Watch_Dogs – Review
Follow Genre: Open world action-adventure
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: PC

Watch_Dogs – Review

Site Score
7.7
Good: A lot of things to do, addicting, interesting story, unique gameplay mechanics
Bad: Poorly optimized for PC, weird driving, did not meet the expectations it set for itself
User Score
0
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Ubisoft’s latest title has to be one of the most anticipated games to release on next-gen platforms. At first it was supposed to be released as a launch title with the new consoles but was then pushed back. At E3 2013 some very impressive footage was showed and since then the game was hyped by both the gaming-community and the developer. Let’s dive into Chicago, mobile phone in one hand and a silenced pistol in the other.

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Story

This game’s story was one of the few in the last couple of months that got me engaged in any way. You’re playing as Aiden Pearce who lost his niece because of a mistake and then tries to catch the people who killed her, trying to protect the rest of his family along the way. One of the reasons the story drew me in was because the game actually tries to make you care. Besides action-packed missions, you’ll get to do thing like attend a birthday party or go to the cemetery to remember your niece. Those objectives are a welcome change of pace.

Graphics

Graphically Watch Dogs certainly is one of the better games out there. Sadly it’s not as mind-blowing as initial E3 trailers made it look. Together with poor-optimization on PC, 30FPS on consoles and sub-1080p resolution it caused for some heavy reaction on release. While on our PC, we were able to run it on high-settings without too much problems, a lot of people have been complaining about performance issues especially when using AMD cards.

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Sound

The game features a number of licensed songs playing on the radio when in a car or through your in-game smartphone with more songs that are unlockable throughout the game. While the media-app in game is nice and offers some cool features like sorting playlists and thus selecting the genres you like, a lack of songs in some of those genres becomes obvious. There are some cool details scattered around Chicago for you to find, you’ll come across street musicians and people making up some rhymes in their backyard. Gun sounds make for a satisfying experience and car sounds aren’t very diverse but do allow for a clear distinction between vehicle classes.

Gameplay

Let’s start with that one thing that sets this game apart: your smartphone. In future Chicago all public systems are managed by one central operating system (ctOS) and guess what: you’ve got access to it! With the tap of a button you can hack things like traffic lights, bridges, building’s Wi-Fi networks, people’s phones and basically everything in between. What this adds is that every portion of your average adventure-action free roamer game gets a new dimension. It’s a certain sense of power you feel without it being supernatural which is quite nice. You can even add to that by levelling certain skills or unlocking them through the skill tree which is quite extensive. When you level up you gain a skill point and other skills are unlocked by completing certain challanges through the side acitivities.

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You also have an arsenal of weapons at your disposal. While you start off with a handgun, you’ll soon start collecting assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, … Some weapons are silenced and it’s those weapons that you’ll be using the most. In fact there’s not really a reason to do otherwise as you’ll be able to complete the whole game with them without too much of a problem. The game offers about 65 cars from muscle cars to utility trucks. Something is wrong though. The vehicle handling is very “arcady”, the only word that I can describe it with. It doesn’t feel good at all. It starts when accelerating from a stop, however you press the button, Aiden always feels the need to do a burnout, frightening all civilians around you. Also taking corners is odd, partly because of the camera placement. Let’s not go into the damage models too much because every car you drive seems indestructible. Luckily there are other means of transportation in the city like the trains or just fast-travelling to a hideout.

Smartphone in hand, there’s a lot to do in the city. Your map is large with some suburban areas and a more rural area as well besides metropolitan Chicago. Besides the storyline missions, there are side missions and activities, collectibles and investigations. The side missions are the one thing you’ll quickly get bored off. There are 3 kinds of them but they are very repetitive and quite annoying like the gang hideout ones will have you clearing a place of criminals with the objective of incapacitating the leader. Suffice to say that it’s strange you kill 12 criminals and then just slap the leader on the wrist. Most of the other activities are varied enough to stay interesting, for example the ‘digital trips’ ones will have you playing a game inside of the game where you control things like a Spider Tank, yes it’s as awesome as it sounds. Investigations will have you catching a serial killer by finding all of his victims around the map. You’ll have to reveal all those locations on the map first though. Each district has its own ctOS control center, after you’ve installed your hack their you’ll be able to find the ctOS towers in that area and when you get to them, you unlock all different activities in the area. Free-roaming around the city is fun at first, little details will catch your eyes. Sadly because of the poor driving mechanics, you’ll soon get bored of that. I haven’t mentioned multiplayer before because it doesn’t really add much to the game, even more so all experiences I’ve had with it were negative when I managed to get a connection in the first place. Especially the mobile challenges mostly ended up with one of the 2 players disconnecting before they could even do something.

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Conclusion

Over the years, the gaming-community has become a lot more vocal. Thanks to tools like YouTube and the internet in general, gamers are able to easily share their opinions. But also developers benefit from this as they can show off their game before it’s even released. Now that is a dangerous combination if gamers get promised things and then don’t get it. Ubisoft hasn’t really lied to the community in the classical meaning of the word but they did show footage of a game that was nowhere close to what the end-product would look like and not for the better. Even more, it wasn’t even optimized at all for the PC.

Now that’s out of the way, there’ll probably be some patches coming soon and mods are showing up already adding to the game’s graphical fidelity. Watch Dogs is not a bad game. I’ve spend 20+ hours in it myself and there’s a lot to love. A truckload of interesting features and an engaging story do make it an enjoyable experience.  It doesn’t have any replayability though. It’s not the visual marvel it was set out to be, nor is it very revolutionary but if you get the chance, you should certainly check it out.

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Veflow
Veflow


I'm currently studying software-development. My main hobbies are gaming (software/hardware) and music (jazz saxophone player). I game primarily on PC (and also love building them) but also play on PS3, iOS and Android.

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