I bought Watch_Dogs on the day it was released and even went to the midnight release event for it at my local Gamestop. Watch_Dogs was a game I had been looking forward to ever since I picked up the PlayStation 4. There was a ton of hype surrounding this game and everything I had seen or read about it only made me want to have it more. Was all that hype warranted? Did the game live up to expectations? I think it’s hard to say when most reviews out there are based on playing the game for only a few days. I’ve had almost 2 months with the game and have completed the main story along with many of the side missions and I’m still chugging my way through unlocking all the trophies. After almost two months, I think I can finally write my views on Watch_Dogs.
The main story mainly deals with the protagonist, Aiden Pearce and his search for who had hired the gunman that was sent to kill him, but instead accidentally killed his niece, Lena. This leads Aiden on a wild chase around the streets of Chicago in order to unravel the mystery of how and why.
Though there is an underlying story with a beginning, middle, and end, there are a ton of things thrown in that can make the story a bit confusing. Many of the characters you come across almost seem like they shouldn’t even be interacting with each other and you don’t really get the whole picture of what’s going on until the very end when it all starts to make sense. With that said, I wouldn’t just dismiss the story right off the bat. Stick to it and play to the very end and it will all come together.
Right as the game starts, you already have your trusty smartphone with the ability to hack into cameras and other equipment. You’ll need to learn quickly how to make the best use of your smartphone because it will be something you will be using throughout the entire game. It’s used to hack almost everything in the game including the smartphone of every citizen in Chicago with the ability to hack into their bank accounts and steal a bit of their money. You’ll need this money to basically fund your operations and acquire new guns, ammo, vehicles, and clothing.
You’ll be playing in a small part of Chicago that will open up into a much larger city with different districts as you progress. Each district has it’s own ctOS stations that you’ll need to disable in order to open up the secrets each area possess, mainly sides missions and their locations. What’s neat about these ctOS stations and the antennas you have to disable is that they are usually set up like puzzles where you’ll have to use the environment, cameras, and even the enemies to clear the area. There usually multiple ways to complete certain areas and it’s even possible to clear these areas without firing a single shot or even being anywhere near the objective. This is great for those who want to play stealthy or if you want, you can go in guns blazing.
Speaking of which, many of the story missions are also set up the same way where you can have the choice of either trying to go about it quietly, or just shooting everything in sight and hope that you’ll come out alive. In my experience, there are very few missions where you can completely stealth it. You’ll most likely be doing a combination of both stealth and run and gun to complete most missions.
The game plays like almost every other third person open world shooter except for a couple distinct feature which makes combat that much better in my opinion. Watch_Dogs has a cover system so that you can hide behind objects and corners and can peek around them or above them. This is probably one of my favorite features in the combat system and one that you will need to use a lot against the many enemies that come at you. What’s also pretty cool is the fact that you get a meter which tells you when you are being spotted and how much time you have left before they take action against you. This is reminiscent of old school Metal Gear Solid gameplay.
There was a huge controversy leading up to the release of Watch_Dogs based on its graphics. I of course didn’t really care because despite what some people thought, I still thought Watch_Dogs looked pretty good and when it finally came out, I wasn’t disappointed at all. On the PlayStation 4 hardware, the graphics looked fantastic to me with huge areas filled to the brim with detail. The city of Chicago was filled with life and I was really surprised by how many NPCs you could see on screen at once. The city itself was highly detailed and realistic, but again, the thing that impressed me the most was how alive the city looked and felt. There were so many people just walking around the street as well as vehicles driving up and down the roads. Watch_Dogs version of Chicago felt like a real city where real people went about their day.
Size wise, the city is much larger than that of Seattle, featured in another PS4 game, Infamous Second Son. In terms of city detail, they are fairly close to each other. Infamous has slightly better character models however, though Watch_Dogs still ranks up there and is still quite good. Also, vehicular damage models are fantastic in this game. Vehicles break apart fairly realistically and watching them explode is a real joy.
It took me roughly about 3 weeks to beat the main story mainly because I only get about a couple hours a night to play, longer on weekends, and the fact that I was also playing other games at the same time. On top of that, there are so many side missions in the game that I found myself taking a break from the story just to complete some of the fixer contracts, side missions, and other distractions. Watch_Dogs makes it fairly simple to play in multiple sessions as the individual missions themselves aren’t very long and the story isn’t too hard to jump in an out of, even though the story can be a little confusing at times.
