The Ninjabot

Watch Dogs Review: Hack The Planet!

Posted on May 31, 2014 at 12:39 am by Justin Cavender

Watch Dogs Review

All Aboard the Hype-Train!

Watch Dogs, the open-world action spectacular from Ubisoft, finally launched earlier this week after being delayed six months from its November release date. After countless videos, promos, commercials, awards, and trade show appearances, one of the first questions that comes to mind will likely be whether Watch Dogs lives up to the hype. That’s a tough one, and purely subjective, especially given that amount of hype surrounding this game quickly became unquantifiable. For me, I expected to be blown away from all the awesomeness that is Watch Dogs, spending all my waking hours parked on my sofa hacking, spying, and creating a world of chaos all around me. Guess what? That’s exactly what I’ve been doing since I started this game. Set in Chicago, players take on the role of Aiden Pearce, a super hacker extraordinaire on a quest for revenge against those who hurt his family. Aiden is armed with guns, explosives, and most importantly, a smartphone to hack anything electronic in your line of sight.

In Watch Dogs, everything in the world is connected and stored online in a system called the Central Operating System (ctOS). Basically, you get to play God with your phone, which allows you hack cameras, traffic lights, bridge controls, vehicles, forklifts, and even take a peek into the lives of anyone that passes by. Honestly, taking a quick look at someone’s profile (which may include their occupation, salary, hobbies, age, and even purchase history) will actually humanize random pedestrians. A relatively simple concept quickly turns into a game changer. If I notice someone was recently laid off, evicted, or even a cancer survivor, I’ll probably take the highroad and not steal from them. Whereas in Grand Theft Auto, I’ll just run over any person in my way.

Watch Dogs Review Hacking NPC

Privacy No Longer Exists

Hacking is as easy as one, two, three… well, one anyway. All you have to do is press a single button to take control of the entire city. Sounds simple enough, right? There are a few hacking puzzles here and there, but nothing to write home about. Most of said puzzles involve “hacking” a series of cameras in a certain order following the line of sight rules—meaning you have to have a clear view of an object to hack it. Other puzzles might include a schematic of sorts, where you must reroute a signal to unlock a security panel. Again, nothing too stressful, unless time is a factor due to a patrolling guard. If anything, it helps add to the excitement.

Chicago is a thriving metropolis with several modes of transportation. Stealing cars, motorcycles, and delivery trucks is all part of the fun. Unfortunately, vehicles have a wonky feel to them, and you’ll certainly need practice to hone your driving skills. In fact, some vehicles handle much better than others, so it probably won’t take you long to figure out which wheels suit your style. Another issue with vehicles is you can’t shoot your weapons while driving. It’s not the end of the world, but when you’re being hounded by the police or a convoy of bad guys, the ability to shoot the driver next to you would help a ton. A narrow escape is usually executed by utilizing the environment around you, such as changing traffic lights, raising barriers, and bridges as you pass over or through. Having your pursuers trailing behind you also hinders the excitement in some ways. Often times you won’t see the damage behind as you’ll want to always keep moving forward, leaving nothing but carnage in your wake.

Action isn’t everything, however. There are several stealth missions in Watch Dogs, many of which are an automatic failure if you’re spotted. This can get to be a little annoying, but trial and error will set you on the right path. Another silly caveat to quests is not killing everyone. On occasion, Aiden will take a job where he must humiliate a mob boss to make an example out of them. Sure the guy has done terrible things, but you have to use non-lethal force to bring them down. However, you can kill their goons all day long. Most of the time, you can stick to the cover-based gameplay to pick-off your enemies. You’ll likely find more enjoyment hacking into nearby devices, causing them injury or death from spike strips, exploding pipes, falling objects, or an old fashioned beat-down.

Watch Dogs Review Hacked

Trace Buster, Buster, Buster!

Multiplayer intrusions are exhilarating to say the least. Often times, I’d be progressing through the campaign, and another player would hack into my game. When this happens, you’ll be alerted to their presence and must act quickly to spot them in a crowd. They’ll look like an ordinary NPC, and it’s up to you to profile and identify them using your phone before they can complete their hack. Once you spot them, you’ll want to take them out immediately or they’ll try to escape. There are several aspects to multiplayer to keep you busy, like 1 v 1 hacking, tailing, and a mobile app game. Watch Dogs has plenty of content to keep you busy for hours on end, some of which might seem daunting or monotonous. Keep in mind, repeating these tasks is mainly for trophy hunters and shouldn’t deter you from sticking to the campaign. I found myself doing an enormous amount of side-quests before even finishing the first act. In doing so, I was able to acquire additional skill points, get some time behind the wheel, and practice non-lethal takedowns.

Final Thoughts

The story is fairly engaging, even with a lifeless protagonist. Aiden often leaves me feeling sort of bleh with his deadpan expressions, but the cast of supporting characters really spruces up this high-tech goose. Perhaps Ubisoft decided to let players express their own emotions rather than scripting them. Either way, the story kicks itself into high gear at an early stage. The only thing taking the pace down a notch or two is when you get stuck on one of those stealth missions where detection is an automatic failure. While frustrating at times, you’ll likely find the right path and get over it. There are far too many things to do in Watch Dogs than just sit around fussing about being seen. If all else fails, use your phone to cause a blackout and stroll right on to victory.

Bottom line, Watch Dogs is a great game loaded with hours of content. I wish the driving had smoother controls, and maybe that’s something Ubisoft will revisit with the sequel. Having so much information at your fingertips feels like a fresh new take on many gameplay elements we’ve seen from titles like Assassin’s Creed or GTA. I can’t even begin to explain the level of excitement that runs through my mind when another player enters my game. My heart starts pounding like crazy and my hands get all sweaty. It’s freaky. It’s fun. It’s fantastic.

Presentation: 9

Gameplay: 8

Replay: 8


Geek Legacy’s review scores are on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest possible score. This review is based on a retail version for the PS4 that we purchased. Ubisoft has provided us with a download code for the PC version via Uplay, which we will review shortly. Follow Justin on Twitter @Edgyarmo for more geek news.

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