I make it my business to try to play as many Open-World games as possible. I’m an absolute fanatic for titles like Grand Theft Auto, and I do my best to get my grubby little hands on them all. I was definitely prepared for Watch Dogs on its initial release, but a couple of warning bells began to ring when it was suddenly delayed right after the release of GTA V.
Watch Dogs stars the intense and gravelly voiced, Aiden Pearce. A man with a history of violence and a penchant for hacking. Aiden is no longer motivated by greed and instead covets the beast that is known as vengeance. His past cost him someone he loved dearly, and now he seeks out those that did his family harm. With a few friends to back his play, he becomes the seeker or justice by utilizing the technology within the city of Chicago.
Aiden seeks revenge and that’s something we’ve seen in all sorts of medium. Luckily, Aiden is a tragic soul with the will to do anything to get what he wants. He’s the anti-hero that Chicago needs, but he won’t shy away from doing an odd criminal job here and there. He deals in information and his unforgiving and brutal nature is what keeps the story interesting.
As rugged and fascinating as Aiden is, he’s nothing without his cast of misfits. This ragtag group of weirdoes all gather around Aiden for different reasons. They often appear more interesting than Pearce himself, who at times can be standoffish and ineffectual. Jordi Chen is an especially pleasing comrade that comes with a sharp tongue and a faster trigger finger.
Watch Dogs may have a great cast but how well does the title shine outside of the cut scenes? Aiden has access to the entire city on his rather small cellphone. He can hack into surveillance cameras, trip traffic lights, and even blow power conduits to use against his opponents. This is where Watch Dogs fares the best, as it is essentially a stealth game at heart.
Aiden can get down in dirty and go buck wild with his weapons, but he’s a lot less of a bullet sponge than most open-world protagonists. If he takes five or six shots it’s likely he’ll be a dead man, and that’s not counting weapons like shotguns. So it’s better for him to remain undetected and use the surrounding electronics to his benefit. It’s likely that his enemy will fall victim to a malfunctioning explosive, and be none the wiser to his position.
This area of the title works great for Watch Dogs, but everything else has a feeling of Deja Vu that can’t be denied. Despite the car chase tech activations, the rest of the title seats itself in mediocrity. Everything about the activities outside of the main storyline lack a sense of life. From the Criminal Convoy’s, to the Online invasions, Watch Dogs activities spew repetition.
Every Criminal Convoy job has Aiden stop a bunch of cars from escaping so that he can take down one or two enemies. Each Fixer contract will allow him to steal a car and escape the police, or tail a car and download their information before taking them down. Gang Hideouts are exactly what you think they are – sneak into a hideout and takedown the boss.
But Kevin… what about all of the cool profiling stuff we saw at E3 2012? Have a seat Timmy, let me tell you how profiling really works. Profiling consists of you walking around the city and scanning a bunch of people, sometimes some cool text will appear and other times you’ll get audio calls. The rest of the time you’ll just end up hacking people for ridiculous amounts of cash. At times, profiling will lead Aiden to a crime to stop. Running to a crime scene results in the exact same thing every time. A victim and a potential killer stand alone in the streets, and Aiden must intervene and catch the killer.
That’s it, that’s the whole profiling thingamajig in a nutshell. Profiling is a boring afterthought that has little to do with the element of hacking. It’s ridiculous and disappointing that it doesn’t go beyond stopping someone from being killed or a place from being blown up in a back alley. Nothing regarding stopping a bank from being robbed, stopping a mass shooting, saving a kitten from a tree… I mean some kind of deviation from the most basic of circumstances.
You’d think that the Multiplayer would be the saving grace of all of this, but in reality all the modes that award the player with notoriety points are ho-hum at best. Online Tailing, Racing, and Hacking are some of the most dull gameplay modes ever. Online Racing is self-explanatory, but Online Tailing and Hacking are glorified games of hide and seek.
The invader tries to avoid being spotted, and the host tries to find the invader and kill him. The three other modes of play could be fun, but I couldn’t get into a single game of ctOS Mobile or Decryption, and free roam didn’t have any sort of events that multiple players could get involved in. So it was basically a glorified shooting gallery like GTA IV when it came out in 2008!
It’s not all bad, because when the stars align perfectly and you get a great match going, the multiplayer isn’t half-bad. There are the occassional glitches and frame-rate issues in free roam games, but the invasion games have been lag free and ranged from meh to exciting chases. It all depends on your perpective, I personally dislike invading but enjoy being invaded… giggity.
The city of Watch Dogs has a very dense feel to it, and the buildings and vistas beg to be scaled and discovered. It isn’t as beautiful as that E3 demo we were all shown back in 2012, but it’s not mediocre just because it doesn’t look exactly like the demo. I’d say it is a fairly gorgeous game in its own right, with some nice attention to detail like blowing leaves, and torrential rain storms.
I’m not a citizen of Chicago, but I didn’t feel a connection with the city like I did with Grand Theft Auto. Most of the design lacked an organic feel, and besides being able to track every little idiosyncrasy of the citizens, they felt robotic and static. I have the same problem with the Assassins Creed Series, but that game features historic locales that I’m not familiar with in my everyday life. As a game based off a modern city focused on tracking everything, I felt oddly disconnected and uninspired to care.
That’s not saying it is all bad in Watch Dogs, I mean it does have a wide variety of side-missions. You can platform like Mario, shoot some digital aliens, and partake in possibly the most entertaining part of the game – Driving a Spider-Tank. Watch Dogs receives 3 stars out of 5 from Geek Citadel. Watch Dogs grizzled storyline of vengeance and its comical portrayal of hacking the world clash with each other. It lacks an identity that will surely be found in a much needed sequel.