When the original WATCH_DOGS was first announced, the hype around it was massive. Finally Ubisoft was making a game that was not Assassin’s Creed (Hurray!) and on top of that, the idea that the game was based on was no further from the seemingly closed reality; No privacy, 24/7 monitoring of individuals, influencing opinions based on an individual habits and much more.
Although the original WATCH_DOGS became infamous due to a plethora of issues, dull and stuck up protagonist who took clues from reading a lot of Batman comics (I really liked Aiden Pearce so it is worth mentioning here), dark tone and theme, but still it was fun to hack away at the heart of the city, eavesdropping on people’s texts and calls, fooling the ATM to dispense cash.
WATCH DOGS 2 is the sequel that takes everything that went wrong with the original and rebuilds and redefines it, in a much smoother way. Set in a fictional depiction of the San Francisco Bay Area, WATCH_DOGS 2 follows the adventure of a brilliant, young hacker named Marcus Holloway, who, after being wrongly accused and getting a rap sheet on the system, vowed to make things right for all the people who suffer the wrongdoings of the powerful establishments.
Marcus joins a group of hackers called Dedsec, filled with colorful characters of varied nature. This time around, Ubisoft decided to make the theme light and fun with lots of joking around, and well, it has succeeded in doing that. The characters that are designed are well-written, well-acted and will soon become your favorites.
The goal of DedSec is to bring down the notorious establishment called Blume and its ctOS 2.0, which is hellbent on invading privacy of individuals, and in some cases, selling the data to other companies for profits and gains. DedSec members require a lot of botnet resources to help them against their campaign and to do so they require a lot of followers who would help share their processing power to aid DedSec to achieve the goal.
Marcus’s basic magic kit is more or less the same as the one used by Aiden Pearce in the original game but this time around, you have some nifty gadgets to help you in hacking as well as more hackable objects than its predecessor. This opens up a whole new way to hack and progress through the game. You can hack cranes, forklifts, cars (finally), by yourself as Marcus or with the help of a RC Vehicle (named RC Jumper) and a Quadcopter Drone.
The RC Jumper will become your second-self in no time as in addition to the remote control to access areas undetected, or to navigate through small openings to reach certain areas, it also packs the ability to physically hack or pick items, which makes it the best companion while being in the shadows and out of harm’s way. The Quadcopter is good as well as it lets you get a good aerial view to hack objects that can be remotely hacked and also to plan out a strategy on how to tackle a task by tagging enemies and their locations.
As for the weapons, this time around, Ubisoft has included a 3D printer that can be found at a Hackerspace (what the safe spot is called inside the game). You can 3D print all sorts of weapons including but not limited to pistols, shotguns and SMGs.
The Main Missions of the game alone will take you quite some time to sift through and are of different variety, making sure that your interest in the game stays and wanting you to say “let’s do one more mission before hitting the sack”. Along with that, you can dress up Marcus any way you want! Want to hack in hipster style before it was cool? Done. Punk Rocker-turned-Hacker? Done. A full three-piece formal suit? Done!
This time around, the super-duper smartphone our hacker uses has more usage than before, (Ubisoft aimed to almost make the game feel like no different than our everyday life these days) by having the smartphone have apps. You can download a bunch of apps from the fictional app store. Some of these apps are designed to reflect some real life apps that are nowadays present on your smartphone for example Driver SF, which completely mimics the idea of Uber, a popular taxi service where individuals can respond to pick and drop requests. Other apps let you play your music list, identify a nearby playing song and add it in your list or navigate through maps, just like a normal smartphone these days would do.
As for the gameplay, it is now balanced into three different types: Aggressive Hacker, Trickster Hacker and Ghost Hacker. As the name implies for each type; Aggressive Hacker takes on the style of going in guns blazing like Rambo all the while being a hacker at heart (which is to say doesn’t really suit a hacker in my opinion) but you may very well be dragged to become aggressive at times as the stealth in the game really feels clunky and fallen apart.
Trickster Hacker implies using vast environmental resources at your disposal to confuse and throw your enemies of your scent, like tricking them, duh. Ghost Hacker defines being out of sight around 90% of the time and using tools and gadgets at your disposal to do all the dirty work.
Driving this time feels a bit better than the original and finally there are no huge car chase scenes with the San Francisco’s finest behind your tail, trying to grind you to the ground. But still the driving also feels a bit unbalanced and sometimes feels just too responsive, or not at all, in controlling your vehicle. And also, why do you have a choice to honk your horn when the NPCs won’t react to it at all? Honking your horn to get a vehicle out of your way or so doesn’t work, which is when the ability to hack vehicles and to control them remotely (move them forward, backward, sideways) happened to come in handy a lot. MOVE OUT OF THE WAY SLOWPOKES!
A.I works better with the NPC civilians roaming on about their life in the city, discussions between them about the recent events happening in the city, vomiting outside bars due to excessive drinking, photobombing you if you are taking selfies and much more. Ubisoft also included a whole set of emotes that you can use now to interact with said NPCs in the world. The enemy A.I, however, could use a lot of polish and even if you use a stun gun, which is silenced and it misses a single isolated enemy from the rest of the group that seems to be pretty far to be heard, the rest of the enemies go on high alert just because the single enemy noticed you and your actions.
The online multiplayer experience is seamlessly integrated into the main game and doesn’t feel apart at all. With the option to play the game in co-op mode, you and a friend can hack away the city of San Francisco together, clearing many obstacles that you may face, well two is always better than one.
The other online mode is the Bounty Hunter mode, which includes you either being the bounty that is being hunted or the bounty hunter in which up to three players can join in and take down a single target, and even if you are not the one to neutralize or deliver the final blow, you still get points for being in on the action. Unfortunately at the time of this review, we weren’t able to test the game’s multiplayer mode in detail because of the on-going issues with it. Ubisoft is currently working on resolving these issues and are hopeful for an early resolution.
All-in-All, is WATCH_DOGS 2 worth picking up? My answer is yes, aside from some hiccups and clunky controls in some areas and broken stealth mechanics, it delivers an overall good experience package and while some of the things that are illegal to do in the real life, you can easily get away with in video games and especially in WATCH_DOGS 2. Hack away in the game, enjoy the satirical humor aimed at tech giants and social networking sites (gotta say Nudle, parody of the tech giant Google, made me chuckle), enjoy well-drawn, well-written and easily likable characters.
Watch Dogs 2 is available now for the PS4, Xbox One and PC. It was developed and published by Ubisoft. This review covers the PS4 version of the game.
Watch Dogs 2 Review (PS4)
Watch Dogs 2 is a worthy successor to the original with an enjoyable single player campaign and engaging new cast of characters.