Playing through Watch Dogs is a breathe of a fresh air to the open world action genre. Whilst Grand Theft Auto continues to dominate, Saints Row has started to become over the top crazy to the point of becoming a teens only game. Watch Dogs is original in it’s concept. Instead of gang violence your thrust into the life of Aiden Pearce a computer hacker who uses the digital connectivity of the city to hack into pretty much everything from cameras, mobile phones, bridges, traffic lights, steam drains to blacking out the entire city with power surges and blocking communications of the police and enemies.
Watch Dogs had huge expectations from those following the games progress through development. It was heralded as the new dawn in open world gaming. It may not be the game the gaming community was expecting but it’s still a great experience and the beginning of a brand new franchise. The whole city of Chicago is connected by computer networks. As you progress perks are available to unlock giving players more interactivity with the environment and world around them.
Graphics are very nice, textures are great at high settings especially the sea water and rain effects on the roads and pavement though it has to be noted that the rain effects are just that “textures”. It’s like a coat of paint. Looks really nice but no physics involved so the water in the street does not respond to the players movement. Want to create a nice splash? it’s not going to happen. These texture issues are noticable during some set pieces for instance a keyboard on a desk during cut scenes is clearly just a texture that’s completely flat and not an actual object. Not a big issue but does reduce the overall quality and authenticity of the world your supposed to be living within.
There’s cars, motorbikes, trains and boats a plenty throughout the city. Vehicle handling I had no problem with at all. In fact i thoroughly enjoyed it. Hand brake turns going into sharp corners worked perfectly with nice power slides. Effortlessly weave in and out of traffic. Each vehicle was unique from speed to strength. Some could take a good hit and cause some carnage whereas a sports car is very fast but not likely to survive more than a few hits. Starting the game you’ll be smashing windows to gain entry to parked cars however before long you’ll have the added perk of hacking the car to unlock without causing a scene. It’s these added perks that are rewarded to you as you progress through the missions that really engage you as a player.
I’d play many hours at a time without ever getting bored. Some missions are challenging and will need to be repeated a good few times to progress whereas there are easier missions in between which creates a nice contrast. The story is interesting with cut scenes actually enjoyable to watch instead of feeling the urge to skip.
There are a few quirky flaws which hopefully a Watch Dogs sequel will rectify. I found out pretty early on whilst playing that the police didn’t have a boat at all and even with a helicopter in pursuit it was so easy to head for the waters whilst being chased and jump onto a boat and simply ride across the water until you get past the coverage circle at which point the chase was off and you can return to shore a free man. It made my life easy on a few tricky situations but in reality there should’ve been more resistance in the water.
Another noticeable issue is money. Very easy to acquire. Hack peoples phones gaining their bank information. Go to an ATM machine and take their cash. Great now what? cars are easy to take from anyone without any consequences and guns and ammo are plentiful whilst playing through missions. I ended the main missions with $70,000 and never had a need to spend it. Again hopefully when a sequel is released there will be some cool ways to spend the cash. Helicopters would also be a nice added feature so there is obviously room for improvement but what this Watch Dogs is right now still provides a fantastic gaming experience. The locations are enjoyable from suburbs, islands to the big city simply driving around and exploring is fun.
So what cool features does Watch Dogs offer?
As Aiden Pearce you have the city at your fingertips. Raise/lower bridges at your whim, open/close gates and doors, engage road blocking bollards and spike strips, blow steam drains causing devastating destruction. These features are fun to mess about with whilst journeying around the city but really prove useful during pursuits. You’ll be able to immobilize the enemy and provide yourself the opportunity to hide. In fact you can turn the cars engine off and hide in the car. This doesn’t work all the time. You would need to be in a hidden spot or blended in with other parked cars as to not be so obvious. During most pursuits you’ll have the option to escape or kill all remaining enemies, with some pursuits being pretty difficult it can make more sense to park up and shoot your way to victory.
Missions are so much fun and fantastic for an open world game. Your mobile phone is used to find a weakness nearby. Could be anything from CCTV cameras to steam vents but in most cases your instinct will be hack the camera then check the environment and locate all the enemies. To make your life easier try and wipe out as many enemies as you can by hacking devices so you don’t need to go in guns blazing. Maybe trip a car alarm, raise a forklift or anything that can be interacted with nearby. The enemy may investigate and if your fortunate enough there might be something that can explode nearby. Wait for them to get close enough and hack. Boom! now they’re gone. There’s a lot of stealth to the missions which is tactical and engaging. Some missions will be just that go undetected so you have to be smart with how you approach the situation. Of course there are plenty of occasions where you can have a good tear up with guns which is just as fun. The cover system works brilliantly and health replenishes fairly fast whilst you take cover and avoid being shot.
Enemies are of various ranks. Some have added armour and the SWAT guy’s are a real pain to handle. They can take a good few headshots whereas some of the typical enemies do have phones to call in reinforcements. You can disrupt their communications and sometimes even make their device explode. The varying enemies make missions dynamic, challenging and so much fun. Helicopter snipers are the most troublesome adversary. Using your hacking ability to disrupt them really helps otherwise you’ll find solice in hiding in roof covered locations to avoid the sniper shots.
Not the ground breaking experience it could’ve been. Watch Dogs still brings fresh elements to the open world action genre that set it apart from others.