Plaid Games: Watch_Dogs

Watch_Dogs is a good game,

but hold your horses, don’t let that be the one thing you take from this. While well-designed and at times a pleasure to play, Watch_Dogs is riddled with enough problems to warn of a lot of players.

So pretty, unlike most of the actual game, which is passable for the level of technology involved.

So pretty, unlike most of the actual game, which is passable for the level of technology involved.

So, I read that Watch_Dogs is Ubisoft’s quickest selling games or something like that, and I feel that’s down to a lot of misinformation. What I got from most of the teasers and game-play videos was that we’d be up against a crooked system in Watch_Dogs, and take it down with a clever use of hacking (and guns, since it’s basically a GTA-clone) and wit. Well, the system is barely touched upon, and the hacking is boring and easy. At least the gun-play is decent. Let’s get more into it, then.

The story of Watch_Dogs is an abomination. Or in more colourful terms, it’s wank. It revolves around Aiden Pearce, and the whirlwind of disaster he brings everywhere he goes. The game would have you think it’s a conspiracy against him, but really he brought nearly all of it on himself. Oh well. Aidan and his mentor, Damien Brenks, perform  a digital heist on the Merlaut hotel, presumably for money and information, with Aiden as point man and Damien doing the actual hacking. Damien notices that there’s another hacker on the system and tries to find out who, despite Aiden telling him not to. Aiden runs out, but him and Damien are already noticed by the system. Aiden and Damien are found and hurt by the people they tried to take stuff from. Damien gets away with a bum leg, but Aiden loses his niece, who is caught in the crossfire (CROSS-FIRE!) when fixers (supposedly hired guns, but they seem a bit too organised in general to be just that) come for him. Aiden can’t let go, and wants to get the people responsible. Then he sets off a chain of events that’ll leave everyone around him worse than before, and himself a shallow, broken sociopath. Yaaaaay. More on the spoilery bits later.

The game-play is probably the one thing that escapes the game with its dignity intact. It’s very good, but that’s expected from big budget games, isn’t it? No bonus points here. The car driving mechanics and physics are enjoyable enough to have you taking detours and joyrides. There’s a lot of different vehicles to choose from, including motorcycles and boats. The cars are on the slippy-slide side of the scale though, which can make for some frustrating high-speed driving. The gun-play and general combat is excellent. The cover mechanics, which are in just about every game ever today, are well done and the shooting feels great, if not too easy. Some enemies can tank a frustrating amount of damage, especially enervating when they run up to your face despite you offering your complaints with a semi-automatic shotgun to the face. Stealth works well usually, with the AI sometimes a it too dumb to be realistic, allowing you to use a combination of nifty hacking and clever movement to take down multiple enemies without being detected.

There are several activities you can give a go at. Some of the more mini-game ones I’ve heard are pretty bad and a waste of development time, which I have to agree with, considering how little time must’ve been spent on the story and characters. Others like Fixer Contracts, are pretty decent, giving you a break from the story and just driving around or whatever the objective is. Then there are Gang Hideouts, which are pretty stupid missions where you have a gang lieutenant to take down and then wipe out the rest of the gang for no reason other than why the fuck not. Then Criminal Convoys, where you’re supposed to take down convoys of criminals (no surprise, right?), but it’s ridiculously hard until you get extremely overpowered weapons later in the game. Finally, one of the the best parts of the game is being a vigilante, as ctOS (central Operating System, which runs most of the city’s electronic stuff) detects crime – which allows you to track down potential crimes. You then scout the location and try to intervene when shit goes down. Sometimes it’s just simple muggings and then at times it’s straight up murder you have to stop. It was really fun at the beginning, but as the story escalated, it felt a bit bland and uninteresting. Good effort, though.

The game is pretty. Not much else to say. It’s funny that it’s been billed as a next-gen game, but looks a couple years old, in all honesty. The characters themselves look pretty decent but then again, that’s to be expected.

