Watch Dogs Review – The Caller Is Unavailable
I remember the day I started playing the original Assassins Creed. It seems like a century ago – a different time, a different era, a different generation. It seemed like a stab in a new direction, and Ubisoft is doing it again. Watch Dogs is another stab in another direction. It’s just the beginning of something bigger…
Developed: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: PS4 [reviewed], PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Wii U
Released: May 27, 2014
Review Copy: No
The Story of a Hacker
Just like many good stories, this one begins with a tragedy. Gamers get to play as Aiden Pearce, a hacker, thief and overall mediocre character, but more on that later. The story starts off with an assassination attempt that goes wrong. They were after him, but they got his niece. Now he’s on a quest to find the people that caused it and get his revenge.
This game doesn’t have a great story, however it does have great characters and some amazing high points. Every character in the game has motivations, beliefs and emotions. I’ve said this a lot in past reviews and other features, however these characters feel believable. They aren’t the one-sided characters from video games of the past. However the story doesn’t use these characters to the fullest. Most of the time I didn’t have any idea what was going on, and it changed the game. I didn’t care about the story and ended up not caring about the game and characters as a result. This game has some good moments, but the rest of the story is just mediocre.
Hacking the World
Have you ever imagined yourself being an all-powerful hacker? Well, Watch Dogs lets you become that hacker. By the end credits no one could rain on my parade, except the occasional bad mission. The game is a lot of fun to play, however it does have quite a few problems.
The biggest issue I had with this game is its patchwork nature. I can name some elements of the game that are nearly perfectly implemented and some that are just plain atrocious. Some of the better ones are most of the hacking mechanics, the random pedestrian information and the game’s stealth combat. The poorly implemented elements of the game include: PS2 era car visuals and damage modelling, a boring city and some bad mission design. Driving is especially jarring, it just doesn’t feel like vehicles are a part of this world.
Almost all hacking mechanics in the game are well done and make you feel more and more powerful with each unlock. They give you an insane amount of control over the city, which allows you to confound your enemies in new and unique ways. I was never tired of trying out new powers and thinking of how to unlock the variety of powers in this RPG-light title. This title includes a crafting system that lets you craft the more powerful one-time use hacks. Both systems don’t ever take too much of the focus away from the overall gameplay and are balanced well.
The collectibles. Yes, the collectibles. This is a Ubisoft title that is reminiscent of the Assassins Creed and Far Cry series with server farms that need to be hacked, dead drops to collect, and a great deal more. They are done well, however it still needs some work, especially placement-wise. Collectibles go hand in hand with the side missions, which are hit or miss. Some of them are well done, while others are just painful. What makes them worse is the inconsistency. I could play one convoy mission and hate it, while the next one will feel just perfect.
Overall, this title is a mix of the good and bad. What makes it worse is that you’ll notice this everywhere. Horrible vehicles in a good looking game, a mediocre story with some great characters, a mix of good and bad missions – this game is full of contradictions and I don’t like it. Some games are good, some games are average and some games are just bad, but most are consistent. This is one of the few titles, in my experience, that is a mix of the good, the bad and the average.
The Windy City
Chicago… A surprising choice and one that doesn’t pay off. The city is bland and annoying. I never had that “Wow!” moment in this title. I was never amazed, impressed or even got to the point of remembering a memorable landmark. I have to mention the elephant in the room – Grand Theft Auto V. Let’s forget the most recent update of this open-world behemoth. I know most of the major intersections, highways and bridges in Rockstar’s latest title. I haven’t remembered even one in Watch Dogs. Chicago is one of the most bland city I’ve ever seen in a game world, and the game suffers for it.
Not memorable – that is the main theme of this game. The same applies to the visuals and sounds of this title. It has decent visuals for a current generation title, however it feels lacking in some areas, especially the vehicles. The soundtrack is equally bland. I have favorite songs in GTA V, however I can’t even remember one from this open-world third-person shooter.
Watch Dogs has its high and low points, more so than many other games, however it is a decent first stab at a series of games that will get better with time. I remember the original Assassins Creed. It was a okay game that didn’t have a special place on my shelf. That series earned that special place on my shelf and in my heart with subsequent games.
The first entry in Ubisoft’s next big franchise feels like an early beta. It lacks that extra layer of polish that we’ve come to expect from a Ubisoft title. Watch Dogs feels rushed, however everything must start somewhere. Future games in this series will refine the overall experience, however right now this game isn’t worth it.
2.5 out of 5