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Watch Dogs Review

publisher: Ubisoft
developer: Ubisoft Montreal
genre: Action Adventure

ESRB rating: RP

release date: May 27, 14
» All About Watch Dogs on ActionTrip

Ubisoft really blew our minds when they showcased Watch Dogs for the first time. It happened during E3 2012, when the publisher unveiled its new IP in a gloriously well-polished gameplay video. The demo featured impressive graphics, extremely promising gameplay and what appeared to be a gripping storyline set in an intriguing modern-day setting. With expectations suitably high, gamers were naturally getting into the spirit of Ubisoft’s powerful PR machine that kept churning out more and more media. Things took a rather nasty turn several months before release, when the publisher issued a trailer with unexpectedly crappy graphics. With all due respect to Ubisoft, the only thing they may have done wrong there is making too much of a promise to gamers, who understandably expected some next-gen gaming goodness.

Be that as it may, the whole concept seemed more that promising, so we were thrilled when the game finally fell into our lap.

In Watch Dogs you play as Aiden Pearce, a lone vigilante who goes around the streets of Chicago, bringing criminals to justice. Well, his own brand of justice, so to speak. Pearce has a nifty little gadget that helps him hack into practically any system within the city. He can easily control traffic lights, trains and even the city’s power grid. Our vigilante got involved in a robbery that didn’t go according to plan. This triggered a chain of events that eventually led to the murder of his niece. Peace has been trying to find those responsible ever since.

Watch Dogs involves both multiplayer and single-player modes. So, let’s get the multiplayer out of the way first, because I hate it more. What can I say, I’m an anxious, awkward, anti-social gnome. In time though, the multiplayer portion of the game greq on me. What I especially enjoyed was how smartly integrated it was into the single-player. Every time you ran into other players in the game, it’s worth the time. You can engage in Online Hacking, Invasion, Online Tailing, Online Race or Online Decryption. Each of these is fun. For example, Decryption pits two teams of up to three players against each other and the goal is to grab and decrypt a file. If your team picks up the file, they have to defend it, while the opposing team has to steal the file and kill one who carries it.

The best bit is that you can avoid the multiplayer entirely, without it having to interfere with your single-player experience. When it comes to single-player, Ubisoft did leave you with plenty of options. If you’re not sticking to the main story missions, there’s a variety of events to go through like races, clearing out gang hideouts, looking for suitcases that unlock separate missions etc. The structure of most of the missions (story-related or otherwise) is pretty darn solid. Most of the tasks require you to hack into security systems, while also avoiding detection. Missions can be handled aggressively with guns and grenades, but others will entail stealthy approach. Both stealth and action tactics feel like valid options because of the amount of things Aiden can pull off. Aiden can use his phone to hack forklifts or open elevator doors or simply trigger explosives, disable enemy comms or activate various electronically operated devices in order to distract guards. When the shooting starts, it’s usually smart to find cover, since enemies are accurate and quite persistent when they see you.

I’ve read a lot of users complaining about badly optimized AI, or more precisely buggish cop AI. Now, it is true that I’ve witnessed some weird behavior. During one of the shootouts, enemies called in for reinforcements and additional guards arrived. Instead of looking for me they gave up quickly and decided to camp next to a parked van. So, they were completely exposed and yet they just stood there. All it took to take these clowns down, was one grenade, which fell onto the van and took out a whole squad of thugs. Nonetheless, I’m not prepared to trash the AI entirely, given that this happened only once. In contrast, both the mobsters and cops will be on your tail all the time when the chasing starts. Outrunning them is a challenge, but you have many options to slow them down either by raising bridges, triggering blockers or by messing with the traffic lights.

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7.9   Good

Mission variety, great level design, exciting tasks to complete and generally those are the features that keep you going;

The story and characters probably won't keep you going, because they feel forced and bland, AI is buggy, not the unique and groundbreaking ride we were promised.


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