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Watch Dogs Video Game Review

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Watch Dogs Final Thoughts

Watch Dogs is an entertaining open-world experience, but it lacks depth. A wide variety of skills and vehicles are available to unlock throughout the game, but the skill unlocks don’t feel much like rewards and honestly should have been available from the start. Furthermore, the large multitude of vehicles seem to exist merely for the purpose of collecting them. The campaign, while backed with a story that has its twist and turns to keep you engaged, is not much more than a narrated collection of the standard side missions with a bit of extra variety. Side missions in particular feel like a missed opportunity to do more, can be frustrating to complete, and offer little reward for completion.

Watch-Dogs-Review-Fire-Trick-Takedown

Using hacks to clear out areas and mess with pursuers was the best part of the game. You can’t help but have a little evil grin when blowing up an electrical panel to kill a bunch of enemies from a block away, or launching your vehicle across the skies with a well placed bridge hack, or changing the many signs across Chicago to read a large collection of amusing phrases (some of which include spins on various popular internet memes). Hacks are especially useful during pursuits and chases, and can be used seamlessly while driving.

Watch-Dogs-Review-Camera

Watch Dogs probably won’t be winning any awards for graphics, because while it does look good, its not anything we haven’t seen before, and requires a pretty beefy rig to be seen at its best. While Ubisoft succeeded in creating an environment that is attractive to look at day or night or in any kind of weather, the details are where it fails. I have observed this complaint in another review on Benchmark Reviews with Assassins Creed, another popular Ubisoft game (@ http://benchmarkreviews.com/9647/assassins-creed-iv-black-flag-pc-video-game-review/4/).

Watch Dogs Conclusion

Again, the performance of Watch Dogs is disappointing. Sure you can play at medium, but other popular games on the market (Battlefield 4, Crysis 3) still look great on lower settings, whereas Watch Dogs loses much of its quality on lower settings. If you want to play Watch Dogs maxed out, start thinking about upgrading. The difference in the settings compared to the performance loss is also minimal. You really don’t gain the visual improvement that you would expect in exchange for a loss of 20 FPS.

Watch-Dogs-Review-Motorcycle

With the way I’m talking about graphics I’m probably coming off as graphics obsessed. My concern with Watch Dogs is less about the visuals themselves and more about how they compare to other games that aren’t quite so demanding on your system. I particularly liked the car and clothing models, along with the ambient lightning effects, but again you won’t get to see them unless you play at least on high settings.

Watch-Dogs-Review-Sign

My final point concerns the depth of development in Watch Dogs. While a large number of activities exist in Watch Dogs, a compelling reason to actually pursue them does not exist (outside of the sake of completion) and many of them share similar objectives or play out similarly. For example, when it comes to “Gang Hideout” side missions, all that really changes is the location of the hideout, not what you actually need to accomplish. Ubisoft included a “reputation meter” which changes depending on your actions as Aiden. Unfortunately this also just seemed like a small addon instead of something players can strive to use. I was trying to play as a “protector” but between the fact I kept running over civilians due to poor vehicle handling and the fact that your are occasionally forced to shoot the police, its not easy. However, Ubisoft did include a few appreciable attempts to improve depth. For example, depending on your reputation, a news flash will appear on TVs that forces you to avoid civilians or they may recognize you and call the police.

Watch-Dogs-Review-Barriers

Many people compare Watch Dogs to being a small version of GTA V with hacking. Some basis does exist for this comparison, but I think Watch Dogs brings enough to the table to merit picking up a copy, especially for us PC and next gen console players who have yet to receive GTA, or for 360 and PS3 players looking for a new experience that they can just jump right into and play. Singleplayer is the obvious draw, while multiplayer can be entertaining assuming you can find opponents. The hacking gameplay is the biggest draw and can provide hours of experimenting, and once you finish you can start all over and play a different way. The overall lack of depth and the high system demands are unfortunate, but you can’t deny Ubisoft has created an entertaining product in Watch Dogs.

Watch Dogs is available now for $49.99 at Amazon, for multiple platforms.

Pros:
Benchmark Reviews Recommended Product Award Logo (Small)

+ Entertaining gameplay.
+ Seamless integration of hacking with regular combat and driving that feels like a natural part of the game.
+ Tense, captivating singleplayer story.
+ Ambiance and FX effects look great thanks to NVIDIA integration, but only on higher settings.
+ Some touches, such as TV reports and the way AI interact with the world, add a level of immersion.

Cons:

- Demanding system requirements.
– Overall lack of depth in missions.
– Poor vehicle handling mechanics.
– Does not provide much flexibility in character development.

Ratings:

  • Performance: 8.00
  • Appearance: 8.75
  • Development: 8.50
  • Gameplay: 9.00
  • Value: 8.75

Final Score: 8.60 out of 10.

 

UPDATE 6/17/2014 – PC players, it has been discovered that Ubisoft left files in the game that can improve graphics considerably if unlocked. They also may improve performance. Check out the post (with links to mod) @ Guru3D


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6 comments

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  1. Jeff

    What resolution were you playing at? High or Ultra textures? I’m trying to gauge whether I can play it at decent enough settings to even bother buying it. I have an FX-6300 @ 4.5 Ghz and a GTX 670 2GB with a 1920×1200 monitor. I read somewhere else that high textures and medium settings are the best one can hope (and get smooth gameplay) with a 2GB GPU.

    1. David Shields

      I played at 1680 x 1050, mostly on medium settings (the video is on medium). My 750SC TI could run high settings relatively well, so your 670 should have no issues running all high settings. Ultra is where you’ll need 3GB+ of VRAM. Your CPU is below the recommended specs, which may hurt your performance, but I’d be surprised if you couldn’t get medium with one or two settings at high. Upgrading to an 8350 should get you high settings no problem.

  2. Caring1

    I’m guessing a Graphics card with 4GB will give better performance in this game compared to one with 2GB of DDR5 ram.

    1. Olin Coles

      That depends on the GPU. There are high core-count GPUs with 2GB or vRAM that will outperform low core-count GPUs with more vRAM.

    2. David Shields

      Right. More vRAM could potentially help, but you should look at performance more than actual memory. If vRAM was everything then alot more people would for instance buy the R9 270x 4GB card, but it’s a lower performer than 2GB cards in the same price range. The 2GB 750TI SC I played Watch Dogs with has a higher clock speed than the recommended 2GB 660, but it performs worse because it has much fewer cores.

      One thing I find interesting though is that Newegg sells two EVGA 660 SC cards that have the same number of cores, clock speeds, and so forth, but one card is $20 more and has 3GB instead of 2GB. I obviously don’t have the cards to do a performance comparison..but that is something you could potentially consider.

    3. Olin Coles

      I should have added that vRAM’s purpose is to pre-fetch textures and store them, along with routines, etc. Software tools such as MSI Afterburner will display the amount of vRAM that actually gets used, which is very useful for separating marketing hype from application dependence.

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