Watch Dogs 2 Review
While the unexpected fan backlash of Aiden Pearce being dropped from Watch Dogs 2 never happened, Craig takes the sequel – and new protagonist – for a spin in our Watch Dogs 2 review
Drink all the booze, hack all the things.
The above, is a lyric from one of the first songs I heard while playing Watch Dogs 2, but it’s a great summary of the kind of care-free nature that Watch Dogs 2 permeates throughout. A position and set-up that’s intriguing when compared to its stern and fun-free predecessor.
This is evident in one of the games early missions (minor spoilers ahead) that sees DedSec – Watch Dogs 2’s hacker group that you’re a part of – steal a talking car from the set of a movie. Player character Marcus, and the other three members of DedSec are then able to create a driver-less car that they then use to get the police to chase them through the streets of San Francisco. It’s a chase that’s as colourful as it is chaotic, with the group finding the funny side of the police chasing down a car with no driver or passenger. It immediately allows Watch Dogs 2 to set its stall out early as being a game that is trying to get as far away from the shackles of Aiden Pearce and Chicago.
Despite the love I have for Chicago, there’s no getting away from the fact that San Francisco is more vibrant and allows Watch Dogs 2’s freedom and exuberance to exceed the prequel. It’s clear early on that the developers had a lot of fun coming up with mission ideas and objectives, with more than a few real-world nods to the society we live in.
Marcus and the rest of DedSec fit into the San Francisco setting and it’s easy to believe that this is their town. Marcus and his cohorts plan to take down numerous corporate organisations looking to hold people’s personal data and use it as they see fit, a tale that is quickly becoming the go-to one for any film, TV show or video game with a focus on hackers.
The plot isn’t the greatest in terms of its overall story arc, but the interaction the characters have in between and during missions, kept me interested. Their constant modern-day references – including a discussion on Aliens vs Predators – meant that I felt engaged as they were discussing things that are relevant in modern society. It’s an aspect that you don’t see too often in video games due to the nature of their long development time, but in some ways, because the characters were so connected to each other, I felt like an outsider looking in rather than pretending to be the character or characters of the game. It didn’t affect my enjoyment, but it’s something worth mentioning as it’s an experience I haven’t felt too often before.
Watch Dogs 2 hasn’t changed a great deal from its predecessor on a gameplay front with hacking still at the forefront of almost everything you do. Two new additions though are the RC Jumper and Quadcopter, which allow you to scout out areas and hack from within while Marcus is sitting outside controlling them from his laptop. It’s a little bit like scouting camps in Far Cry, so much so in fact, that Watch Dogs 2 uses the exact same white line mechanic to tell a player they’re currently in the line of view of an enemy.
At first I found infiltrating enemy compounds frustrating, but by completing missions and earning research points you can upgrade Marcus’ abilities to a point where you can call in police to arrest your enemies or even inform gang’s that they’re traitors. Either way, this causes them to rush to the enemy and either try to arrest them or brutally murder them. I’ve used this ability numerous times and bringing in another gang allows you to sneak round the back to your objective.
Driving however is another thing altogether as cars feel weightless and have a tendency to twist and turn at will, causing the simplest turn to be more of a challenge than it should be. This causes its own problems when it comes to being chased by the police, but again, being able to hack bollards and traffic lights to get them off your case helps you get away.
“Going through an open world game without having to kill anyone is a nice change from the norm”
You’ll notice that so far I haven’t discussed the use of guns in Watch Dogs 2 and that’s because in most circumstances they’re not necessary, unless you get into real trouble. By using your gadgets and hacking abilities it’s possible to rarely get involved in gun combat. One thing that doesn’t help is a sub-standard cover mechanic which sometimes struggles to realise where you’re intending to take cover and has difficulties in allowing you to get away quickly.
Being stealthy is the way that most players will want to play through the game though, with the occasional use of Marcus’ stun gun. But unfortunately, the stealth and cover mechanics don’t allow you to feel like you’re actually sneaking around like a pro. I often felt like getting through a section undetected was more down to a mixture of blind luck and poor AI rather than through my own personal skill.
Going through an open world game without having to kill anyone is a nice change from the norm and Ubisoft must be commended for giving players multiple options on how to achieve their objectives. You can run and gun, but given DedSec and Marcus’ view on the world, would you really want to? I didn’t.
During its opening week, Watch Dogs 2’s multiplayer was taken offline due to it causing framerate issues. Due to the nature of Watch Dogs 2’s always connected multiplayer – which allows for multiplayer missions to seamlessly appear, even in the single-player world – this was affecting all aspects of the game. At the time of publishing this review, Ubisoft have still not managed to fix this portion of the game. Once they have, we’ll revisit this and update the review.
The issues with gameplay mechanics are unfortunate but not game breaking. I still had a great time in San Francisco with the hacking abilities and gadgets at my disposal, even if it meant that I was dreading getting into a gunfight. San Francisco’s colour and unexpected events kept me interested in both Marcus and DedSec.
At times, things happened outside of missions that were completely unexpected and made me question whether I had any influence at all. At one point I was happily changing Marcus’ clothes in a shop and then heard a loud explosion, I decided to rush out to see what the commotion was, only to see the road full of cracks and four cars burnt to a crisp with a few others ready to blow. This is just one example I had while playing, and while it’s certainly not something you’d expect to see in the real world, in the Watch Dogs’ version of San Francisco, it’s an event I like to see. It’s nice to be in an open world that continues on without your input and doesn’t wait for your move in order to know what to do next.
Watch Dogs 2 Review Conclusion
There are gameplay concerns but the setting helps to make up for it as Watch Dogs 2’s version of San Francisco is faithful, colourful and a joy to explore. It’s not in the top calibre of games this year, but it has interesting characters, unique elements, and more than enough missions to keep you busy for a while.
We tested the PlayStation 4 version of Watch Dogs 2 after purchasing a retail copy and it’s available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC