In the past I’ve said that there wasn’t much point in writing reviews for popular games due to the glut of information on the Internet. However, it seems that some folks still look for my input on certain titles anyway (Thanks, Kris!). “I Played That” is an attempt to meet halfway. The concept is to bang out a quick little pros/cons type thing that won’t require me to complete a game or spend two days composing a proper review. As such, I’ll be doing such unprofessional things as comparing this-to-that, describing stuff simply as ‘fun’, and scoring more with my heart than my head.
Pardon the dust as I figure out how to best construct this new article format and, as always, feel free to send comments/emails/carrier pigeons as to what information you’d like to see covered in this feature.
Game Profile: Watch_Dogs
In a Nutshell:
Ubi continues the trend that has brought them so much success in recent years by crafting another beautiful AAA open-world title with a heavy, yet optional, emphasis on stealth and gadgets. Watch_Dogs features tons of collectables, unique multiplayer modes (including the ability to covertly enter and ‘hack’ another person’s game for a little hide-n-seek, and checkpoint races against opponents on mobile platforms controlling police and security systems), and a great balance of tactical planning and crazy action.
Technically excellent graphics. Very high res textures. Amazing particle effects. Some of the best lighting and shadows yet. Phenomenal detail on character models. Lots of breakable, physics enabled props in the city (More than I’ve seen in an open world driving game before). Building interiors are packed full of details.
One button hacking mechanics very well integrated into gameplay, both on foot and driving. The always-online world of today stars as both your greatest weapon and worst enemy. Scout via security cameras and kill via overloading transformers to the point of explosion. Who in this world decided it was a good idea to put a Wi-Fi chip in hand grenades anyway?
Food for thought about our modern connected society and how trivial it is for someone to gain access to your secrets. Think you’ve got nothing to hide? Watch_Dogs cites a great many examples why you should think otherwise.
Cyberpunk in disguise! You wouldn’t know it from looking at it, but Watch_Dogs is pure pulp cyberpunk right down to the noir inspired trench coats and internal monologue from our anti-hero.
Climbing Towers (Because Ubisoft). First Assassin’s Creed, then Far Cry 3, now Watch_Dogs. Puzzling your way up tall structures to unlock more side activities is still the best collectable in the gaming world today.
Good AI, crowd mechanics, and pedestrian banter. Guard banter (quips/barks/whatever), on the other hand, in pretty bad and very repetitive.
Some genuinely open mission design. Not all the time, but there are several large scenarios with many approaches to getting the job done. Smart/Patient players will be able to complete some missions without firing a shot. Sadly, some are also arena based blast-a-thons.
Morality meter puts a price on taking civilian lives.
Typical Ubisoft PC port (Sluggish mouse controls, poorly optimized video performance). While there is a lot of buzz on the ‘Net about problems ranging from stuttering to crashing to being unable to connect to the Uplay servers, I have experienced none of these issues. I have had to accept a 30FPS frame rate and resort to using a controller however.
Not the Second Coming. It seems odd to ding Watch_Dogs for this, but it is not hyperbole to say that the hopes and dreams of the next generation of gaming were resting on this title. Guess what? Watch_Dogs doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It is a good GTA clone with a cool gimmick, not Jesus.
Something a little blah about Chicago. While technically awe inspiring, there is something lacking in Watch_Dogs’ art style (Particularly when stacked up against GTA V (Granted, it’s competition no game should have to face, but…)).
Soundtrack. I like neither the licensed tracks nor the composed music.
Ubisoft script. I don’t know what happened to their writers about three years ago, but… Ugh. Watch_Dogs certainly isn’t as WTF stupid as Assassin’s Creed 3 or as horribly offensive as Far Cry 3. It’s just kinda generic and does a poor job telling it’s story. Weak voice acting (with the exception of a couple notable side characters) doesn’t help matters.
Always-on multiplayer. While being prompted to join online games from single player is cool, sometimes you just want to get stuff done. Being secretly invaded and hacked by another player is tense and interesting some of the time and very annoying at others. Watch_Dogs does feature the ability to turn off multiplayer in the options menu, but doing so will completely wipe your online ranking. Plan on disconnecting from the ‘Net if you need a little peace and quiet. At least you can’t be bothered by the real world when engaged in a mission.
So Watch_Dogs is not the herald of a new age of video games. If you don’t already have a new console, this title shouldn’t be the sole reason to pick one up. That said, Watch_Dogs is a good game. While crafted in the mold of Grand Theft Auto, it is well executed, features an interesting (and timely) setting, and hosts some genuinely cool new mechanics. The soggy plot and occasionally unwanted multiplayer nag are minor issues compared to the fun to be had with the general gameplay.
Watch_Dogs is very much Assassin’s Creed meets GTA in a cyberpunk Chicago littered with remote control ‘Press X to do Cool Stuff’ buttons. If that description appeals to you, you’ll like Watch_Dogs.