Let’s come right out of the gate and say it. If you have never been a fan of GTA, or open world sandbox gaming, then this may not be the game for you. To be brutally honest, I almost feel like the extra months needed to polish this game was also used to give enough breathing time between the latest GTA V and this game but this is just my opinion. So, on to the bigger question, was Watch Dogs worth the wait? You get a resounding maybe.
Story: The story itself is pretty much a very bland revenge story of Aiden Pierce who is looking for the people responsible for the death of his niece after a hacking heist gone wrong. He has a broken relationship with his sister and his nephew that he is trying to fix but of course it’s finding a balance between doing what’s right vs what’s necessary in order fix that relationship that comes into question. But doing so means that Aiden has to dip into his bag of hacker tricks to find the people responsible and that means hacking into Chicago’s ‘top notch’ OS system to get what he wants.
Gameplay: This is where things tend to get a bit sticky. It is very hard not to compare this game to the GTA series but you almost have to in order to see the difference and similarities of the two. The biggest difference of course is while this game has its own moral compass that players will have to hurdle, it’s not as seedy as GTA in the sheer and raw crimes against humanity that you can commit…but you can still commit some seriously raw crime on here. Of course most of that comes through the hacking opportunities that Aiden can do throughout the game. To a degree, you have almost too much freedom to hack because at any given moment you can listen in on any conversation, hack any gate and steal as much money as possible in a short amount of time and this is even before you really open up a lot of the skill trees that you are given. One thing that GTA was at least good for is that it slowly gave you items to work toward where Watch Dogs almost forces it down your throat and it’s easy to get distracted with side jobs which are more than plentiful and sometimes proves to be too much of a distraction. The one big plus that I did like was your approach to missions and this is where this game shines and thus differentiates itself from GTA. It makes you remember that first and foremost that Aiden is not a gun blazing thug. Many missions can be completed with zero to a minimal amount of lives lost if you know how to use the CCTV system to hack your way into vital systems in the game. You can do things such as shut down gates, cause plates to explode, open doors when needed and so on. Occasionally some objectives will eventually have you manually go in to open certain systems but the element of stealth sometimes works better than a straight shootout. This gives the game a flexibility that isn’t often seen in the GTA series but reflects more in Ubisoft’s other franchise Assassins Creed.
Some of the quirks in the gameplay: As with all open world games there are bound to be some issues and Watch Dogs is no exception. While the hacking and side mission options are too plentiful at times there are other things that can be brought up.
– Car radio: other games have had this issue solved right out of the gate but for some reason, Ubisoft didn’t bother to differentiate on music genre when driving in the game. All the music is lumped together and you just have to right click through until you get to the song that you want. It’s annoying as hell so usually I turn the music off.
– Voice acting: one of the few games you can hear anything from a surfer boy accent as well as a faux Irish accent in the same game and most of them are not done well.
– Consistent radiant AI: This one is actually a good and bad thing and one I hope gets fixed in future games on these new platforms. I do like the fact that in some cases NPCs will take it upon themselves to call the cops when they see you draw a weapon or steal a vehicle but the issue is it’s not consistent throughout the game. I would like to see at times when an accident is caused or sheer amounts of mayhem is happening, that the cops are called as well.
– Access: While you can theoretically open up large sections of the game early on, unless you have certain skills, you can access some buildings right away and some you can’t. This gets confusing at times because I feel like some places you shouldn’t have access to so early on and others you should but some reason, you just do.
– Cover system: It’s a bit clunky at times especially during shootouts. It’s easy to get stuck in the wrong place because it’s times like these is when the controller gets a bit unresponsive when you need to get out of cover
– Weapons: I alluded to how some items are forced down the moment you start playing. One of the biggest imbalances in this game is that if you hack long enough and it doesn’t take long, you can have all the guns you need and never have to worry about buying a better one or running out of ammo so while for some, it’s one less worry, for others, it takes away the challenge and the feelings of being mortal because you never have to worry about not finding crucial items when needed because it’s one hack away.
Graphics: So the question on everybody’s mind is, how does it look on next gen systems? I have it on the PS4 and while I can say that it looks good, Infamous looks better. I am also still looking at the fact that this game was supposed to have been a launch title. There are things that graphically the game does well such as lighting and particle effects even some of the water effects are done well, but it’s still not quite screaming ‘next gen’ as of yet. More of this is seen when you see some of the other character models that are around the main character and they low-res in comparison.
Sound: One thing about games like these is that the sound is important. From the rumblings of the trains to the voices broadcasting the news to the public, Watch Dogs’ sound stage does indeed shine but it’s not hard to do on most games like these.
Overall: Watch Dogs is a game you would like if you want a slightly different pace from the GTA series. It’s not as ratchet or depressingly violent as GTA can be although the elements are in place for it. It is the big game that we have hoped and dreamed for? No, not quite but there is promise for this new IP that Ubisoft has put out. It’s interesting to a point but not quite as fresh as many of us were hoping. To be honest, this may be the game that has many of us questioning do we have to many open world games just like we have too many FPS’es and would this be the game that makes creators reconsider their approach to sandbox gaming. Some games don’t give enough and some too much. Watch Dogs gives just a bit much but some of it is just enough to keep players around to get through the campaign with more than enough distractions to keep one busy long after it’s completed.
Final Rating: 2.75 out of 5 stars