Watch Dogs Video Game Review
By David Shields
Manufacturer: Ubisoft Entertainment S.A.
Product Name: Watch Dogs
Price As Tested: $49.99 (Amazon, multiple platforms)
Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article has been provided by Ubisoft.
What happens when you combine the Grand Theft Auto series with a near future world where big brother is indeed always watching you? You get the new game from Ubisoft, Watch Dogs. Watch Dogs has been highly anticipated by many gamers since it was revealed at E3 2012, but due to production delays it didn’t hit retail until May 27th of this year. Watch Dogs takes advantage of many of the latest advances in graphics from NVIDIA, including HBAO+, to create a stunning, ambient world full of light and shadow.. In this benchmarkreviews.com article, I will discuss the main features of Watch Dogs as well as the graphics before delivering my overall rating of the game.
Watch Dogs is a singleplayer focused game with an integrated multiplayer component. The main part of the game comes from the singleplayer campaign and various side missions, but at anytime during play you can accept multiplayer challenges or have your world invaded by other players trying to steal your data. Featuring a large, open world ripe with opportunities, Watch Dogs provides an entertaining and varied gaming experience.
In Watch Dogs you play as Aiden Pearce, a former member of the Chicago Mob who was targeted by his employer, and as a result his six year old niece was killed. Grief stricken and filled with a lust for revenge, you will use Aiden’s hacking skills to search the city to find who is responsible, no matter the cost. The game’s setting of Chicago is well represented and has plenty of variety, but is not the largest of open game worlds. A fast vehicle can easily cross the map in a minute or two. The city is interconnected by a technology called ctOS, which links with all electronics in the city and is used to spy on everyone’s lives. As you might expect, not everyone is happy about this, and the hacker group DedSec has been formed to fight against ctOS. DedSec has created a hack that allows control of the ctOS system via mobile phone, a technology that Aiden can use to aid his quest for revenge. Take down criminals using a variety of vehicles and weapons as well as your trusty mobile phone, or become a criminal yourself, taking on Fixer contracts to keep the city under control and eliminate the competition. Sneak your way into areas, use cameras and hacks to defeat your opponents from a distance, or go in all guns blazing with access to various pistols, automatic weapons, and explosives.
The Mobile Phone and Hacking
Aiden’s mobile phone is easily the most important tool in Watch Dogs. With it, you can turn Chicago itself into your weapon, like hacking phones to listen in on conversations and access bank accounts. Or unleash much mroe damaging abilities such as making steam pipes explode to damage or destroy your enemies or even cause a temporary city wide blackout allowing you to move about unseen. Moving from camera to camera or “Camera Riding” as Aiden calls it, is an important skill to learn and required for several missions. Hacking is also quite useful when being pursued, as you can disrupt traffic lights, raise blockers and bridges, and generally create a large number of hassles for your enemies.
The mobile phone also has a number of apps, including a music player and a pair of apps that act as a shortcut to available contracts. The Car on Demand app lets you request or purchase vehicles from a variety of categories including trucks, motorcycles, and high performance and delivers them instantly to your location. There are also three “virtual” minigame modes, Cash Run, NVZN, and Digital Trips, which include games such as Madness and Spider Tank. These modes are enjoyable and offer a nice distraction from the main game.
Side missions are a large and varied part of Watch Dogs, but also it’s greatest failing. Missions range from taking down convoys or stopping random criminal acts to acting as a decoy for the cops or chasing down stolen data. The problem is that many of the missions require driving, and while no small variety of vehicles are available for you to buy or hijack, driving can end up being a frustrating exercise. Vehicles often overreact to steering or just completely spin out of control for no reason at all. Others handle like tanks and refuse to steer no matter what.
This can be considerably problematic when trying to avoid damaging your vehicle, pursuing a target, or evading pursuit yourself. Some vehicles are entertaining to drive, but many times you’ll end up getting stuck delivering a car that no matter how hard you try, has a mind of its own.
Multiplayer is integrated directly into the singleplayer experience. At any time, an opponent might enter your game world and attempt to hack or tail you, resulting in you needing to pause what you are doing in order to eliminate that player. And of course, you can also accept missions yourself. Multiplayer does also feature a racing mode, but this feels out of place with the other modes present in Watch Dogs. Defeating your opponent garners you reputation points and can improve your leaderboard ranking, but little incentive actually exists outside of that. I had a little trouble finding opponents as well.