Watch Dogs review - Quis custodiet ipsos custodogs

Watch Dogs review – Quis custodiet ipsos custodogs

Everything is connected… and they’re watching you. That was one of of the themes of Orwell’s 1984, and now 30 years after that iconic dystopian date, we have Watch Dogs, where Big Brother is an interconnected series of networks that runs a smart city. ctOS: The CenTral Operating System. Everything is connected. The power grid, transportation, profiles on every single inhabitant in the city. Everything. But who controls the system that controls Chicago. Who watches the watchmen, and what would happen if control of the system ended up in the wrong hands?

Aiden

Watch Dogs puts you in control of Aiden Pearce, a hacker extraordinaire. He and his partner would hang out where the rich folk gathered and hack their bank accounts, digitally siphoning money from their overstuffed bank accounts as ones and zeros. In their last job at some stuffy hotel owned by one of Chicago’s benefactors it all goes awry.

When network security notices the hacking and starts tracing, Aiden’s partner pushes too hard, keeping the connections open for too long. They escape, but not without consequence. Soon their identities are known by the powers that be, and a bungled hit intended to help Aiden atone for his sins by way of showcasing his mortality sees his beloved niece Lana killed instead. It all sends Aiden spiralling down a path of overwhelming guilt. Fuelled by the spirit of vengeance, and with equal parts help and hindrance from legendary hacking group DedSec, he sets out to find Lena’s killer, and in the process make Chicago a better place.  It’s a proverbial rabbit hole. How far is Aiden willing to go for justice?

WatchDogs (2)

The narrative is as clichéd and worn as that description makes it sound, but it’s told well even if it is a little drab. Aiden – who has the personality of a dish towel – aside, there’s a cast of characters that make it a little more interesting. People like Clara, the punk-rock hacker chick; T-bone, a gruff red-neck techno-wizard and Iraq, a not-just-street-smart mastermind parading as a lowly thug peppering the narrative to make it more varied than it ought to be. Probably my favourite character – and not just because he’s Asian, is Jordi Chen, the fixer. Fixers are a sort of mercenary; assassins and mess cleaners for hire who specialise in making everything seem as though nothing was wrong in the first place. And, for a game focused on computers and hacking, it avoids the overwrought stereotype of the basement-dwelling know-it all, which makes a nice change.

What it doesn’t avoid is the rather cinema-perpetuated idea of what hacking is; the sort seen in films like the Matrix and yes, Hackers. Armed with his most important weapon, a cell-phone, Aiden is able to access and manipulate just about everything. Every NPC you encounter in the game, and even those you don’t, leave a digital footprint that can be read; you’ll use that phone to hack in to, pry apart and invade other people’s lives. And it’s fun. There’s a strange voyeuristic thrill from reading other people’s text, intercepting their calls and generally snooping about. Like all of private information, there’s an abundance of NPCs, all busy in the world doing their own things; going about their lives. And for a long time, it all seems like magic. For hours, you won’t encounter the same people having the same conversations or doing the same thing, but the longer you play, the more the cracks in the pretence start to show

WatchDogs (4)

Until that does happen, the world seems very much alive. People you walk past on the streets will be arguing with each other, or having a heated conversation. Some might be playing augmented reality games on their own phones, or taking selfies.  Though it’s missing a few of the the finer details, the minutiae that make it as believable as the games by open-world experts Rockstar, it feels like a living, breathing city. Watch Dogs’ Chicago is a sprawling metropolis for you to dick about in and explore.

There are a few options for getting about that city. You’ll probably spend quite some time traversing the city on foot, as you’ll be profiling NPC to steal their cash as you do, but when you need to get around quickly the usual amenities you’d expect from an open-world game abound. There’s an L-Train metro for fast travel and boats littering the cities marinas.

WatchDogs (3)

Cars and bikes are your preferred, easily-gotten playthings, and once you have the right hacking skills don’t even require broken windows or jiggered ignitions; they’ll open, ready to purr along at the touch of your mighty phone. The actual driving is not quite as good as it should be, handling much like an arcade racer; more Sleeping Dogs than GTA. That suits me just fine; as the world’s worst video game driver, I’m perfectly content to drive into and over everything than try and find the perfect race line as I’m trying to make my getaway.

Of course, getaways and chases are a little more interesting when hacking is involved. You can change traffic lights on the fly as you whizz past them, leaving a pile of cars in your wake. Or perhaps raise a bridge at the opportune moment, which you can ramp off of, leaving your pursuers eating dust. Chicago’s cops are relentless; a sniper-laden helicopter and an army of cop cars will plague you for committing offenses that go beyond simple misdemeanour and they’re nigh impossible to shake until you remember you’ve got the tech to keep them at bay. A simple tap on your phone and you’ve caused a temporary blackout, making your getaway just that much easier. It’s oddly empowering stuff, making you feel like a tech ninja, slipping away under cover of darkness.

