When Watch Dogs made its debut at E3 in 2012, Ubisoft seemed to be promising something smarter, something that we have never seen before in an open world game. “Hacking is your weapon” was the advertising they used, and after more than 30 hours of gameplay my body count from assault rifles, grenade launchers and stealth kills was rather high. It’s fair to say that hacking was not my weapon.
You play as Aiden Pearce, a brilliant hacker and former thug with a Batman like voice. His criminal past led to a violent family tragedy resulting in the death of his niece. Whilst seeking revenge, you’ll monitor and hack those around you by hacking the Central Operating System (ctOS) from the palm of your hand. You can use security cameras, download personal information to locate a target, or control traffic lights, bridges and public transportation to stop the enemy.
The main issues I have with Watch Dogs are its simplistic, very repetitive campaign missions and its disappointing story. The missions consist of hacking your way into a building, finding information on your target, killing your target and then you have a choice – either run away or stand and fight at the end of each mission. The story was a bit of a let down. Without spoiling anything, I will just say that I feel the stakes could have been a lot higher considering you have complete control of the city.
What I really like about Watch Dogs is the narrative dissonance between gameplay and story. The protagonist’s life and who he is and all the side objectives you can do makes complete sense for a guy who has no family, no real job and no aspirations other than revenge and vigilante justice. Other open-world games like GTA haven’t done this well. Characters like Michael in GTAV is a family man but when free-roaming the city of Los Santos, he’s a murdering psychopath killing hundreds of people in the street. It doesn’t quite fit. Watch Dogs also shines when it stops trying to be a serious story driven experience and starts becoming an outrageously fun video game, offering a variety of mini games and side quests. My personal favourite is Digital Trips. Digital Trips allow Aiden to escape the reality of Chicago and enter a digital world where there are no rules. There are 5 different Digital Trip offerings – Madness, Alone, Psychedelic, Spider-Tank and Conspiracy. Spider-Tank is the one that stands out the most. It’s fairly self-explanatory. You are in control of a spider-like tank. Cause as much destruction and mayhem as possible. The more you play, the more skills you unlock. It’s the most fun I have had in a video game in a very long time.
Despite its tedious, repetitive missions and dull story, Watch Dogs is an extremely fun open-world game with a simple but delightful hacking system, immense mini games and enjoyable implemented multiplayer. Watch Dogs is a game every PS3 and PS4 owner should experience.