Watchdogs: Impressions

As an avid video gamer, I have played tons of exciting and mind blowing games ever since my conception. Although I’m a picky casual gamer, as there are a lot of genres that I don’t really play. 2014 saw the release of various games and also saw the popularity boost of the next gen consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox one. A particular game that I had been anticipating ever since the initial announcement in the E3 2013 was the Ubisoft sandbox shooter Watchdogs. A third person shooter that introduces a new aspect of gameplay in a form of hacking. The game follows a linear mission gameplay style but it also has an open world exploration in which the player can roam freely and trigger side missions and engage in side activities. Players can roam the entire landscape of Chicago, although story progress is required to unlock certain aspects of the game. I have played the game for quite some time now and I would like to point out my own pros and cons of the game. As for the matter on the game being overrated, that’s all subjective. I would try to avoid major spoilers and give detailed points. In light of the widow that recently acquired $23bn in a lawsuit against a cigarette company, let’s get it on.

"I'm watching you"

The story follows that of Aiden Pearce, a hacker and vigilante whose most recent job puts his life at risk and causes the death of his niece. Aiden then results to finding out the person responsible for ordering a hit on him, just to discover that he is part of a larger network of murders, vices and conspiracies that he slowly drags himself into. The story itself is pretty basic, not as complex as other triple A titles, but it was engaging enough to interest me. I found the main protagonist, Aiden Pearce to be a bit boring in comparison to other main protagonists of other free roam games. His motive seems to be to find justice for his niece’s murder, but his demeanor is cold and one dimensional. Although some of the supporting characters were really interesting like T-Bone, a hacking mechanic and Jordi Chin a fixer that helps Aiden from time to time with problems.

"You killed my niece, now I'm gonna go Batman on your ass"

The overall gameplay was very decent, the game utilizes a cover based shooting mechanic much similar to games like GTA and Gears of War. Stealth is another impressive feat that works really well, I found it very reliable and fluid, once the player is in a restricted zone, Aiden automatically assumes a crouching position and can take out multiple enemies with close quarters takedowns. Although the lack of an actual crouch or jump button is pretty frustrating, it causes issues like having to walk around an entire mountain side simply because the player could not jump over a ridge. Enemy AI is very responsive as well, during a shootout, enemies will constantly flank the player and even lob grenades to flush the player out of cover. Enemies will also respond to fallen bodies that they see lying around making them very alert of their surroundings. The heat system is also pretty convenient, whenever the player commits a felony, a nearby pedestrian can call for the cops, the player has a limited time to interfere with the call and prevent the cops by either taking them down or jamming their comms( which I will elaborate on in the next topic). The police are pretty aggressive and will try to ram the player’s car continuously, but the cops can be impeded by hacking various interactive objects like road blockers and steam pipes. The enemy class is not so diverse, the major enemies are the enforcers which cannot be taken out with a regular gun, only with explosives. Driving in the game is pretty arcade, as the different classes of cars basically function similarly in the sense that all heavy cars basically function the same way but differently from all sports or high performance cars, which also function in the same way. The driving mechanics can be very light at first, especially for hardcore racing fans, but after some time it gets better. Unfortunately players cannot use their weapons while driving which is a real bummer especially when trying to evade the cops.

"Why does it have to be so cold?"

Hacking plays a very crucial aspect in the game, the player’s in game smart phone is his most powerful tool, his phone can be used to hack blockers and steam pipes in order to cripple enemy vehicles and can also cause blackouts that can be helpful at night times to evade pursuers on foot. Hacking is also crucial in opening up gates to shortcuts, accessing databases and many more. There are this side activities called intrusions where players have to hack an access panel that leads to an NPC’s webcam and can monitor what the person or persons are doing. This provides some really hilarious moments. Hacking panels at times require the player to play a mini game that involves the direction of currents(similar to pipe turning games) to unlock the final lock. They are not too hard and tasking, and are very enjoyable to play through. Hacking also enables the player to be able to profile civilians revealing their personal information, some of which are hilarious like an HIV positive person that happens to be a blood donor. Profiling civilians also helps the player to hack their bank accounts, siphoning hundreds of dollars from the unsuspecting victims(an aspect of the game I wish I could have on my real phone). Although hacking and siphoning cash from civilians ensures that the player can never go broke which takes away some of the excitement and hustle other games like GTA provide. There are these random occurring events that happen and requires the player to intervene with local crimes like mugging, the player can either hack civilians for potential mugging locations or can come across them while exploring the city. Hacking is by far the best aspect of this game.

