For those who haven’t had the pleasure, Watch_Dogs (the underscore is silent) was a massively over-hyped game released by Ubisoft in 2014. Based in a near future Chicago where virtually all electronic devices are connected to a city-wide operating system, the story focuses on Aiden Pearce, a hypocritical douche-bag ‘master hacker’ who takes it upon himself to avenge the death of his niece even thought it was entirely his fault.
Despite having a few good ideas here and there – the hacking mechanics were fairly cool and aspects of the multiplayer elements were fun – Watch_Dogs received a mixed reception from gamers when it was released. While this was in part down to the insane amount of pre-order bonuses available with arbitrarily different versions of the game (you literally needed a spreadsheet to work it all out), most of the criticism aimed at the game focused on the graphics – which were markedly less good than the gameplay trailer led people to believe.
Despite the divisive nature of Watch_Dogs, Ubisoft Montreal decided to have another crack at the IP… by changing pretty much everything that made the first game disappointing.
The imaginatively named Watch_Dogs 2 (the underscore is still silent) will be based in San Fransisco – close to Silicon Valley, and with focus on a group of ‘hacktavists’ intent on… well… hacking. The protagonist for the second installment will be Marcus Holloway, a decidedly more interesting character than Aiden Pearce, if only because he appears to have a functioning personality. Holloway is a member of Deadsec – the game’s fairly obvious homage to Anonymous – who… do… stuff. It’s still a bit unclear what the motivations of the group actually are, but no doubt it will have something to do with uncovering sinister corporate conspiracies.
The game seems generally more colourful and vibrant in terms of both setting and character design, which is definitely welcome. The first game’s colour pallet was fairly dull and gloomy by comparison, so it’s nice to have more exciting visuals. From the looks of things, all the mechanics from the first installment have been improved upon, with more choices when it comes to hacking and an improved parkour system. Watch_Dogs 2 will also include new gimmicks like remote control cars and drones, as well as 3D printed guns (made of metal… somehow) and a new melee weapon. It remains to be seen if these will actually add anything, or whether they are just innovation for innovation’s sake.
All in all, the trailer looks promising, but I’ll be staying off the hype-train for now. This might just be me, but I get the impression that the game is trying a bit too hard; you know what I mean? It’s as if the characters are what a bunch of execs think young people are actually like. Much like their apparently loose understanding of how hacking works.
Still, it looks a hell of a lot better than the first one. Definitely one to watch.