Watch Dogs

Finally the eagerly anticipated game by Ubisoft got released in May 2014. Ever since they showed the game at E3 2012, this game has raised the expectations of gamers worldwide. Calling itself as the Next-Gen gaming and the graphics looking very impressive, the game had a lot of potential.

But the release of the game could not meet the expectation it created. As it is, the graphics demand for the game is high and the spec of the PC has to be able to handle it. Using NVidia GTX 680, I find some stuttering of frames during certain scenes in Ultra settings (especially during driving). I heard from friends who have played the game of experiencing similar issues with their gaming rigs making this game a demanding one in terms of hardware specification. And it still couldn’t match the quality of the demo they showed in E3 in 2012.

The game itself is interesting. Hacking is a nice touch to the game in a future Chicago city where everything is recorded. We are thrown into the story of a person named Aiden Pierce who is on a revenge path against someone who murdered his family member as retribution for the hacking he had done. We slowly uncover the mystery surrounding the past and present events.

The game also has a feature called Profiler where you can identify random people in the streets who’s information you have via the Central System you have hacked. You can listen to their phone conversations, read their text messages, hack into their bank accounts and steal information you may need. But it’s not free for you to choose. The game tells you what you can/can’t do to specific person. So you can’t pick and choose whom you want to steal from. You can only choose if you want to steal or not if the game tells you that you can steal their bank account. I find that restrictive in an open world concept of this game. Why such restrictions apply is not clear.

profiling people.

You as a player would need to make money to buy special things. But money is very easily attainable in this game. Walk around a populated area and you can steal from anyone you like. There’s no consequence for stealing and you are free to rob as many people as you want. By the first Act was done, I already had purchased the top level weapons and had more than 800k in my account to spare which is ridiculous. If you unlock the skill option (Profiler Optimization) in the hacking tree which highlights the rich bank account people or someone who carries something interesting, then it makes it very easy. Add it with the money boost skill (ATM Hack Boost Plus) and you can make 10k-12k per person. Of course you would have to spend all your skill points in the hacking tree to get these skills (max 12). I found hacking skills tree to be more important and was able to get the rest later.

Vehicle is another aspect of the game that doesn’t make sense. In the game, you can purchase certain vehicle models. After purchasing, you can demand the vehicle which will become available to you wherever you are (nearby your location). Additionally, you can steal any vehicle you want that’s parked. If you steal an occupied vehicle, the owner will call the police. But steal a parked vehicle and you are free to roam the city in it. This sort of makes it pointless for you to buy any vehicle at all unless you want a specific model only to drive (in which case you just buy that model only). But I find it most convenient to drive in a bike. It is easy to avoid traffic and even if you run into pedestrians, they only get injured and not killed (mostly).

While you play the role of a hacker, very little actual hacking is involved. Most of the time, the game will feel like you’re playing Splinter Cell than a hacker. More shooting than playing a cyber criminal. Few puzzles you need to solve to hack into secure systems. But otherwise, there’s very little connection to hackers and this game.

Game has hidden base where you can go change your clothes, get some sleep etc. But I played the entire game without a sleep cycle and it never mattered. It would have been more interesting if player feels fatigued if being active for many days without a sleep cycle. Would have made it more realistic.

Overall, the game feels like a mashup of Splinter Cell and Assasin’s Creed. You have the shooting, focus mode and stealth aspects taken from Splinter Cell. And then you have side missions and many other features from Assasin’s Creed. The open world feels very much like Assasin’s Creed. Instead of horses, you ride cars and bikes. Instead of climbing view points, you climb and hack ctOS towers. Instead of taking over guard forts, you break into ctOS offices. And then some of the missions are very similar to Assasin’s Creed (escorting, protecting, tailing, stealing).

Many of the features the game has loses it’s appeal early on. By the time I reached the end of Act 1, I had gotten bored with playing the vigilante. My reputation had maxed out and I didn’t have anything more to do but the main mission. Something Ubisoft should have realized when planning the game flow. If the progress was balanced out between side missions and main missions, it would have been better.

open world

A few things I felt Ubisoft could have done in this game that could have improved the experience tremendously.

  • Make stealing and profiling matter. When you profile people, you know their secrets. Some are bad people and some are good people. You can steal from both and it wouldn’t matter in any way (in your reputation). Instead, if the game had classified that stealing from someone who is a volunteer at the shelter or someone who donates to charity by reducing your reputation as a good vigilante to a bad criminal, then it would matter more. It would make the player see whom they are stealing from if they are concerned about their reputation (since being a criminal makes you get reported to the cops often).
  • Make stealing cars matter. If you steal a parked car and drive, make it become reported so it becomes a hot car. Instead of you being able to drive everywhere you want, you would then either have to buy your own car or change the cars often. Also make In-Demand feature as one time cost. So instead of you easily asking your partner to find you a car and him making one appear, you have to pay for it every time. Thereby bringing an additional expense into the game.
  • Keep side missions progress along with the main missions. Thereby making it something you do in parallel with the main storyline. Make some places inaccessible until you get some special tool which you acquire in the main mission.

To summarize, the game is an interesting concept but the end product feels a lot like a mash up of Splinter Cell and Assasin’s Creed combined. They took the code from both games and put it together in a new game with a new storyline. It would be new for someone who hasn’t played both Splinter Cell and Assasin’s Creed. But for those who have, a lot of it will feel familiar and predictable.

  • Massive story and vast range of activities to explore
  • Some clever mission design keeps you looking forward to the next story event
  • Profiler is a nice touch for voyeuristic minds
  • Hacking gives car chases and combat encounters an additional element of freedom
  • Inconsistent main story and side missions
  • Neither money nor reputation are all that valuable
  • Car purchases are pointless
Gameplay - 8
Story - 9
Graphics - 7

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