WatchDogs (7)

That pervasive hacking is pivotal to the game, and much of your time in missions will be spent hacking your way in and out of nasty situations. Many of them have you infiltrating guarded institutions, and from there the choice is in your hands. The fact that there are multiple ways to tackle scenarios is something I appreciated. If you want to go in guns blazing, you’re free to do just that – but I almost always opted for the stealthier approach, making it more of an open world Splinter Cell than a hack-centric GTA. Hack in to a camera on the outpost; bounce around from camera to camera, set off alarms to distract guards, and hack their comms – eventually finding a route to whatever security systems you’re sent to override.

Enemies exhibit passable AI. They’ll try to flank you, use cover and call in reinforcements – but you’ve got a hacker’s toolkit ready to unleash; gadgets you can use to distract enemies, making them easier targets. You’ve also got the ability to focus, to slow down time making headshots a cinch. Naturally, missions often devolve in to all-out gunfights anyway, but the choice of how to approach them is appreciated, and keeps everything from feeling too familiar. Completing missions and side quests will earn you skill points that you can then use to unlock game hacks, combat upgrades and driving skills.

WatchDogs-(9)

The much vaunted online multiplayer, where players from all over the world are able to invade your game works as advertised, and it fits in with the narrative so well that you’ll hardly mind the intrusion. Hack the wrong NPC – one who happens to work for the company that controls the ctOS – and you’ll hear them phone in and report your hack attacks. A contract, and bounty, will then be placed upon you, and live players will be the ones trying to take out those contracts. They’ll appear as NPCs in your game, but you’ll be alerted that somebody’s trying to hack you – so using your profiler, you’re tasked with finding them, and killing them before they manage to download all your data. They’ll naturally be trying to stay hidden from you, using their hacking skills. It has its own skill tree and progression, conferring bonuses if you build up enough notoriety. You can, should you choose, turn the feature off, but you’ll reset your online skills to zero by doing so.

Overall, it’s far more serious in general tone than most other open world games, and eschews the parody and broken, often overbearing satire of Grand Theft Auto. That doesn’t mean there’s no place for levity; you can hack a talking fish or moose head that adorns a wall and watch them come to life with a pithy saying or cornball joke, or a use your phone to spur a toy Rabbid to go “BWAAAAA!.” The digital trips within the game, the closest thing to an Assassin’s Creed connection, allow you to live out odd, simulated experiences. One of them, Madness, is a car game that has you driving in to flaming zombies for score; a sort of homage to Carmageddon. Another puts you in the driver’s seat of a gigantic, robotic arachnid tank, while another still has you bouncing from psychedelic flower to psychedelic flower.

SpiderTank

There’s almost always something to do; play a minigame, hack or be hacked in the excellently executed online multiplayer, partake in a game of chess or poker, check-in at any of the city’s hotspots using a 4square-like application or just cruise the streets hacking your way to a healthy bank balance; you’re never short of some sort of activity to keep you entertained.

There’s been furore over the “graphical downgrade” the game’s received since its original unveiling, and while there is truth to the claims, it’s still quite a remarkable game to look at, especially with regards to lighting and weather effects. When it’s raining, at night, with each drop pelting the ground and light glistening off of puddles on the ground, it’s spectacular. During the day it’s less so, looking not far removed from GTA V – and in some cases, most notably car models and general physics, even worse.

WatchDogs (8)

Watch Dogs won’t please everyone. Many will, I suspect, find it boring; a case of missions being a cycle of rinse and repeat. That’s the unfortunate, repetitive nature of open world games in general.  It will, unfortunately, crumble under the lofty expectations it has set for itself. It fails to set a new benchmark for modern, open world games – but given that it’s the studio’s freshman effort of the sort, we won’t hold that against them.

Watch Dogs is one of those rare games that I’ll return to, though I’ve seen the post-game credits – and is a worthy investment of your time – and more importantly, your money.

Watch Dogs was reviewed using a publisher-supplied copy of the game. Game played to completion on normal difficulty, with sufficient time spent in the multiplayer and the periphery. We have yet to play around with the ctOS mobile app, which allows you to meddle with your friends’ games as it was unavailable at the time of review – but it would have no bearing on scores.

