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Watch Dogs User Review

Discussion in 'User Reviews' started by Soulharvester45, Jun 27, 2014.

  1. Soulharvester45

    Soulharvester45
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    The security created by the smart phones and computers we have don’t necessarily make us safe. Every day, we lose our information to those willing to exploit it for secret purposes. Do you truly feel safe knowing that cameras are watching your every move? That everything is connected, thus making your privacy a mere myth? This is the concept Watch Dogs toys with. Being given the ability to hack into this type of mainframe might be overwhelming for some, as the player soon discovers while adventuring through this game. It turns out this type of ambition and power is what could lead to events beyond your capacity to understand and contain.

    Aiden Pearce, the protagonist, learned this the hard way. While trying to hack information out of a mob boss’s privately owned hotel, a hacker interrupts him and his partner Damien Brenks from completing their assignment. A hit is then ordered on Aiden, causing the death of his six year old niece Lena. Driven by grief at the loss and anger over the way the tragedy was swept under the rug, Aiden vows vengeance on whoever ordered the hit. Using his hacking skills to tap into Chicago’s security mainframe called ctOS (Central Operating System), He must harness its potential to peer into the lives of private citizens in order to exact his vengeance on those who would dare come in the way of justice, while also keeping the rest of his family safe from the criminal life he chose for himself.

    It’s this type of tale that attempts to get the player to attach to the protagonist, and it does a decent job of it. Aiden Pearce is a relatable guy in most respects. He’s suffered a heavy and personal loss, and is doing his best to correct the mistake he made and punish the wicked in the process. He becomes known as the Vigilante over the course of the campaign, and his own vulnerability shows through his interactions with his sister Nikki, his nephew Jackson, and the hacker Clara Lille. He frequently runs with criminals such as hitman Jordi Chin in order to get certain jobs done, and that usually leads to more trouble. Run ins with an anti-government group known as DedSec force Aiden to make other daring choices as well. Fortunately, Aiden is a resourceful man, and his ability to take care of a situation is admirable. As this is by far the best looking game Ubisoft has made, the great character animations, facial expressions, and detail all make each character seem real and relatable in some way or another.

    While the story might not reach the heights set by other open world games such as Red Dead Redemption, it is only meant to develop Aiden Pearce and the people he runs with, showing that the world they live in has lead many to terrible situations. It might not help that some lines of dialogue fall into trite levels, as does the premise of revenge, but what is delivered here was nothing short of both solid and entertaining, serving to deliver blockbuster scenes without sacrificing character over heavy-handed philosophy. Without a deep moral choice system, it ultimately becomes the player controlling Aiden, and not themselves.

    And yet some would believe the philosophy is lost within its gameplay setting. The player is given free rein to explore the dense and believable city of Chicago as run by the ctOS. Running through the beautifully crafted, well-researched streets of the Windy City, passing through familiar landmarks such as the Willis (former Sears) Tower, the L Train, and many more will feel like a great tour of the former capital of mob families, jazz music, and various artistic achievements. However, this isn’t the Chicago some might know, as it has been repurposed to be a massive digital playground for the player under the control of ctOS.

    Having control over a smart phone that has almost limitless access to the ctOS network, Aiden can utilize its various resources to his advantage. Need to scout an area? Hack nearby security cameras to get a lay of the land and plan what your next move is going to be. While you’re at it, make sure you hack into nearby guards, as they are sure to have a communication system ready to be disrupted, as well as having a phone that might just have explosive tendencies or a personal problem that can be made worse by an anonymous text or call, thus distracting them for a brief and advantageous period. Make noise by hacking audio devices, allowing guards to hear the growl of an attack dog or listen to unwarranted musical pieces. And hey, while they investigate, make a transformer or circuit box blow them up as they walk past it. Once they’re all incapacitated, move onto the security box to hack into firewalls and access the homes of private citizens, unlock more of the ctOS network, or to unlock hidden information.

