Watch_Dogs has been one of the most highly anticipated games for current generation consoles (and less so last generation consoles) way before the current generation consoles were even announced. It was delayed by around 6 months in order for the developers to polish the game, but has this made any difference for the hacking-focused open world adventure?
You play as Aiden Pearce, a hacker who is introduced in the beginning as part of a bank job that goes wrong. In the scenes following these events, an assassin is hired to attack Aiden’s family, and from then on the Jean-Claude Van Damme revenge story begins. Aiden is out to find out who ordered the attack, and to bring his family to justice, and you can expect some interesting twists along the way, and it isn’t just a straight revenge story.
It is commendable that the opening of this game is actually quite short, because Ubisoft’s other games, such as Assassin’s Creed, tend to have a very long drawn out beginning, but Watch_Dogs lets you start experimenting with Aiden’s hacking abilities pretty quickly. After a short tutorial in which you learn that without a mobile phone, Aiden is basically useless as a hacker, you’ll be given relatively free reign over the Chicago environment, and it’s operating system, ctOS.
Hacking Chicago’s ctOS is nowhere near as open as the game’s initial trailers made out. You can’t hack everything, but there are a lot of opportunities to hack phones, cameras and more. Most of the puzzles involve hacking a camera, using that camera to hack another camera, and following this path until you can hack something that will progress your mission. For example, if you are stuck behind a door, and the door controls are on the other side of it, you can use this line-of-sight hacking to find the control box and overload it. This will then open the door blocking your path so you can move forward.
The hacking is very simple; holding square will make the phone do what Aiden needs it to do. With a game that is so focused on hacking, it’s nice to see most instances of hacking being quite quick and easy. There are some segments with a simple but elegant mini-game for hacking into more complicated computers, the mini-game is similar to what you might see in “PipeMania”. Tapping square will start the profiling mode, which many will probably think is “too much information” mode, especially at the start of the game. This will essentially give you information about anyone in your immediate surroundings, and it can get to a point where you are just confused by the amount of information that has been presented and it is easy to get overwhelmed.
Thankfully, the game knows how to push you towards an objective, as it will automatically highlight persons of interest for you. Your missions will vary, but if for example you are trying to stop a crime before it takes place, you will usually have to follow a possible victim, and wait for the computer to alert you to intervene. You can intervene earlier, but this tends to involve a long chase, and you may have to kill the target. So to promote this “waiting” game, you are rewarded more when taking targets alive. However, most of the gameplay is focused on stealth so you don’t get into these situations too often.