Stripped of the hacking mechanic, it would still be a competent and entertaining open world sandbox game, in the vein of the Grand Theft Auto series. However, hacking is much more than a gimmick; it has a meaningful influence on every aspect of gameplay. To succeed in stealth or combat the player must make use of the various hackable parts of the environment and their enemies (e.g. transformers, radios, street lights). Hacking adds another dimension to the already polished and dynamic gameplay, offering flexibility and rewarding creativity. Beyond its influence on the mechanics, the hacking system also provides a wealth of information and entertainment.
The player is Aiden Pearce, former criminal turned vigilante on a quest to avenge a family member killed during an attempt on his life. Unfortunately, Aiden isn’t a particularly deep character. Between his fairly clichéd motivation, gravelly voice and brooding attitude, Aiden does little to stand out as a protagonist. However, while Aiden may not be the most sympathetic character, the rest of the cast helps the player find reasons to care. More memorable characters, like Jordi Chin, an eccentric, fast talking mercenary in Aiden’s employ and T-Bone a hacktivist/survivalist/“artist” (art = explosions), give players a reason to invest in the story.
Despite having a very robust and expansive single player, Watch Dogs’ multiplayer offering is diverse, polished and well executed. The mode that brings together game’s greatest strengths is Decryption. Two teams of players compete to hold and decrypt a file. Remaining too close to an enemy for too long will result in the file being. Alternatively, you can shoot, blow up, or run over whoever has the file. These matches keep everyone involved from start to finish, as one good steal can quickly turn the tides. Another mode stands out for its potential to be thrilling or frustrating: Hacking.
Watch Dogs is an enormous game with an engaging single player campaign. Ubisoft Montreal has created a unique take on the open world sandbox genre that is entertaining, deep and rewarding. It delivers a well rounded and well executed experience that provides more than enough fun to make players overlook its handful of shortcomings.
Title: Watch Dogs
Developer: Ubisoft Montréal
Release Date: May 27th, 2014
Platforms Available: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 4