Reviewed By: Dan Bate
Initially pushed back from its release date to coincide with the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One launches, the general feel of disappointment was almost tangible, as from the first trailer and its first overviews, EVERYONE wanted this game…myself most certainly included.
After 5 years of development from 2009, first shown in 2012 and a budget of $68 Million (£40,674744), was this game worth the wait? Well in my humble opinion, yes. Most certainly, yes.
Unfortunately the PC version had some Uplay server issues at launch, which sent a lot of people into a Twitter rage similar to the issues that were faced by Rockstar and the devastating launch of GTA5 online.
I had to wait roughly two hours before I got connection but it was clear that some people had been waiting for five or six hours to crack on in Chicago. As there is no offline mode (DRM flashbacks ahoy!) everyone had to button up, strap in and wait for Ubisoft to fix everything.
Once the issues were resolved however, within five minutes of gameplay, all was forgiven as you see gorgeous graphics, offset with delicate yet striking lighting effects, noticeable even indoors. Even my mighty gaming rig can’t handle Watchdogs visual prowess and I'm running it at a silky smooth 60fps at the “high” graphic setting.
The voice acting is particularly impressive, although as much as I like the gravelly tones of Noam Jenkins, who voices our protagonist Aiden Pierce, and as much as it suits the character and his actions, it doesn't seem to fit his appearance. Aiden looks fairly gentle and caring albeit for his line of work. It would appeal to me more if his voice turned into a husky Kevin Conroy or Thomas Jayne the more of a dick that you became.
Choices are as relevant in Watchdogs as they are in all modern story orientated games. Kill police and civilians, steal and be a general arsehole and you become a feared outlaw. Help victims of random crimes, avoid shoot-outs and go for the bad guy knock out to be raised aloft as an honoured protector.
That being said, as I have not completed the story mode, I cannot comment as to how much these actions will actually affect the outcome of the story, or if it only goes as deep as to the reactions that passers-by will have when they see you and maybe a few extra lines of dialogue.
With the story in mind, it is certainly not as an emotionally engaging and desperate story as the Last of Us or the Walking Dead that I have seen so far, its certainly possible that the gripping story is biding its time and is being spread evenly over the campaign like smooth warm butter rather than a rough chunky pate.
The death (or murder, depending on how you look at it,) of Aiden’s niece Lena is the trigger for the story, with Aiden beginning 11 months after Lena’s death in his hunt for answers. What is a nice change however, is how established Aiden’s character and abilities are. Aiden was already a talented hacker and infiltrator; he doesn’t suddenly become a vigilante for the sake of revenge.
He already was one.
The few characters that I have met so far, Clara, Jordi, and Aiden’s sister Nicki are all very well fleshed out, equally well voiced, animated, mo-capped and are not simply included to make the plot more convenient as you progress.
A nice touch that can pop up at the most inopportune times is the ability to be hacked by other players. Whether by real life mobile phone app users or players on your respective platform, they can hack into your game and steal money from you. So you had better get to their location fast, search every camera and check inside every car before they hack you and get off scott free and without a bullet in their head.
The open world of Chicago is excellently presented and easily accessible, with multiple shops and interiors to explore both in and out of missions. The more hacking abilities that you unlock as you develop, the more of Chicago you can access and the use it against your foes. Everything from bridges, underground piping and car park garages you can manipulate to make escape all the more exciting using your phone…your wonderful, wonderful phone.
With the simple tap of a button you can turn all manner of electronic devices into deadly and distracting weapons to help Aiden complete his missions. The sheer ease that you can alter the tide of a fight or in a chase makes you wonder one thing “why isn’t this phone in every single game!”
It can be used as a tracking device, profiling the general public and stealing from the nasty ones. A hacking device used in some brilliant 3D mini game hacking puzzles that really do take a minute or two to think through as well as hacking new music, money and crafting materials from peoples phones. A scanner of sorts, identifying threats and hazards within the environment and a weapon that can jam communications, cause a blackout and blow stuff up, which we all know is awesome.
And finally a spy tool for accessing internal cameras and allowing you to recon the area before you even make a move. If you put aside the crafting, the gunplay, driving and the hand to hand combat for a minute I want to fully express how brilliant the phone is. The whole premise for this game is to show exactly how dependent we all are on technology and how easy it could really be to be monitored and analysed by huge faceless companies. The phone is the shining weapon to turn this controlling technology against the police and the very companies’ goons who created the ctOS system that is the unknown big brother.
There is a standard button push for stealth takedown and a humble but not useless free running system, which makes the daring on foot chases through alley ways and between traffic really cool to look at. Hand to hand combat is otherwise not really present, which is a shame as a nice combo beatdown would feel really satisfying in this game, bringing some of the dirtbags you come across to shiney justice.
To offset this however, is a great array of easy to find and purchasable weapons, accessible with a good old selection wheel, although they’re not upgradeable, there is a focus system which allows to you to make easy escapes and pull off tricky headshots in a jiffy.
Driving cars makes you really feel the weight of the vehicle and the damage left from a poor turn is almost gut wrenching. If you crash your car, you feel like you’ve crashed your car, but with the use of your trusty phone, its easy to unlock parked cars and if you’ve got the right perk, means no alarms! -
As well as the main mission there is the standard assortment of collectables and goodies, one in particular I am a fan of, is locating QR codes that are spaced about the city and can only be viewed in full from a certain angle, as they will be spread across the sides of multiple buildings. This really shows how much the faceless conglomerates are trying to push technology down your throat as much as possible and it goes almost unnoticed.
Another personal favourite are the “Digital Trips” that you can explore. The best way to describe them is to compare them to Trevor’s rampages in GTA5. All of a sudden you are far removed from what you were doing in a bizarre situation, just causing chaos. The best example of this is Spider Tank.
You’re in a tank, that’s shaped as a giant spider and you blow stuff up.
☆☆☆☆Four Stars out of Five: Highly Reccomended
Summary : All in all this is definitely my game of the year and without fear of that title being challenged, I look forward to the additional content I got with the PC’s digital deluxe edition and the inevitable cluster f**k of DLC there is easily enough content to keep me watching dogs for easily 50+ hours.
Fantastic game, well worth the wait.