Conclusion

Watch Dogs won't please everyone. Its shallow narrative and bland protagonist detract, but those looking for a finely-crafted open world game that eschews parody and satire for an overall darker tone will have a great time in Watch Dogs' digital Chicago.
8.0

Watch_Dogs was reviewed by Geoffrey Tim on a PlayStation 4

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  • Admiral Chief in Space

    Heh, quickly scrolled down to see the scores! Not bad.

    *goes off to read*

  • Kromas

    A review on the day it gets released when I have already pre-ordered a few copies is a bit late.

    #Justsaying 😛

    • Hammersteyn

      There was a review embargo that prohibited reviews till release day.

      • InsanityFlea

        Talk about forceful marketing. They will shove the game down everyone’s throat but not allow any reviews until release day so at least they are guaranteed the pre-orders. What a crock. Luckily, the game is good.

        • Hammersteyn

          Agreed.

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      I wish it were different, but that’s the way it is, unfortunately.

      • Kromas

        I know. It is sad. If reviews came out earlier I would not have had to suffer Alien:CM. I am just glad the review numbers are good so that is a sigh of relief. :)

    • RinceofFuturePast

      It was embargoed till today.

    • ToEnternity

      Then don’t pre-order, Dumbass!

      • Kromas

        I can’t stop. I have Obsessive Compulsive Pre-Order Disorder.

  • Admiral Chief in Space

    Hehehehe, “people taking selfies” I CAN MURDER THEM NOW MUAHAHAHAHAHHA

    • Sir Rants A Lot Llew. Jelly!!!

      You saw the ION comments yesterday right….

      • Admiral Chief in Space

        Indeed, filthy

      • https://twitter.com/SaveTheQueenIX Umar_Zero

        That was so weird…..She followed me. I think she followed most people here

        • Sir Rants A Lot Llew. Jelly!!!

          We shall henceforth refer to as #SelfieStalker

          • https://twitter.com/SaveTheQueenIX Umar_Zero

            She had a nice scarf though

          • Admiral Chief in Space

            She is all your’s Umar…

          • Sir Rants A Lot Llew. Jelly!!!

            Not a fan of yellow

        • Weanerdog

          Isn’t there a rule that all woman on the internet are FBI agents. #selfiestalker indeed.

      • RinceofFuturePast

        WTF was that about?

        • Sir Rants A Lot Llew. Jelly!!!

          No freaking clue

  • Hammersteyn

    Fine I’ll buy it but if that phone rings and I have to hear “Nico it’s your cousin” just once……….

    • Dutch Matrix

      If I was the developers for this, I would have thrown that in at least once.
      “Hey Nico, this is your cousin Roman want to go… Sorry! Wrong Number!”

  • Hammersteyn

    Sure hope the mobile app works better than GTAV this time round.

  • Admiral Chief in Space

    Also, well done on the Latin Senor Tim

  • https://twitter.com/SaveTheQueenIX Umar_Zero

    Great review sir…..So my question….will Aiden still be iconic….JK

    Hmm…extremely disappointed to hear that the narrative is drab and shallow :( …. I mean the story could’ve gone places, it has a fantastic setting…..Will get this once it’s cheaper

    • MakeItLegal

      R300 tops

      • Admiral Chief in Space

        *R100 for me

        • MakeItLegal

          That’s a 3 year wait instea of a 1 year wait ( r100 vs r300 ) and it’s a new ip , so I think it deserves the r300

          • Admiral Chief in Space

            Have you SEEN my backlog???
            XD

          • MakeItLegal

            I imagine it’s huge , startin to get I to this steam thing

  • iAmWeasel

    Pre-order… justified!

  • hayted

    Thank goodness – had a look at Metacritic and looks like the pre-order is justified. Phew! Now don’t feel like money is wasted :)

  • Jedi JJ

    Lying on my wishlist in wait.

  • Rock789

    Shweet!! Got my pre-order already and cannot wait to get home tonight to get stuck in! Pity I have to deal with this thing they call ‘work’ today… Meh!

    • RinceofFuturePast

      Nice one man! Oh, OvG went and bought himself a PS4 😉 Explains why we haven’t seen him in a while…

      • Rock789

        What?! I knew it!! And he didn’t say anything about it… Tsk tsk. 😉 :)

        That’s shweet! Now all he needs is some online. :)

        • RinceofFuturePast

          HAHA! No, he refuses to let it go online.

          • Rock789

            I’ll have to persuade him then… 😉 :) I was wondering about all his “can your PS4 operate offline” questions at Barristers… Clearly he was already plotting. 😉 :)

          • RinceofFuturePast

            Indeed. The sneaky bugger! @disqus_CmSOeB7F9d:disqus bought Second Son, seems to be rather taken by it :)

          • Rock789

            That is an awesome game. With 2 storylines – so needs to be played through twice to get the full experience… Definitely worth the money! :) I’m still busy with my 2nd playthrough. But with Wolfenstein (which also has 2 storylines) and Watch Dogs, my backlog is ever-growing.

          • RinceofFuturePast

            dammit. Now I want to go buy on on credit! Gah!

          • FoxOneZA

            Interest rate hike on the cards soon 😛

          • RinceofFuturePast

            You are a ball of love and happiness :) heheheh

  • Morne Nell

    Cant wait to play game in hand waiting for 17:00, tick tok, tick tok

  • Sir Rants A Lot Llew. Jelly!!!

    Schweet.

    Now just need to wait it out for a cheaper GOTY edition with DLC at a fraction of the price and somehow avoid all spoilers about the game until then.

    Spoiler avoid mode: ENGAGE!

    • Admiral Chief in Space

      There will be hacking and revenge!

  • Francois Knoetze

    Picking up my copy today but I am in 2 minds between this and Wolfenstein. have no idea which game I should get first.

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      Our Wolfenstein review will be up later.

      • Francois Knoetze

        thanks a lot! it might make my decision a bit easier close to day end

    • Kromas

      Wolf will not disappoint you.

    • Mark Treloar

      Wolfenstein is retarded. Story with a giant black hole.

      • oVgeeeeee Comet Drop

        All FPS games are full retard.

        AIM, SHOOT, RELOAD… rinse repeat for 4hours.

  • FoxOneZA

    Sounds like Infamous on ground level.

    Back in my day kids, games like these would have gotten 7/10 ad by all means, anything at 7 would be a must buy 😉

    • oVgeeeeee whiz

      In my day it was the Nintendo Seal of Quality on the front of the box that got my vote. No internet.

      • RinceofFuturePast

        In your day women weren’t even allowed the vote 😛

        • oVgeeeeee Comet Drop

          • RinceofFuturePast

            BWAHAHHAHAHA!

      • FoxOneZA

        Are you pitying the fool that’s trading Infamous SS for Watch Puppies?

        • oVgeeeeee Comet Drop

          Different strokes for different folks.

          I still think The Saboteur kicked GTAIVs butt.

  • oVgeeeeee whiz

    Second Son OWNS Watch Dogs… So does the 7th gen GTAIV come to think of it.

    • Sir Rants A Lot Llew. Jelly!!!

      It lives!

      • oVgeeeeee whiz

        In 1080 😛

        • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

          So..you get that Ps4 then?

          • oVgeeeeee whiz

            It was the UFC game that bent my rubber elbow followed by The Last of Us and Uncharted 4 announcement :)

      • RinceofFuturePast

        It has been away for a while!

  • FoxOneZA

    “you can hack a talking fish or moose head
    that adorns a wall and watch them come to life with a pithy saying or
    cornball joke, or a use your phone to spur a toy Rabbid to go
    “BWAAAAA!.” << THIS!

  • https://soundcloud.com/andre-gabriel-coetzee Andre Gabriel Coetzee

    “Aiden – Who has the personality of a dish towel” #Dies

  • oVgeeeeee whiz
    • oVgeeeeee whiz
    • https://twitter.com/SaveTheQueenIX Umar_Zero

      I see what you’re doing lol

      • oVgeeeeee whiz

        A BOMB drop on Aiden Pearce

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      Wd’s city is far, far better than Infamous, dead, lifeless one. ;P

      • oVgeeeeee whiz

        One is far too busy traversing Seattle at lightning speed as smooth as silk to bother noticing the street life while 1billion particle effects are flying all over the screen 😛

      • Sir Rants A Lot Llew. Jelly!!!

        What about compared to GTA or even Sleeping Dog’s city life?

        • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

          the people are more alive and varied than both.

          • Sir Rants A Lot Llew. Jelly!!!

            Sweet. That’s something that always bugs me with games. When NPC’s are kinda… well boring…

    • RinceofFuturePast

      There he is…

  • MakeItLegal

    Open world game with kak driving ( sorry passable ) mmm still in two minds , anybody here been playing It on pc yet ?

    • RinceofFuturePast

      It’s on PC? Trololo 😉

      • MakeItLegal

        Ha ha , clever troll

        More concearned about game breaking bugs , as I would expect with a ubisoft pc title ( no offense ubisoft ) come launch day

        • RinceofFuturePast

          Be nice to Ubisoft, they make you register with Uplay, Hip hip UUU Ray!

