On a recent trip to Paris with Ubisoft for Watch Dogs, I had the chance to play Watch Dogs for a few hours, from the start, and here are my thoughts.
In Watch_Dogs, this system is called the Central Operating System (CTOS) – and it controls almost every piece of the city’s technology and holds key information on all of the city’s residents.
You play as Aiden Pearce, a brilliant hacker and former thug, whose criminal past led to a violent family tragedy. Now on the hunt for those who hurt your family, you’ll be able to monitor and hack all who surround you by manipulating everything connected to the city’s network. Access omnipresent security cameras, download personal information to locate a target, control traffic lights and public transportation to stop the enemy…and more.
The game starts off with Aiden involved in a bank robbery, although he stays too long and an unknown group decide they want him dead and send someone to kill him. Unfortunately for Aiden instead of killing him, they kill his young niece Lena.
We then jump straight into 11 months later and Aiden is in a football stadium trying to get information out of the person who killed his niece – and that’s were we start playing.
You then hook up with a guy called Jordie, who is helping you track down those responsible for Lena’s death. He has not only helped orchestrate the situation you are in now, but has also made it more dangerous by calling the police, who are now closing in on you. You must now use a series of stealth moves and various hacks with your smartphone to make your way out of the stadium without being captured. This is a nice, not quite gentle introduction into the world of hacking and crafting.
Crafting is important as you need to be able to create distractions so that the bad guys, or police go off to find out whatever the distraction was leaving you the opportunity to escape. As the game goes on you will be able to craft a number of different items.
Once you get outside the police are closing in so you have to escape from them before you can continue on your quest. At this point you can steal a car or other vehicle – just be careful as passers by will call the police if they see you doing something illegal, and if that happens you will quickly be surrounded. You can tell how close the police are on your display – the more red dots, the closer they are. If someone does start to call the police, if you are quick enough you can grab the phone from them and smash it.
Once in a vehicle you have to outrun or evade the police – you can either try to hide someone and hope they leave, or just floor it and try to get somewhere else in the city.
Once you have escaped the police you can finally go back to your apartment and sleep – although don’t expect pleasant dreams.
Day and night play an important roll in Watch Dogs, not only setting the scene, but also changing the gameplay. Weather is also a part of the game, although there were not many weather changes in the few hours of gameplay I got to play.
From then you can choose to jump straight into following the various leads for the main story arc, or you can choose to profile passers by with your smartphone and help those in need, even if they don’t know they need help yet! There are thousands of NPC’s with randomly generated stories – it was quite funny because a large number of the phone calls I listened in on in the early part of the game were conversations about the NPCs sex lives!
There are also some mini games you can play whenever you feel the need to take a break – these include running around trying to collect gold coins, to collecting souls in a car, to my particular favourite, Spider Tank. Yes, it is exactly as it sounds, you take control of a spider tank and you must destroy as many targets as possible. It reminded me of the craziness of Saints Row IV!
It’s not just a fun division to play these games, they also earn you points, which can come in handy during the game.
There is also an online element to game – you can play with some friends or go up against a random opponent, the choice is yours. If you go up against an opponent, you have to perform certain tasks whilst trying to remain hidden and then not being killed. This can be quite fun as you need to act exactly like everyone else around you so that your opponent doesn’t know it’s you – they don’t see Aiden, they only see a random stranger.
There are 65 vehicles in the game you can steal and drive, including cars, motorcycles and trucks. When you are in a vehicles it’s like you are actually in a driving game rather than just using it as a way of getting from point A to point B. Just try not to run anyone over or the police will be on you and the people won’t support you as much. You can even swim if you jump in the water!
As you have probably guessed, hacking plays a major part in the game, from hacking cameras, to stealing money from people, to blacking out the entire area of the city you are in. These hacks will become available as you get further into the game. It takes a little getting used to working the hacks, but once you have it figured out you can do it very easily and quickly – jumping between camera, profiling those around you and more. Just keep an eye on the battery because like every good smartphone it is limited and certain hacks use more battery power than others.
There is also a companion app that you can use on a tablet to help, or hinder another player. Unfortunately I didn’t get to use the app during this gameplay session, but the idea is certainly interesting, if Ubisoft manage to get the fun and playability factor just right.
The game really reminds me a lot of the TV show Person of Interest. As well as having the main story arc to play, there are hundreds of potential side missions, with lots of people in need of his help. I liked that it was up to you to find out who needed help, and then to try and help them. Some of these situations including a robbery, a mugging, and even murder. In order to succeed you have to get to the person in time, but also remain unseen. If the perpetrator sees you then they will leave and you will have failed the mission, even though effectively you stopped what was going to happen.
Speaking to the lead game designer, there is probably around 100 hours of gameplay if you decide to do all the side missions, so there is certainly something for everyone. The PlayStation version of the game has an additional exclusive hour of content too.
I can’t wait to play more when the game is released next month – my only concern is that there was a lot going on in the game – was it a stealth game, a hacking game, a driving game, a multiplayer game,a group of mini games, or some sort of combination of them all. From my few hours playing the game I enjoyed what I saw, but there did seem to be elements to the game that forces the player to have to play parts of the game they may not enjoy as much, such as the driving. Whether this is going to be an issue for anyone remains to be seen, but what I am sure about is that there is something for everyone.
And here is some new gameplay footage to keep you going:
Watch Dogs will be released worldwide on 27th May, 2014 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC.
What do you think of Watch Dogs? Let us know by leaving a comment below.