I was supposed to write this review a couple of days ago, but Watch_Dogs has had me in it’s steely grip since it arrived last week, causing me to stay up till 2 in the morning most nights roaming the streets of Chicago, preventing crimes, causing chaos and moving through the main mission story. I am a Watch_Dogs addict.
During it’s development cycle, I’ve been excited, worried, excited, worried, excited and worried all over again. It went from being a last gen title, to a also next gen title, to looking like a cheap port, to looking stunning, to looking like a cheap GTA clone.
So lets deal with the obvious right away – Watch_Dogs the GTA clone. Any open word third person adventure based on shady criminal activity is always going to be compared to GTA. Most games try and fail, for many reasons. Watch_Dogs succeeds, and does so with style. Sure, you could play the game and come away thinking it was nothing more that a next gen GTA title, and that alone would make it a great game. But UbiSoft have been paying attention and seem to have grabbed bits and pieces from some of Rockstar’s best games. They then threw in a story-line that revolves around hacking and made the game truly theirs.
I would be surprised if Rockstar wasn’t taking a close look at Watch_Dogs to see what aspects they can build on for the next GTA title.
The hacking – which lets face it, is the main part of the game – is handled in a number of ways. The simplest of these is when you’re driving around, push the X button and you can hack the traffic lights or bridge controls. It’s simplistic and works well, especially when you’re being chased. Over time you will quire skill points that can improve your hacking abilities – amongst other things – and this will lead to more things being able to be hacked.
You can also walk around the city, hacking people phones and robbing their bank accounts. Handy.
Then their is the hacking of video cameras to make your way around a location without having to put yourself in harms way. This is more of a puzzle type game, that requires a large amount of exploration until you find the right combination of cameras to get you to where you want to be looking. Of course, if you don’t want to use cameras, some missions allow you to go in and sneak around or shoot people. Here the hacking skills come in handy in many ways, being able to distract people, unlock doors and cause explosions are all fun and essential to completing some missions.
Then there are the hacking mini-games, where to access the mainframe you have to solve increasingly complex puzzles that occasionally come with a time limit. This adds to the immersive feel of the game immensely.
The variety of missions is great, and as I’ve mentioned above, some missions have different ways you can complete them. Some however demand you play a certain way, which adds a lot of variety to the game.
But it’s the characters you meet and the storyline – along with the living, breathing city – that dragged me back to the game night after night. I really want to find out who was behind the death of my niece, and beat the living shit out of them.
I’m not sure what happen at the end of the game – it’s so massive I’m only part way through – and I’m not sure if my actions will change the outcome or not, as there are many things I’m doing that change the way people perceive me.
Just playing around with the game, I’ve discovered a few cool things – though some of you might think of me as a homicidal maniac for thinking these are cool. In such a connected world, someone is bound to call the cops on you, and in Watch_Dogs the cops are tenacious and will hunt you down as if their lives depended on capturing you. Not to worry though, as giving them the slip is achievable, it’s just that it takes you away from what you were doing. But the cool thing is, if you see someone calling the cops, you can shoot them, and even if they were talking to the cops when they die, the cops won’t respond until they can get the caller back on the line.
The other cool thing was in one mission where I was supposed to help get this guy out of an area so I could get some information off him. Using the cameras to guide him, I made a mistake and he got shot. Mission restart was what I expected, but in this particular mission, the information I needed was still on his phone, on his dead body, with about ten gang bangers patrolling the area. Time to take out the silenced pistol and go hunting.
Which leads me to combat, and as expected, Watch_Dogs has a nifty cover system that works exceptionally well, leading to fluid gun fights allowing you to keep on the move an try to avoid being flanked.
All in all, Watch_Dogs is an amazing game. Graphically it’s a next gen gem, and the gameplay is addictive, fun and challenging. It really does rank as a must have game for the XBox One.
Reviewed on: XBox One
Rating: R18 Violence, offensive language, drug use and sex scenes.
Reviewed by: Jonathan