    But be careful, as enemies know when someone is after them the moment they notice a disruption. As they try to hunt you down, you must always be moving, lest the find you and try to gun you down. Sneaking up behind them and beating them up with your hidden baton works wonders at keeping the noise down, but sometimes you might not get so lucky when the enemy that flanks you notices what you’ve done. In that case, going the more traditional route of cover-based third-person shooting gets the job done faster, but not always safer. In fact, it’s not even the most fun part. Shooting someone in the face just doesn’t have the same satisfaction as luring a guard to the random noise you make, disrupting their comms, and making the nearby circuit box explode while they’re distracted. Or you can make fun of them for walking in place, floating in midair, or getting stuck halfway in a wall, as can sometimes happen to you.

    If forces prove to be overwhelming, escaping in a vehicle is always the best alternative. As you figure out how to keep most cars from fishtailing, enemies might come and chase you down in cars of their own. But you’re far from just relying on being faster or more evasive. With control of ctOS in the palm of your hand, you can hack traffic lights to make every intersection green for a quick but dirty collision. Lead some cars towards a manhole cover, and you’ll get to blow a steam pipe on them and send them flying into a wall. Or you can raise blockers and stop them dead in their tracks.

    This helps in eliminating enemies, but cops, should they decide to chase you, are more resilient. They will stop at absolutely nothing to stop the vigilante, even sending their more militarized forces after you if you’re being pesky enough. Fortunately, the same methods of evasion can be applied, as well as access to multiple devices. Jam their communications to keep the ctOS from scanning your location for a better chance of escape if you need to. If they call in the choppers to search for you, disrupt them and send them careening out of control just in time for your escape. If they pin you down, however, the fallback option is to cause a rolling blackout into a small section of the city. It’s lights out, the cops are confused, and suddenly the vigilante has taken a few of them out while he bolts in a new car as they wonder what the hell just happened.

    It’s no coincidence that Watch Dogs should give you this much freedom, what with it being an open world game. With the hacking feature, multiple options exist to finish missions, allowing for an incredible amount of gameplay choice. Opt to go all-guns-blazing, or take the smart tactical route by utilizing your hacking abilities. You determine how each mission plays out, and no two playthroughs of the same mission are the same, as circumstances constantly change. To not use any of the tools the game offers you, whether you discover them or unlock them with skill points you earn from experience, is to do yourself a disservice and defeats the purpose of what this game is trying to accomplish with this level of interactivity. Learning how to hack into road spikes, helicopters, and other various hacks is just too well-done and too entertaining to ignore.

    But it’s not all used for combat. As you travel throughout this fictional Chicago, you can use the profiler to hack into the personal information each citizen possesses. This information shows their name, occupation, annual salary, and a blurb that personalizes them. Some are straightforward, such as “recently got dental fillings,” while others are far more personal. They range from the tragic—“recently divorced”—to the downright bizarre—“sexually addicted to musical instruments”—and very few end up with the same blurb—those are the boring people. You can even take money from them, if you’re so inclined to, and withdraw it by hacking an ATM. You’ll need money to buy guns, crafted devices such as scanners and blackout creators, and vehicles that you can call with your Cars on Demand app. You can also obtain music tracks for your music player and car radio, or pick up information on random street crimes, gang hideouts, or hidden packages. And you decide whether or not to deal with the situation.

    However, dealing with these things comes with a price. Choose to cause havoc by harming citizens and messing with the cops, and people’s perception of you changes. Even actions such as stealing from a store garners you bad karma points. There will be police reports on you, which causes citizens to sound the alarm either by phone (disabled with a jammer) or by shop owners with silent alarms (taken care of with a threatening gun pointed at their face). However, play the part of the hero, taking down street crimes as they happen, investigating potential crimes, taking down gangs, and stopping criminal convoys, and you earn a reputation. Citizens will think twice about calling the cops on your violent methods, and you will also gain much needed recognition and be able to avoid the cops starting a fight with you.