"To hack or not to hack"

There are tons of activities to keep the player engaged even after completing the main story. There are intrusion boxes as earlier stated, criminal convoys that can be intercepted and taking down before they reach their destination, gang hideouts to wipe out. There are other benign activities like chess, an awesome drinking game segment that tests the player’s button mashing skills and a shell game that tests the player’s eye coordination. My best side activity would have to be the digital trips, which are like cybernetic psychedelic trips that place the player in bizarre worlds with awesome gameplay, one of which is the Spider Tank, the player assumes the role of a giant mechanical spider armed with weapons and is tasked with completing objectives and causing mayhem. Another is Madness, which requires the player to run over demons while driving around in a rugged muscle car while completing objectives, the last two are Alone and Psychedelic, which are stealth and image inducing games respectively. Other side activities include ctos breach and QR codes which primarily involve speed hacking and image alignment respectively. Overall the side activities were very engaging and they kept me entertained long after I had finished the main story.

Say hello to my massive arachnid inspired friend

As for the online aspect, there are six main game modes, Online Roam, which puts up to eight online players in a free roam Chicago to wreck havoc and have unlimited fun, Online Tailing, which involves a player following and silently monitoring another player while avoiding detection, Online Hacking is also similar to Tailing, the difference being that the player has to hack the other player to a 100% in order to install a backdoor virus in secrecy whilst avoiding detection as well. Online Mobile Challenge, this mode requires a player using a tablet or smartphone who gains access to the entire grid of Chicago and access to the police force as well, they hack and disrupt objects around another player in a car whose goal is to get to the finish line under a time limit. Online Decryption, which is one of my favorites, in which two teams consisting of a maximum of four players must battle each other in order to decrypt a file and Online Racing, which is my favorite so far, is your typical racing match with a maximum of eight players with an added twist of hacking obstacles to impede one’s opponents. The online modes are engaging enough although there are bugs that frustrate the experience like in the Online Racing, traffic spawns cars randomly that can appear out of nowhere and obstruct the driver or lagging in the game can lead to a messy game session. Overall it’s a nice experience, just the annoying bugs that need tweaking. The online modes also has a notoriety system that grades the player based on performance, but it is very confusing as I find myself winning some races and getting less points than the runner ups.

Stevochy is my online ID, the points don't make any sense

Overall I must say that Watchdogs is an interesting game with tons of activities to keep the player engaged for at least 30 to 40 hours. I do like the fact that the game utilizes the concept of surveillance and privacy invasion, which are the most controversial topics in our modern society. A couple of minor issues prevent the game from achieving greater heights, but it is worth a purchase at full price. Many people have compared it to GTA V which is normal but GTA V is still superior in my opinion, both games do have different playstyles overall and the major similarity is the fact that they are both third person shooters. I enjoyed my time with Watchdogs and I look forward to more contents. As for the graphics on different consoles, I don’t really know, as my version was on the PlayStation 4. If you have played the game, please feel free to comment on your favorite and least favorite aspects of the game in the comment section and list out some points that I may have missed out. I recommend the game to those who haven’t acquired it yet. This has been my experience with Watchdogs. Till next time. Szia.

They are watching

-Good stealth gameplay
-Superb hacking abilities
-Dynamic and interactive environment
-Engaging side activities
-Satisfying enemy A.I.

-Lack of jump or crouch button
-Lack of vehicular combat
-Too easy access to cash
-Frustrating online resolution bugs
-Confusing notoriety points system