Sound direction is decent enough. The radio has a good selection of tunes to listen to (yay for some Rise Against). The voice acting is generally good, but some characters are miscast, especially Aiden, who feels like he’s hardcore channelling his inner Bale Batman (“Swear to meeeeee!”). Guns and vehicle sound effects sound rather decent, I’ll say and be done on the subject.

The characters are fucking atrocious. Aiden is terrible, and he’s the lead character, dammit. He has virtually no personality and is hell-bent on fixing something he clearly brought on himself for being a greedy son of a bitch. He’s got one reaction to anything, and it’s silent rage. He almost never tells the player his rationale, instead he just sits on the rail-road towards the next checkpoint. His family have basically no characters themselves. His sister seems like a well enough person, but seems a bit too easy on accepting shit coming her way. Her and Aiden have a hilariously bad conversation, breaking out sibling banter when she’s allowed a minute on the phone by her kidnapper. Oh yeah, her kidnapper, Damien. Remember him? Yeah, that’s the guy who was Aiden’s partner. He’s an even worse sociopath than Aiden and seems to have lost track of any semblance of morality. He kidnaps the sister to have Aiden dance to his flute, and does some of the most unexplained shit I’ve ever seen in a game. Oh, and he’s a mega haxx0r, brah. Then there’s Clara, the tattoo artist slash bad-ass hacker (because nobody in this game will conform to the average hacker stereotype) and love interest by virtue of being the only female character. And also T-Bone, the game’s only likeable character and goof-ball. Then there’s Jordi, who the game continually forgets is available, so don’t feel bad for forgetting about him. He’s kind of funny, but an arsehole.

It’s a good game, but nothing more. It’s not a game you’ll re-play and not one to sit glued to during the late hours. Pick it up on a sale if you really want to try it, but I don’t recommend buying Watch_Dogs, as it’s not a great load of fun compared to what’s on the market.

From now on there will be spoilers.

The story is written like some hilariously bad fan-fiction by someone who’s read some bleak sci-fi and watched a couple of episodes of Person of Interest. ctOS is hardly introduced or even discussed at all. It’s just there to be exploited by hackers. Damien kidnapping the sister (I don’t remember her name as she’s totally forgettable) is so predictable it make me face-palm hard enough to get a concussion. It’s made even more weird and dumb by him being all crazy and definitely intending to kill her and Aiden because he’s just such a bad fellah. Luckily Aiden is a bigger bad-ass and kills everyone else first. Woo. Lucky Quinn being the man behind the conspiracy is so dumb and uninspired it makes my head hurt. Why are there always really old men that are antagonists in techno thrillers, especially when set in present time. How the fuck do they even have the knowledge to do stuff related to technology? My grandmother can use Facebook, but struggles with anything more (I love her for trying, though). Then that gang-banger “Iraq” having blackmail on just about anyone in the city is so ridiculous. How does this hood-rat have so much computing talent and resources enough to do that? And the fact that they expect us to buy that he uses that to strong-arm the police of a huge city like Chicago away from his turf is laughable. Can’t they just use the ctOS to fuck him over? Nope, because hackers are cool, that’s why.Seriously. There’s another hacker called “Defalt” (lol, really?) that’s slightly foreshadowed and then owns your base up the arse. He’s then killed off a mission later, so that’s that. Epic villains in this game, Ubisoft. Let’s not forget the scene when Damien takes control of the entire ctOS and uses it against Aiden. He really hacks the entire city and brings it under his control. Of course, there’s a back-door where Aiden plants a virus, and then goes to find and kill Damien, in the most anti-climactic ending to a game in a long time.

The game should have been about Aiden and a small group of hackers fighting against the brutal ctOS and the corrupt officials hammering down on the common man. Not the most original, but effective and surely better than the mess that is Watch_Dogs. Oh yeah, you remember DeadSec? The hacking group you though would have a big part in the game. They’re hardly around, and in the end, Aiden just shrugs them off. Apparently he figures better at guarding the city. Cunt.

Don’t buy Watch_Dogs.


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