  • RinceofFuturePast

    Nice review man. I think I may have to get this now. Dammit.

    • oVgeeeeee whiz

      Just dont expect it to look better than GTAV on the 360.

      • RinceofFuturePast

        Well Geoff said at night it’s stunning.

        • oVgeeeeee whiz

          Where? Seapoint main road? 😛

          • RinceofFuturePast

            Sho, someone has a bee in his bonnet 😛

        • Anon A Mouse

          Luckily I only play my games at night which means that I will have the quality graphics then 😉

          • RinceofFuturePast

            HAHAHA :)

  • Wyzak

    “Gameplay is superb, allowing you to tackle situations in various ways. The invasive online multiplayer, though not especially deep, is no mere gimmick, and actually serves the narrative.” and yet you gave it an 8 for that category…

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      Yeah, an 8 means it’s really good where I’m from.

      • RinceofFuturePast

        Next you’ll be saying a 5 is average and a 1 is shit.

        • Admiral Chief in Space

          5 is average in his case yes

          😛

    • https://twitter.com/SaveTheQueenIX Umar_Zero

      Exactly…should’ve been a 6 …

  • UltimateNinjaPandaDudeGuy

    If I buy a retail copy at TakeALot does it link to Steam or does only the Steam version do that?

    • Stefan

      If you purchase through Steam the game will be linked to your Steam account and track your stats such as playtime, screenshots, reviews although there is no achievements to my knowledge. It will still launch uPlay which you will need to sign into in order to play. Purchasing through Steam the game will forever be linked to your Steam library if that is important to you and manage all game updates. Store bought copies can not be activated on Steam although you can run them as a non-steam game but then the game will be tied to your Uplay account (which in essence the Steam version will be too) and not yout Steam account. I bought the Steam version since I like having everything in one central repository even if that does mean I have to launch uPlay to play the dam thing which makes no sense – double DRM – especially since the game has already leaked and the peoples who pirate would have already pillaged the game. Plus side to buying a store bought copy will be that its much cheaper than the $60 dollar to rand conversion that needs to happen when purchasing on Steam.

      • UltimateNinjaPandaDudeGuy

        Fristly, this is weird, because my real name is Stefan… Secondly, thanks for the the response. I figured as much, but needed conformation. I wanted to buy it for cheaper online or something :(

        Steam has me by the balls!

        • Stefan

          LOL! Another Stefan – hit me up on Steam if you ever wanna chat or play a game. Steam nick: “SIr Faulty “- just please leave a comment on the profile that you are from lazygamer as I tend to be quite virulent about who I add to the list

          There is a place i buy a lot of game keys from. I been using them for about two years now and not once has any of my keys been revoked so I trust them. Also when paying I use paypal since I dont want them holding my details but their specials are often amazing and sometimes you can pick up Steam Keys for uPlay games. You may want to check there although with it being launch day I dont think you gonna see massive savings. I managed to get THIEF 2014 key from them a month after launch for $9. I just love the site. Bought Wolfenstein from the last week in fact. I dont buy AAA games from Steam direct anymore since I generally refuse to drop console prices on a new game (although I did make an exception with Watch Dogs)

          http://www.fast2play.com

          • UltimateNinjaPandaDudeGuy

            Agreed on the price thing… I use many sites to try and get the best deal, but haven’t heard of that one. Which is weird. I thought I had them all xD

            Are the keys region specific? I ask cause I am in South Africa. Haven’t actually had any issues yet, but figured at some point it might cause a problem.

            Watch Dogs does look really cool though… I am rather close to just straight out buying it.

          • Stefan

            keys are generally ROW unless stated :)

  • Aussious

    Perhaps this is this gens Assassins Creed…

  • oVgeeeeee Comet Drop

    For a so called NEXT GEN release that has built its HYPE around graphics you would think they would at the very least give the people shadows when walking past a light source like a cars headlights for instance.

    The devil is in the detail. Something ROCKSTAR is only able to fathom.

  • oVgeeeeee Comet Drop

    For a so called NEXT GEN release that has built its HYPE around graphics you would think they would at the very least give the people shadows when walking past a light source like a cars headlights for instance.

    The devil is in the detail. Something ROCKSTAR is only able to fathom.

  • oVgeeeeee Comet Drop

    Sis man. Where is his shadow?

    • oVgeeeeee Comet Drop

      This

      • oVgeeeeee Comet Drop

        not this

  • oVgeeeeee Comet Drop

    Sis man. Where is his shadow?

  • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

    Solid review, I think this is one of those games that’ll get during my break.

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