Much of the game, you’ll be driving from mission area to mission area and most likely hacking the good citizens of Chicago along the way. You’ll end up collecting a ton of money, but you’ll discover that you really don’t have to use money much at all. A lot of the guns you need you can pick up from enemies as well as ammo. These get added to your inventory permanently. You don’t even have to buy cars as you can just steal them on the street. There are so many opportunities to earn money and pick up items that you never feel like you are lacking money.
I enjoyed playing many of the missions. Many, like I stated above, had you trying to figure out how to complete each as stealthily as possible. Or at least that’s what I initially tried to do. I would always try to figure out the best possible route with the least amount of enemy engagements with a series of hacks and and stealth kills. I would try some missions over and over again for the best outcome, however stealth wasn’t always a possible solution. In the end, there were many missions where I would end up just shooting everyone in sight instead so I could continue on with the story. Although, that’s not to say it isn’t fun to just shoot up everyone as it can be really fun thanks to a solid combat system that is accurate fast paced. In the end, that’s what I really liked about most of the game. It’s the fact that you can go about each mission in so many different ways that I don’t think any two players would complete the same mission the same way.
This also brings me to non-story related elements in the game, mainly the NPCs. It’s amazing to watch what the NPC’s do on their own. With games like GTA for instance, the NPCs to me never really felt like they were doing much except for mindlessly walking around. In Watch_Dogs, you can actually listen to them have conversations with each other or interact with other NPCs as if they were real players. NPC’s also don’t just run away when violence starts. Some will even try to call the cops on you like any good citizen would do when trouble starts. But yeah, the NPCs in Watch_Dogs are very lifelike and do many things real people would do who are just going about their day to day business.
If there’s one area in the game that I have a bit of a complaint about, it’s multiplayer. Multiplayer plays a significant part in this game, mainly the ability to invade other players’ games seamlessly as well as being invaded as well. Invading other players’ games is pretty neat as it will test your skill at remaining stealthy. Being invaded is a whole other story and can be quite annoying, especially if you were on your way to do a mission and then all of a sudden, have to stop just to look for some guy who’s trying to hack you. I’m also a bit disappointed that not all online modes allow you to play with or against your friends. This makes the multiplayer modes less desirable than I had originally thought they’d be and in all honesty, has kept me from playing MP that much. I really hope Ubisoft rectifies this soon because the multiplayer modes would be much more fun if I could play them all with my friends and not just with random strangers.
Lastly, I want to talk about all there is to do in Watch_Dogs that has nothing to do with the main game. There are games scattered around the city that you can play, such as chess or poker. There are virtual reality and augmented reality games you can play via your smartphone, many of which are very fun and completely different from anything you do in the regular game. My favorites though have to be the digital trips which are very well done, the best one being that of Spider-Tank. I just wanted to bring these up because they are activities you can do long after the main story has been completed. There are games within the game and it would be a shame if you never tried any of them.
Watch_Dogs was a fun experience for me and still is. Even after beaten the main story, I’m still playing it as there are many side missions I have yet to complete as well as fixer contracts that need to be done. I’m also on a quest to unlock all the trophies for the game, even the online ones which I’m not too fond of still until my issues with multiplayer get resolved. Despite this, Watch_Dogs is still a very fun game for me. There is still a lot I can do in eh game and sometimes I like just driving around in my car to explore the huge city of Chicago. Sometimes I even cause a little bit of mischief just so I can have a run in with the law.
There is DLC content that has come out for it recently too, so Ubisoft is still supporting the game, which is good. I haven’t played any of the new DLC stuff yet as I am still trying to work my way through all the little side missions I missed. There is litterally so much you can do in the game that even if you never touched any of the DLC stuff, it would probably still take you a while to finish them all.
Hopefully though, my main point of concern is that they improve the multiplayer experience and allow more friend related interactions with certain modes. It’s not as fun playing these modes with strangers, especially the ones that require team based objectives and as most of us know, strangers usually don’t always make the best teammates. If they improved this mode, I would probably play more of the MP stuff. Until then, I don’t make much use of it right now.
Would I recommend this game to friends still, even after spending almost 2 months with it? Yes I would. It’s a great game that shows off what you can do on next-gen platforms and despite the little issues here and there I had with it, it’s probably still one of my favorite games this year.
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