My first 'wow' moment for Watch Dogs came when I saw the first loading screen of the main character; Aiden Pearce. A still and steady shot in which Aiden is looking directly and intently at us through the screen. There appeared to be a determination in his eyes that made me feel full of anticipation about playing this game. The texture on the peak of his baseball cap looked incredibly real whilst donning that 'slightly tattered look'. It was easy to pick out the reflections from within his focused eyes, that made me question 'what is he looking at?' As a gamer, I was raring to go before the game had even progressed passed this screen.
Upon entering the virtual world of Chicago, I felt a slight sense of agitation as the graphics didn't appear to be as slick as I had wanted. THAT was my first thought about the actual gameplay and particularly as the first loading screen had teased me with such immense detail. Despite this, I soon adjusted and found that I became very satisfied with the graphical ability that Ubisoft had provided.... to a point. I would have preferred to see more texture in certain areas of the game play. The vehicles in Watch Dogs adopt a high tint from light sources when stationary and in transit. I tested this by smashing the crap out of door panels on cars in the hope that I would see some intricate detail from damage. BUT STILL, the damage maintained the high tint as though it had just been waxed. I am being picky here but this is the truth.
Hacking, hacking and more hacking. This sandbox experience is littered with plenty of hacking opportunities ranging from pulling basic information about civilians, emptying their bank accounts, hacking traffic signals to cause an accident, opening locked gates to switching between city surveillance cameras. This experience feels endless from which I found a freedom that I had not found in any other sandbox game. Let's elaborate. I tested how far I could go from my main character by hacking city surveillance cameras. I switched from one to the next before I could not find a further camera to dive in to. I counted a total of six cameras before this happened. Geographically, this was PRETTY far away from where we left Aiden stood, blending in to the crowds in the streets below which makes for a fun experience. I'm certain that I could go further. Here's a test for you guys. Try this and count how many cameras you can go. Leave a comment below!
Hacking is incredibly simple. It's all done from Aiden's smartphone and is 'one touch' in third person mode. I would have preferred a more challenging experience. In reality, hacking (note: I do not condone hacking) is a tricky affair so it would have been nice for the game to allow for this. A broader range of hacking mechanisms would have made for a more immersive experience.
Stealth, parkour style movements and the plain old 'run and gun' approach are all present in Watch Dogs. In my opinion there is nothing unique about the combat system. Weapons are easily accessed using the weapon wheel; crouching, standing, auto-aim, running, vaulting, swimming and hacking are typically resting under one button all depending on how you choose to approach the game. For some players this is satisfying. For me, it was neither.
Driving seems to be where Ubisoft have applied more than a measly level of effort to the gameplay. Each vehicle has a category, for example, 'heavy' and 'sports car' to name two. Your vehicle category will affect your driving ability so CHOOSE WISELY. I didn't do so well when trying to evade police detection in my cement truck! Additionally, WE HAVE BULLET TIME in vehicles!! I can hear some of you say "thank fuck for that". I certainly did. It really helps during the high speed chases in which you are caught weaving in and out of a labyrinth of vehicles on the highway. What didn't help me was the transition! The transition in and out of bullet time is very rigid. There appeared to be a crystal clear 'beginning, middle and end' when I activated my slow motion driving ability. I totally preferred Franklin's bullet time driving in Grand Theft Auto V. Oooopppss!! I made a comparison to GTA V. Like so many other reviewers, it is difficult to avoid this natural comparison between these two games. I suppose the ultimate and most obvious question is which game is better? That is for you to decide.
There is an average of 20 hours of campaign time but I preferred to address the side missions and even lose myself from within a digital trip. WOW! I found this to be a very clever way in which I could escape from the main campaign missions for an hour. I enjoyed approaching the shady looking guy in the street in order to purchase this digital narcotic experience in which I came a HUGE spider trashing through the city. I was guided by prompts on what to do next and, if passed, I was awarded with XP to upgrade my next trip! An all around winner here!
Watch Dogs is a tactical vigilante sandbox extravaganza. A lot of my peers have said comments like 'I'm holding off on this one'. Yes the game has it's flaws. Watch Dogs doesn't even claim to be Grand Theft Auto V. It is its own experience in which you play as a hacker hero that is trying to seek revenge on those responsible for killing his niece. It lacks polish as I have pointed out but overall, I am loving this game.
Watch Dogs is available for the Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U and PC. You can purchase your copy here which helps to support the maintenance of this blog. Alternatively, you can click the graphic below.
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