Watch Dogs got crapped on pretty hard. I wasn’t really following any of the hype this thing had before release but my god did people go off on this game. I hate to admit it but I am one who can get totally gets swept up in public opinion. I got this from the library and didn’t play it, I got it for Christmas and put it off until recently. You know what? I enjoyed it!
The biggest surprise for me was the story. Coming into the game I didn’t expect anything, strong silent guy seeking revenge? BORING. It does have its fair share of cheesy moments but I found myself connecting with the main character (Aiden) and it has enough cool little sidesteps that made the goofier stuff acceptable. Your family is killed in the first cut scene and instead of immediately boo hooing about it you are beating the holy hell out of the guy who did it. Boom, right out the gate it cuts through a lot of the grieving and immediately established Aiden as a man who does not funk around. Eventually the crying does begin but the game does a great job of turning things ever so slightly. Aiden is a bit emo but still quite hard, he’s vulnerable and puts on a tough front. He will act like a dick but it never goes too far, you can see glimpses of a good man who is just lost. Time and time again you come to a point in the story where other lesser games would go one way but Watch Dogs turns things ever so slightly where it isn’t SHOCKING TWIST but more refreshing angle.
Another nice little addition is if you are connecting with the story you can just powerhouse through it. You don’t have to do a bunch of mini games to get enough skill to level up so you can go to the next part. No long drives where you do nothing but listen to the main character(s) babble on and on endlessly about nothing at all important (HI GTA V!). If you are vibing with the characters and story you can just roll with it. Its a good thing too because I didn’t care much for the mini games. Maybe it was because I had been playing GTA V before this but everything was just so lame. Running around collecting stars, stopping caravans (but not killing them!). Nothing really connected with me and I found myself just avoiding them entirely. Maybe if I stuck with it I would have found some enjoyment but there was nothing there to push me to do so.
It’s a good thing they avoided those pointless driving scenes because the cars in this game are all tanks. I could smash the hell out of other cars, lampposts, people, and almost anything else in my way and keep on rolling. I have never seen anything like it. I wasn’t complaining mind you, I hate the driving aspects of these games. Watch Dogs made it easy on me. I could just smash through everything with little to no consequences. Every car handled like garbage so when I drove like garbage it didn’t matter. It was insanity, I would hop on a bike and still be shoving most things out of the way. Driving sucked but thankfully isn’t an integral part of Watch Dogs. I was playing on Easy though, so maybe Ubisoft just did crappy players like me a solid and made the short bus almost indestructible.
No crummy posts could stop my car!
The hacking on the other hand, was awesome. I really don’t know what everyone was expecting but I had a blast. It’s overly simplistic, the vast majority of the actions is just hitting square, but zooming around causing havoc and mayhem was beautiful. You can hack into camera systems to survey the area and then set off explosives to kill enemies. Move forklifts and barriers to distract them. You can even hack their phones for a fun little annoyance (you have a fake text message conversation to throw him off). It was a fresh take on clearing areas; you can sit back and pick people off one by one all without firing a single shot. Granted nothing is all that complex, again you are essentially just hitting square over and over, but each little encounter was a puzzle. You had to take in the entire area, use what was given to you at the right time, and react quickly when things went sideways. It offered a great change up from the typical shoot shoot shoot, drive drive drive.
Make no mistake though, the shoot shoot shoot was still fun. The weapon selection isn’t much more than your standard fare but they react as you would expect and using the explosives still provide that little extra spark of glee. The weapons were all enjoyable, the duck and cover mechanic was easy to pull off, and I found the AI reacted quite well. Even on easy I had to at least put some type of effort in. Put this game next to GTA and Saint’s Row it maybe not be as polished but it hits all of the notes it needs to.
Maybe this is one of those games that fell to the hype, I honestly don’t keep up with the gaming news sites as much as I once did. I connected with the main character, the story kept me engaged, and both the hacking and shooting mechanics were simple but enjoyable. Sure the driving was odd and not very well done and the game doesn’t really stand out in the other areas but I had a lot of fun. Maybe all of the bugs and glitches were patched up (I am playing it nearly a year after release) but I also didn’t run into many problems there.
Given the choice of Watch Dogs at $20 or GTA V at $60 I’d take Watch Dogs in a heart beat.
All images taken from the official Watch Dogs website.