    The amount of content in this game is staggering. From fixer contracts that have you evading the cops in a marked vehicle so fixers can do their jobs quietly, to stopping convoys attempting to take out a target by making the roads a more hazardous environment, and taking out gang hideouts by hacking into them and causing mayhem and death wherever you go, there’s no reason to just walk around and do nothing for the entire game. Even the mini games are interesting. Play the shell game (one ball, three cups, you should all know this game by now), cheat in a poker game by looking at cards from a camera, or drink with some bar squatters and earn cash.

    More of the story and background gets unlocked through other missions. Find weapons caches and discover a sting operation over illegal weapons trading. Scan QR codes to find out how DedSec became so prominent in their campaign against the ctOS. Investigate a human trafficking scandal and even a series of murders hinting at a killer lurking through Chicago. Each of these unlocks an audio file involving the people behind these happenings, and are very fascinating to listen to on their own and within the context of the narrative. Even unlocking ctOS towers to discover new missions and hideouts give details into how ctOS became such a powerhouse of information in the first place.

    You can even take a digital trip: highly detailed and well-crafted mini games designed to help you escape the heavy nature of your revenge trip. There are four digital trips, and each one is interesting and surprisingly deep. Race a demon car to run over demons and earn points from the mayhem. Go on a digital acid trip where you make Aiden jump from flower to flower—I wish I were making this up—and earn points based on how accurately you land on the middle of the flower. Sneak your way through a desolate Chicago run by Orwellian horrors as you try to bring light back to a darkened and electronics-free landscape. And for the piece de resistance, become a robotic spider and wreck everyone and everything in an objective-based destruction campaign. Three of the mini games feature their own separate skill trees which carry over from trip to trip, and each one of them is ridiculously entertaining.

    There are even some online features, such as one vs. one hacking challenges, where you play a cat and mouse game of who can find who first. One player tries to hack into the other, while the other desperately searches for the one hacking them and tries to kill them. Another involves tailing another player for information hoping that they don’t get caught. There are even racing challenges that pit you against three other players in a race to the finish line for the top spot on the leaderboards. While the online hacking mode can get pretty intense, the other two modes just don’t seem to fit too well into the overall theme of the game, and thus lose their impact.

    And the themes touched upon in this game have frightening implications. While this is a fictional world, it hits a little too close to the times. While the story might not attempt to address the issues, it’s what the player does and sees that gives you a glimpse at the kind of future we might be headed for. Digital data mining for cash and power, the word “privacy” losing all meaning as we become more and more connected, criminals exploiting the weaknesses of such systems to bring forth horrific crimes such as human sex trafficking, corrupting entire cities with well-placed connections, and stealing information to sell to the highest bidder. It’s a glimpse into a possible digital war, and the player witnesses and interacts with it so that they may indeed think about such things. While the game might not address them, you will certainly think about them.

    Watch Dogs is an ambitious new IP, forcing the player to think and plan before they act using the tools given to them. Hacking is insanely fun, as is utilizing it for the ridiculous amount of content that Ubisoft packed into this fictional Chicago. The story is a personal one about the protagonist, not one that deals in a heavier theme. Instead, the game is one giant theme in itself: a centralized network exploited for power in an age where information is no longer safe and crime has evolved into something much more sinister. And the player gets to be a part of it so that they might understand it a little better. It doesn’t always play it well, but it is a solid and amazing experience all the way through.

    Rating: 8.5/10 (minor glitches, iffy car controls, story is average, online is somewhat disappointing)
     
  2. GaMeR

    GaMeR
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    Nice review.

    I only briefly played it at a friend's house but related to a lot of your comments.

    This in particular is very true as well, it really makes you wonder if the NSA or some other organization already has something like that or is quite close to it....
     
  3. 4realg4mer

    4realg4mer
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    This really is a great review, it made me much more interested than before in Watch Dogs. My only complaint is that you didn't seem to mention much about the game's sound or music.
     
  4. Soulharvester45

    Soulharvester45
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    Well I don't always mention sound or music unless it really stands out. In Watch Dogs' case, it wasn't too memorable. The main score was good and atmospheric, but the radio tracks were AWFUL (except for Rise Against, since I love that band).
     

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