Review: Watch Dogs

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Finally, the wait is over, the hype train has arrived at its destination and we can all rejoice.

After a six month delay, the long awaited Watch Dogs has finally been released. But, can it live up to the hype?

Watch Dogs is a third-person open world game set in the city of Chicago, where your greatest weapon is not a gun, but your smartphone. In Watch Dogs, you play as Aiden Pearce, a hacker/thief turned vigilante after the tragic loss of a loved one during an attempt on his life after a botched hack on a major hotel.

Almost everything and everyone in Watch Dogs is vulnerable to your hacking. You can hack in to citizen’s phones and read their conversation or hear their phone call. You also have the ability to hack people’s bank accounts and transfer some money for yourself, which you can then retrieve from any of the numerous ATM machines located all across the city. Facial recognition allows you to identify every citizen and read some personal information about them, such as income and occupation, along with some humorous detail that will make you chuckle.

I have to be honest, when I picked up my copy of Watch Dogs I was so excited to finally play it. I have been looking forward to this game since the first footage was released at E3 2012.This game looked absolutely amazing and the ability to use hacking as a weapon blew everyone away, it is definitely the first I have seen of anything like this. But then I was extremely disappointed when I actually put the disk in a started to play it. The first thing I noticed was the graphical downgrade, the graphics are what you would expect from a ps3/360 game 3 years ago, nothing like what we all expected after E3 2012.

All of the outfits you can purchase in the game are pretty much the same, I only noticed 4 different jackets and 2 different hats in total, with different colours slapped on to them to make it appear like you have much more options (around 20 different options of colour). It makes you feel like little effort was put in to actually designing different clothing for Aiden. The same can be said for the weapons in this game, something about them just doesn’t feel right. Also, there is absolutely no customisation for any of your guns, you cannot add new paint or any attachments to any weapon. Instead, you can unlock a spec-ops variant of some weapons in the game, which just attaches a silencer to the gun. Customising weapons and my character in a game is something that I love to do, to make the gun and character feel like my own, and obviously make them look cool. It’s kind of a necessary requirement of any game nowadays. You are also going to notice that you will have so much money, you just won’t know what do to with it, because you can’t really buy anything other than the base weapons, clothes and gadgets which you need to replenish by either crafting them on the fly or by buying them later in the game. An armoury would have been a great addition to this game, because when you buy every weapon in the game, your inventory just gets cluttered with all the weapons.

The vehicles in this game feel like they are magnetised to the ground, the physics are just plain awful. After almost every single jump you do in the game, your vehicle will be pulled down to the grand landing flat on the wheels every time and you can just continue driving in a straight line. You never really own any particular vehicle in the game, so you can never really have the satisfaction of customising one and proudly saying, ‘’that’s my car’’, there is also no way to customise any vehicle in this game. All of this does fit in to the way the game is though. We have to remember that Aiden is a vigilante who needs to keep his identity hidden, so driving one specific car would kind of ruin that. You do have the option to call in vehicles through an app on your in-game smartphone. The vehicle damage in the game is poorly represented, the damage you see on your car does not always represent the exact area of the collision, just a general area. Some of the damage is pretty good though, certain times when you are in a collision it can crack all of your windows with the force of the impact. Also, it is a guarantee that when you are speeding down a road and then try to turn you will lose control and spin, making you slow down to turn gives a much needed boost of realism to the driving, and the different sounds your tires will make depending on the surface you are driving on. Bullet holes on all vehicles fade after a minute or two.  You can drive motorcycles in this game, which is so much fun, but they are really only there for the player, you won’t ever see an A.I driving around on one. Lastly on the topic of vehicles, when you are in the car and using your hacking ability, Aiden is not actually holding a phone, it would have been nice to actually have a bit of detail put in to that, and also, you can’t shoot a weapon from your vehicle unless someone else is driving.

Hacking in this game is so much fun – at first – but then begins to slowly lose its appeal after playing through the campaign missions. Almost every mission goes like this, you go to a place which is restricted, then you must hack something, find a person, then go take than person down and then escape. I am not joking when I say almost every mission is like this, it gets so repetitive very quickly. The odd mission is thrown in where you have to drive and avoid police scans or avoid being detected all together, along with 3 missions where you must guide people out of harm using the cameras in the area. It feels so good when being chased, or chasing down a target, to hack a set of traffic lights or a blockade on order to neutralise your target/pursuers. I only have one issue with hacking traffic lights, when at a complete stop, any car at the traffic light will then proceed to speed off when you hack the traffic light with little regard for what is in front of them as if they do now possess eyesight. These moments you will see civilian A.I drive faster than any other time within the game. They will literally drive straight in to you, from a complete stand still even if you are stopped right in front of them. You can also hack certain computers to discover video logs from around the city which are extremely well done with a lot of detail put in to what each person is doing. A.I reacts well to the rain in the game. I have seen a few citizens cover their head with the newspaper to keep dry. Some characters will make comments when you steal a vehicle, one such encounter I had was in a poor part of Chicago, when I stole a car, a woman standing beside it said ‘’Well heavens, couldn’t take a rich persons car’’, details like that are what makes a games environment stand out.

The storyline in Watch Dogs is actually pretty good, although it does get a bit boring in the middle, it picks up again towards the end. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will say this, there is a lot more going on than you may think. The player is also faced with a decision you have to make just after the initial credits with all the news reports, could it possibly have some effect in the sequel? We will have to wait and see.

The only online modes I was able to actually play was one online free roam, which is extremely empty in terms of content, you have nothing to do, and online decryption, which is quite fun, but enemies do not render until they are around 150m away from you, anything further and you won’t be able to see them. I’m not sure whether it was a problem with my connection or a problem with the online for this game, but I tried for several hours to connect to every type of game mode but was only successful twice, all I kept seeing was that the average wait time was 3 minutes.

Watch Dogs is definitely trying to deliver something new, but it relies too heavily on hacking, which makes the novelty of it wear off so quickly. This game had so much potential, somewhere along the line it lost its way, and parts of the game were just pushed aside in order to make hacking available just about everywhere you go.


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