Monday, 6 June 2016

Review No. 120 Watch_Dogs - PC (18+)

Strong Points:
Nice world
Great story with emotion and consequence
Good sound and art direction
Hacking is great fun
All items are usable and helpful (blackout is the most original)
Varied mission types (mostly)
Online is fun
Nice, varied characters - most of which you end up caring about
Just looking into people's lives and actions is really immersive and detailed
Controlling another character's movement via a camera is fun...
Lots to do
Easy to go in all guns blazing or stealthy - both are accessible and fun to do
Gives lot's of scope for sequels

Weak Points:
Some story arcs were a bit predictable
Can't upgrade weapons
Run out of new hacking options quite quickly
Handling of cars is a bit hit and miss
End of mission normally involves 'kill all enemies or escape'
You have a hacking phone but can't use it to ring up characters like GTA V?
...although it would've been nice to have been able to control their actions e.g. shooting someone, as well
Linear storyline in the sense that you can stealth your way to the target but if the story calls for a massacre, a massacre is what you've done
NPC's seem to think your really dangerous and run away or think your weird and run away, just when your driving or running
Ubisoft's famous optimisation

When you rebind a key it doesn't rebind the hint for using it
When you are on the smartphone or choosing weapons while moving, the keys are the same so accidentally clicking something is common
Can't turn off news bulletin in car

In-depth Review:
Release Dates:
World Wide: 27th May, 2014

Controls: all are re-bindable
WASD: move character
Left Mouse Button: shoot
Right Mouse Button: aim
Middle Mouse Button: smartphone
Space: free-run/handbrake
Shift: sprint
Alt: walk
Tab: equipment wheel
Q: hack/explode IED
E: interact
Z: profiler
M: map
R: reload
T: take out weapon/put away weapon
F: take-down
C/V: go into/out of cover/move other character (in certain missions)
G: throw grenade/utility
N: skip track (in car)

Watch_Dogs is a good game. There I said it. Moving past the ridiculous launch and hype lapses and even past Ubisoft's famous optimisation and slight repetition of gameplay, it is a good game. Strong game play, characters, landscapes and story, it's all there, even if the polish isn't quite.

What if you held the power to be able to hack any computer system? What would you do? This is the main idea that came to the table of Watch_Dogs - hacking. Hacking phones, steam pipes, bank accounts, trains, traffic lights and more. All of these abilities help the gameplay in some way, adding flavour and variety for each new scenario Aiden faces. That is, until he runs out of new abilities about a 1/3 of the way into the game depending on how you upgrade. Then, slowly, the abilities do become slightly stale with the old trick of 'wait to enemy is over steam pipe or before traffic light and make them crash' making an appearance in basically every mission.

Items help to curb the repetition however, with blackout being one of my favourites. It does what it says on the tin, creating a blackout and stopping CTOS, allowing Aiden to get away quickly from enemies. The weapons are also well crafted and fun to use even if I ended up using the starting 'spec ops' pistol most of the time due to it's silencer. And here lies the problem, the game may have a range of different ideas all benefiting each other but the depth isn't quite there compared to say GTA V (the game most people compare it to). Yes there are weapons but you can't upgrade them, yes there are hacking opportunities but many more could've been added to allow for more precision, yes there are choices in the game (knock someone down or kill them) but besides increasing or decreasing your reputation, these choices have no real impact on the story.

Talking about the story, I for one really enjoyed it. The colourful cast of characters from slight-psycho Jordi (don't tell him I said that) to overly ambitious Damien Brenks and more. Even Aiden, a monotone-ish, vigilante, Adam Jensen from Deus Ex impersonator, wasn't to bad - he was more of a blank canvas from which you could watch the story unfold. The story while not the most original (but come on, what is nowadays?) was emotional and thought-provoking, with clever use of sound, music and lighting as well as different view points allowing for a poignant tale of one man's revenge turning into something greater. Allowing you to watch some of the cutscenes via moveable camera's was also a great way of getting the player immersed in the action (and allowing you to turn away from the gruesome bits if wanted).

Graphics were well customisable and even if they didn't live up to the E3 demo, didn't look too shabby either - especially at night. The eyes and hair still had the Assassin's Creed style fakeness too them though which is a shame. Another shame is Ubisoft's optimisation. I know my PC can handle Watch_Dogs (now at least) and other games companies could release games where running them would be breeze. Watch_Dogs however, still had the momentary lag spike which hindered the gameplay a bit (the most annoying was when it was rendering a cutscene) and while I don't mind 30fps at all, I know some would disagree.

Online, from what I've played, is a nice distraction to the main game and really quite fun. Decryption, which involves either a team-based or free-for-all scramble to decrypt a file is great, especially with a team as you can have one person driving to escape, one person shooting out the window and another on top of the car (disobeying all physics) hacking or shooting the place up. Online hacking and tailing are also fun and involve either hacking or tailing (really?!) an opponent without them noticing. Racing is probably the weakest of the lot just due to the generic nature of it. One thing that is annoying however, is the apparent probability of your game becoming invaded by another player just as your about to start a mission or take over a CTOS tower, making you have to deal with the intrusion first before carrying on.

I played stealth for this game. And not 'try stealth, give up and go Rambo' type of stealth either like I did for Far Cry 3 no, proper stealth. For most of the missions I didn't shoot a single guy, just did a variety of take downs and dodging. With the use of cameras and other utilities stealth actually becomes an option in this game, unlike many others, as you can plan out a route before you do it or distract someone without chucking a rock at them. What is annoying though, is that you can do all that but if the game calls for a shoot-out, a shoot-out is what will have happened, even if not a single person died.

The driving is a bit icy in terms of handling - definitely not as refined as GTA however it's not unplayable and with a large variety of cars to choose from and a system which allows you to access them anywhere for a small fee (not in missions), it is a good way to get around. While you can't fly in the game (a sad omission) you can sail, a feature I didn't know was available to me until it was required in a mission. This happened more often than you'd think - a new feature was placed in front of you, for example, the hacking minigame, with little to no instruction on what to do.

Finally, the world itself, was well-built with looming skyscrapers to neon bars and even a frontier-esque area. It was mostly interactable to, with you being able to escape by shooting out windows, cause black-outs by hitting power-lines and even knock down trees (Watch_Dogs 1 - GTA V 0). There is also a lot, and I mean a LOT to do, with chess, drinking games, cash run, arcade shooting, digital trips and more. These digital trips place you inside a scenario (robots have taken over the city etc.) and they almost act like their own separate game with new guns and power-ups. There are also other story missions you can do after finding certain things as well as Fixer Contracts (twists on the missions in the story), Gang Hideouts (where you have to knock down the leader), crimes to stop and the list goes on.

Conclusion: it's unusual for new IP's to live up to the hype of pre-release - take a look at Titanfall and Evolve for example. Watch_Dogs definitely didn't live up to the enormous hype that we gamers gave it but it's a good game all the same, especially now as I've had a chance to play it properly!

Rating: 80%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.


  1. You left out weak point - Aiden Pearce and his (lack of) feelings, 'bout as much emotions as a rock

    1. Personally didn't see Aiden as having a total lack of feelings (about as much as Adam Jensen from Deus Ex)- especially near the end but I can see where you're coming from