Saturday, June 14, 2014

Watch Dogs Review

Watch Dogs has been one of the most anticipated games of the past couple years. It was originally supposed to come out when PS4 and Xbox One were launching, but Ubisoft delayed it to May. So, after years of waiting, does it live up to the hype? Sort of.

The game is set in 2013 where all of Chicago runs on an operating system called cTOS, and by everything I mean everything. Cameras, smartphones, cars, you name it. You play as Aiden Pearce, a hacker who's seeking revenge for the death of his niece. He has to team up with Clara Little, a member of the DeadSec hacking group, T-Bone, a former cTOS engineer, and Jordi Chin, a  to find out who was in charge of his niece's death while also protecting his sister Nicole and nephew Jackson from Damien Brenks.

The story is a bit generic but it gets the job done. As for the characters, it's a mixed bag. Aiden is one of the dullest video game characters I've ever seen, but I can't blame the voice actor for it. The dialogue doesn't give him enough to differentiate himself, and as a result the character suffers. Clara and Damien aren't much of an improvement, but they have their moments. The villains, who shall remain nameless for spoiler purposes, are well acted and menacing. The real highlights here are T-Bone and Jordi. T-Bone is not only a great character, but he's also our main source of humor in the game. Jordi is great but isn't in the game much.

Gameplay is fun, but it can be annoying. I played on the hardest mode Realistic, and it provided a genuine challenge. After 2 or 3 bullets, you're dead. The only time I had to change the difficulty was at the end of Act III when I couldn't take out an enforcer. Combat wise you're limited to a pistol, SMG, assault rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle, and grenade launcher. I found myself using the machine gun for most of the game thanks to the difficulty, but if you're on an easier difficulty you might find yourself using other weapons more often.

As I said in the last paragraph, gameplay can be annoying at times. What's the annoying part? Driving. About 80% of the vehicles drive terribly that whenever I would get in a speed chase I'd have a good car. Since you can only fast travel to side mission hideouts (which is a good thing since the city looks great), you're going to be driving most of the time (a boat sometimes). What I did the most often is just get a motorcycle and head up on the train tracks, that way I didn't have to deal with crashing into cars most of my trip and potentially blow up the vehicle.

The big feature of Watch Dogs' gameplay is hacking, and man is it fun. You can control traffic lights, road blockers, pipes, and bridges on the road. In combat you can trigger an enemy's grenade and potentially kill them and/or more enemies, explode plates and electrical boxes, disrupt communications which stuns the enemy for a few seconds, and disable helicopters for a short period. Then, of course, there's the hacking minigame in missions where you have to align the pipes to the circuit to get into a camera. I loved this as it provided yet another challenge, though I wish they popped up more.

Enemies are pretty dumb for the most part, and if you're playing on Easy or Normal you won't have to worry too much about them killing you. I'm a bit disappointed in escaping enemies by road, however. All you have to do to escape in a chase or from cops is simply go to a boat and get out of range. The developers definitely should have put cop boats in so escaping doesn't feel like such a cop out (no pun intended).

Side missions are fun until you realize all of them are the exact. Same. Damn. Thing. Upon completing them, there's no sense of reward other than it's added on your progression wheel. By about 7 or 8 side missions in I realized they were all going to be the same and I'd rather spend my time exploring the world and finish the main story.

Like I said earlier, the city is vast and looks great. When I first played the game, after I played the first level I easily spent at least 90 minutes exploring the world. There's billboards that you can hack and a meme from developers will pop up (IE "It's a Trap!" "Badger Badger Badger Badger"), and there's even references to other Ubisoft games.

The game had a lot of controversy for not being on par to the graphics shown at E3 and the fact neither PS4 or XB1 were running the game at 1080p and 60 FPS. I can't comment on the latter as I played on PC, but I had the game on Ultra and the graphics definitely were a downgrade on what was shown at E3. Even then, it's still a great looking game.

Control wise, Ubisoft could have done better with the mouse controls. Navigating your phone is a pain and moves too quickly. The mouse wheel wouldn't work when opening the phone either and I had to switch it to a key.

It took me a little over 31 hours to complete the game on Realistic, and that was including quite a few hours free roaming and doing a few side missions. The main story probably took me around 20 hours to complete. I'd estimate that the main story takes 9-10 hours to complete on Easy, 12 on Normal, and 16 on Hard. There's some replay value here so I might try it again on a lower difficulty.

Overall, Watch Dogs is a solid game. The combat and hacking are fun and the graphics and environment look great, but lame side missions, mostly boring characters, an ok story, a dumb AI, and some of the worst driving I've seen in a game drag it down a bit. Overall, I'd give the game a 7/B-.

Thanks for reading! As always, follow me on Twitter @ThemeParks4Life.

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