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Watch Dogs Review

Watch Dogs was pretty highly anticipated before it was delayed from its original November release and now that it's finally arrived it'll no doubt be difficult for some gamers to keep their expectations in check. The game has a lot to live up to, after all, it's aiming for the sort of audience that enjoys the Grand Theft Auto's and Saint's Rows of the world and that's not an easy space to make an impact in.

When playing Watch Dogs for the first time, in this case on PS4, you are met with a lengthy loading time before being introduced to the main protagonist, Aiden Pearce. It's fair to say that Aiden lacks a little of the charisma seen in the character's in Rockstar's GTA series, however he makes up for this with his brilliant high-tech hacking skills, which is really what makes the difference between this game being quite average or quite brilliant. 

Unfortunately for Aiden, he's not exactly had the best time of it of late. First off, he was responsible for killing his niece, although in his eyes the Central Operating System, a supercomputer that controls every piece of technology in the city and contains information on all of the city's residents, is also partly responsible. So off he goes on a revenge mission to take back control of the city, although his actions once again affects those he loves.

it's fair to say that, in Watch Dogs, the story is the main hub of the game and to be honest it's not really that great. Throughout the game you'll go point to point, generally being involved in a gun fight or trying to evade pursuers, but never will you be hooked in enough that you must know what happens next. I'd like to emphasis at this point that Watch Dogs is a brilliant game and I will give my reasons for this as the review goes on. But I'm just so disappointed that for all the brilliant ideas placed within the game, the developer has put such little thought into the story.

Story aside, there is a lot to enjoy in Watch Dogs. Much like other open world titles which give you a free roam of the city, you have so much to explore and you can do pretty much anything you like. This is made even better by the fact that you have a near constant access to the world's internet superhighway thanks to Aiden's super snooping mobile phone. Just by looking at any of the NPC's in city you are able to find out all about them and can even hack some of their bank accounts, allowing you to cash in when you pass the nearest ATM, earn equipment and even earn new tracks for your audio player.

While it's great snooping around with Aiden's phone, Watch Dogs hacking really comes into its own during combat as you are able to use the environments to your advantage, allowing you to explode pipes or live grenades, take out the enemies without firing a bullet or raise or lower forklifts full of cargo to use as cover. In a similar respect, should you wish to avoid combat, you are able to scramble guards comms or even disable their ability to call for reinforcement should they spot you. This adds a whole new twist to what would otherwise be a fairly standard experience and at times it can be spectacular fun.

Often missions will have you trying to infiltrate certain various areas in order to find who or what you are looking for, so stealth comes into the game a lot. Thankfully, you are able to use the various security cameras which are often spread around in order to make your way into the buildings and have a look around. Sometimes you can even hack into CTOS terminals just by using a security camera, allowing you to access a mini-hacking game before successfully lighting up the part of the city which it has a stranglehold over.

As mentioned, often the story will have you trying to evade the enemy and this is where another popular open-world mechanic comes into play - driving. As with most open world titles, there are vehicles aplenty, be it a car, motorbike, firetruck or garbage van, Ubisoft has managed to cram in a whole load of vehicles and you can try whichever one you like. Sure you may end up being pursed by the police if you jack a vehicle, but that's part of the risk you take. What I love about vehicles in Watch Dogs is that they feel very easy to drive, but it's the car chases which are the real star of the show. Whether you are being chased by the police or the enemy, it's a lot of fun using your hacking skills to change traffic lights, raise blockers or spikes, open gates and raise bridges, all of which aid your escape if timed with precision.

When you complete missions or achieve other goals the game will reward you with Skill Points. These can be used to upgrade your hacking, driving, combat and crafted items skills. While driving and combat explain themselves, upgrading hacking allows you to open up all manner of decent abilities, such as being able to disable helicopters for a set amount of time. Meanwhile, upgrading crafting items will allow you to make your own items to aid you during missions, be that frag grenades, the lure device or the ability to cause a city wide blackout. It's great to have this skill tree as it allows your character to truly evolve during the course of the game.

Away from the main missions you are also able to distract yourself with what else the city has to offer, for instance, you are able to check in at certain areas and collect gifts such as cash and equipment which has been left there by others. You are also able to stop potential crimes by following suspects and stopping them before they commit the act. Other offline side-missions are also available, for instance you can pick up Fixer Contracts to earn cash; Decoy is a perfect example of this as you race through ctOS monitoring points to attract attention and act as a decoy. Other examples see you earn Skill points by heading into a gang hideout and flush out a certain target or even take part in a criminal convoy where you try to take out a moving target. There are even in-game augmented reality titles that you can play, such as Cash Run, which has you running after and collecting coins or NVZN, which has you shooting down aliens Space Invader style. But that's not all, you can even take Digital Trips, which provide an even more bizarre experience, one example of which sees you getting behind the wheel of a car and running over demons. It's fair to say that even for the offline player, Watch Dogs packs in the content.

While the single player is enough to keep even the most critical fan happy, running alongside it is an asynchronous online multiplayer mode. There are many elements to this, such as the one on one hacking mode, which allows you to try and install a "back-door virus" onto your opponents smartphone. Should they find you then you'll need to escape, however if you are successful then you'll earn notoriety skill points, which in turn can be spent on new skills such as anti-vehicle rounds, a jam comms boost and more. It's not all one-on-one either, as you can also take part in an online race for up to eight players, head to online free roam and hunt down enemy fixers or even take part in an online decryption mode which sees you trying to download a file before the other players. I have to say that I've really enjoyed my time with the online side so far, as there is nothing quite as exciting as trying to hack another player without being spotted.

As you can tell, Watch Dogs is pretty feature packed when it comes to gameplay, but not only that, it looks pretty great too. The version I tested was PS4 and while it hardly pushes the system to inFamous Second Son standards, it's still pretty impressive. For instance I was very impressed when being chased and seeing sparks and red glowing metal coming from the wheel hubs, while water effects also seem pretty solid. The cities are also very busy, with a lot going on. It really does make Chicago feel alive. It's not only the graphics which impress though as the game has a pretty fantastic soundtrack too. Tracks are accessed through the music app on Aiden's phone and there is certainly a wide variety to be had. You can also listen while driving, which can make for a nicely chilled out experience.

So there we have it, that's Watch Dogs. It's been a long wait for Ubisoft's latest game but it has certainly been a worthwhile one. To me it seems like Ubisoft has another potential hit franchise in its hands here and if it can get the story right next time then we make be looking at something really special. As it is, Watch Dogs is still an excellent experience and well worth your time. It's fresh, new, packed full of content and a whole lot of fun. What more could you ask for?

Words by Joe Anderson.
Twitter: @_wotta | PSN/XBLA: wotta

(Version Tested: PS4)


+ The hacking mechanic is excellent
+ Looks great
+ Enjoyable soundtrack
+ Packed full of content
+ Plenty of replay value


- Story could be better

*screens captured directly from PS4.

Edited On 27 May, 2014

( 21 )
 TruDarkAssassin's avatar
TruDarkAssassin 2 years ago
Nice review gives a balanced view of the game , i think it may need a sequal to do it justice though , looking forward to playing it , can people still hack you if you do not own ps plus i was thinking last night
JoeToots's avatar
JoeToots 2 years ago
great review. I've been reading in various places that the ps4/xbone versions don't look all that great
JoeToots's avatar
JoeToots 2 years ago
also it doesn't look that great on PC apparently
JoeToots's avatar
JoeToots 2 years ago
i'll be the judge tonight, aslong as it plays ok all is good
 TruDarkAssassin's avatar
TruDarkAssassin 2 years ago
getting good reviews across the sites and most are saying there is 40 hrs content so it will last me a while i sunk nearly 70+hrs in to assassins creed just exploring and doing every thing , hope my postie turns up soon thou :)
Dead's avatar
Dead 2 years ago
Thought you were going to be playing at midnight last night Tootell, or did you get too distracted by some fried chicken?
JoeToots's avatar
JoeToots 2 years ago
nope gloria some of us have work haha
Anonymous user's avatar
JUBAL 2 years ago
Neat review and well detailed. Yes, story needs to improve but tons of hours of gameplay
Akemi no Zero's avatar
Akemi no Zero 2 years ago
Will it live up to hype? Maybe not but none the less good review.
 TruDarkAssassin's avatar
TruDarkAssassin 2 years ago
Do we know if there is a day one patch to fix any thing or will it come later
Akemi no Zero's avatar
Akemi no Zero 2 years ago
No clue dark-assassin but hopefully nothing will need to be patched apart from that hack reset problem when playing offline.
Zombieflamingo's avatar
Zombieflamingo 2 years ago
From playing the past few days I pretty much agree. Have not really done much of the story though.
Old Timer's avatar
Old Timer 2 years ago
@ Dark Assassin, my copy arrived on Saturday and when I loaded it up there was a 100mb update. Not sure what it was for though. I've played about 10 hours so far and not noticed any issues so fingers crossed it stays that way.
Baiken_'s avatar
Baiken_ 2 years ago
Very fair review, i look forward to trying the game out for myself.
 TruDarkAssassin's avatar
TruDarkAssassin 2 years ago
thanks for the info old timer i will have a look on the net to see , its good its not that big
SquareSofty's avatar
SquareSofty 2 years ago
I have to wait for Cex to have it in stock, the only money I have is credit. Sad times lol.
PrometheusFan's avatar
PrometheusFan 2 years ago
Yeah, heard a lot of great reports about the game. Think I'll probably pick it up on PS4 this evening after all. Looks like Shopto did a roaring trade on the PS4 version at least as well, sold out already. Amazing considering you guys were charging about £10 more than a lot of places for the game.
superniceguy's avatar
superniceguy 2 years ago
I was checking the prices on the PSN store and the game costs £59.99 for the classic edition with 1 DLC, and the deluxe version costs £64.99 with 4 DLC. The Xbox ONE version costs £59.99 on the UK site, and $59.99 (about £35) on the US site. I got the PC version today, but still can not play it, as uplay launcher crashed with unrecoverable error, plus it fails to login saying my internet connection is bad, yet I can use the internet, login into steam and al other places. I look to see if there are any problems on the ubi website and get page not found. I guess their servers have gone into overload.
superniceguy's avatar
superniceguy 2 years ago
Not just me: Uplay down (almost 400 comments within 4 hours) and unrecoverable error (over 400 comments within 2 hours) Ubisoft are in the dog house today!
Spear 25's avatar
Spear 25 2 years ago
Great review. I received my copy today but haven't got around to playing it as I've been to work and went to watch the new Xmen movie. Got tomorrow off so hoping to sink some hours into it then.
DBN's avatar
DBN 2 years ago
Excellent review, pity about the story being so weak but these types of games don't usually need a really strong story. If I get a ps4 I'll definitely check it out.

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