would be awesome – Ubisoft has a few months to work that out. Oh, and did I mention that you can travel all across Chicago through the day-night and weather changes without a single loading screen? That's right, when you load the game for the first time (or after a death), that's the only loading screen you'll see! While I have Windows on an SSD, I have the game installed on a secondary 7200RPM SATA3 mechanical drive and it only takes about thirty seconds to enter the game from a cold start (about ten after a death). That being said, I should point out that you better have a lot of RAM!




Watch Dogs' system requirements list 6GB RAM as the minimum, with 8GB recommended. Using MSI Afterburner's RivaTuner Statistics Server (RTSS) to display in-game RAM usage, I surpassed the 8GB mark soon after loading the game (out of my 16GB total), using a mix of Ultra and High settings, TXAA, and HBAO+. Rounding out my system is an Intel Core i7 3770K and NVIDIA GTX 770. Using NVIDIA's newest drivers (337.88), I usually maintained an FPS just below 60 according to RTSS, dipping to just over 40 at times, but never below that. If you want to run Ultra everything, keep in mind that 3GB of VRAM is recommended; my GTX 770 has just 2GB and indeed, when I tried full Ultra settings, it stuttered at times and I didn't feel it was worth it.

Other than the stuttering that occurred when everything was set to Ultra, Watch Dogs' performance has been pretty solid. I have yet to experience a single crash, while I only encountered one odd graphical texture glitch, wherein I became translucent (see first two images below); but that was easily fixed by restarting the game and it hasn't occurred again since. Some of the buildings look a little flat, but for the most part textures are great and there are a lot of little details and nuances. Lighting is absolutely spectacular, both during the day and at night, but shadows not so much, which left me wondering if that's a side effect of trying to cater to the last-gen consoles. On the bright side (no pun intended), explosions, fire, and smoke effects are exceptional, which is good because you'll be causing those a lot! Damage modeling on vehicles is also fairly good, though outside of blowing tires, doesn't affect driveability; well, unless the engine sustains too much damage, in which case it'll explode.




Speaking of vehicles, there are a ton of different vehicles divided into different classes, such as performance, sport, etc. Each category handles differently, with some offering greater speed, some offering greater maneuverability, some handling better on dirt and grass, etc. All of them are rather arcade-y, but overall fun to drive; just remember that the hand brake (SPACEBAR by default) is your friend on turns. As you may have guessed, you can carjack anyone, but eventually you unlock the ability to hack parked vehicles to grant you access without causing pedestrian panic. Yes, occasionally a citizen may call the police on you if they witness a carjacking, so unless there's a particular vehicle you covet, getting into a parked one is often the safer bet. You can also "order" vehicles for nearby delivery at any time – some for free, some for cash – but you have to unlock them first by simply commandeering one.




Lastly, combat is fairly dynamic and often involves a nice mix of stealth, action, and hacking. Missions will often ask you to infiltrate a particular area ripe with guards, sometimes with way more than seems humanly possible to handle – until you survey the area by camera-hopping and scope out what explosions and distractions you can produce. Looking at an enemy directly or via a camera "tags" him, which produces a white outline through walls and a red dot on your mini-map, allowing you to always track him. Combat in Watch Dogs is essentially a third-person cover shooter, where C (default) allows you to snap to cover and stealthily move around corners and to other cover. Holding down the right mouse button allows you to aim over or around cover, while the left mouse button obviously fires.



Aside from hacking, you have a lot of other weapons at your disposal and Watch Dogs thankfully takes the unrealistic you-can-carry-everything approach to its weaponry. Guns are broken down into four categories: pistols, shotguns, assault, and special. You'll also have projectiles (eg. frag grenades, IEDs) and tools (eg. lures, scramblers, blackouts), which are used/thrown with G (default). Holding TAB accesses your inventory/weapon wheel, though you can also use numbers 1-5 to access each category directly. That being said, since you'll eventually find multiple weapons per category, I actually find the weapon wheel a bit easier to at least initially choose your arsenal, though moving through it takes some getting used to.


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