Review

Watch Dogs

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Watch Dogs is a new intellectual property from Ubisoft that has been in development for over five years at the publisher’s Montreal studio.

What You Need to Know

Watch Dogs is a third-person open-world game set in Chicago in a ‘what if’ version of the future, where citizens are monitored and the city is controlled by a centralised computer system called ‘ctOS.’ You play as a hacker named Aiden Pearce whose former criminal activities resulted in the death of his niece, causing him to embark on a quest to seek revenge for her murder.

Aiden can profile Chicago’s residents using his smartphone as well as hack into the city’s mainframe to steal money from their banks accounts, listen in on their conversations, and interact with these people and Chicago itself in numerous other ways.

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What’s New?

Ubisoft has done anything but play it safe in its latest foray into the open-world genre. Although many elements in Watch Dogs are far-fetched, the game’s central theme of hacking allows for many completely unique gameplay experiences. For example, you can hack into a pedestrian’s phone in order to steal a music track from their playlist, or raise a bridge when you’re being pursued in order to thwart your attackers. If you’d rather steer clear of crime then you can simply use the ‘Car on Demand’ app on your smartphone to have a vehicle delivered to your location.

Another innovative element in Watch Dogs is a deep skills system that encourages you to take part in a wide variety of side activities, or online events, in order to learn new abilities broken up into sections including Combat, Driving, Hacking and Crafting. For example, the ability to raise or lower bridges in the city that I mentioned earlier is one of the mid-tier skills you can acquire under the Hacking portion of Aiden’s skill tree.

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What’s the Same?

If you’ve played a recent open-world game such as Grand Theft Auto V or Sleeping Dogs then you’ll already be familiar with many of the genre traditions that Watch Dogs embraces, including a lengthy campaign broken up into missions involving tailing targets, knocking enemies off the road, cover-based shoot-outs and other familiar gameplay scenarios commonly seen in the genre.

Watch Dogs also looks to popular games outside the open-world genre for inspiration, as seen in its crafting system that’s essentially identical to the one used in The Last of Us. You’ll find various materials scattered around your environment that can be combined to instantly craft items such as sticky bombs while on foot, or in a vehicle provided you’ve unlocked the corresponding crafting ability on Aiden’s skill tree.

You’ll Enjoy Watch Dogs If You Liked…

… The Last of Us. Watch Dogs’ cover-based combat scenarios and crafting system reminded me very much of Naughty Dog’s third-person action adventure, although the game’s enemy AI isn’t as advanced as it is in The Last of Us.

… The Grand Theft Auto series. Watch Dogs doesn’t have the same level of gameplay and plot depth as Grand Theft Auto V in my opinion, but is rather more akin to earlier games in the series such as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City in which modes of transportation were more limited.

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What I Liked

5.) If you happen to like one of the songs accessible from Aiden’s smartphone then you can read up more about the band who made it in the game.

4.) There are one hundred ‘City Hotspots’ in Watch Dogs which you can visit to read more about these attractions, or use to pick up items left there by other players. You can also be declared the ‘mayor’ of a particular hotspot if you’ve checked into it more than anyone else.

3.) Watch Dogs represents some of the best value for money available on the PlayStation 4 because there’s an overwhelming number of side activities to enjoy apart from the game’s lengthy main campaign.

2.) One of the more rewarding side activities in the game is hacking into ’ctOS’ towers that reveals the locations of various items of interest in their vicinity. Reaching the access panel of one of these towers is a very engaging activity because there are some clever environmental puzzles to solve before you can hack into the tower.

1.) Watch Dogs features a unique cast of allies and enemies, and the game boasts some of the best character designs I’ve seen in a Western title for a long time.

Favourite Moment

I experienced a surge of excitement when I first took a look at Aiden’s skill tree, because the scope of abilities you can learn is more akin to an RPG than an open-world game.

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What I Didn’t Like

4.) Aiden’s character is a bit bland for the leading man of an ambitious new franchise like Watch Dogs. It would be great if we got to see him smile or crack a joke every once in a while.

3.) The game forces you to use hacks or the bulk of your car to defeat enemies while driving by not allowing you to shoot and drive at the same time.

2.) I stumbled across quite a few glitches during my time with the game including lines of dialogue repeating twice, and characters’ feet showing a weird wireframe effect while they walked.

1.) For an open-world game, Watch Dogs’ narrative is very linear and you don’t have the choice to visit different characters to accept their specific missions like you do in Grand Theft Auto series.

Least Favourite Moment

Watch Dogs can be a challenging game even if you’re playing it on ‘Easy,’ and to this end I experienced a few frustrating moments when I was within one or two enemies of clearing a mission only to be killed and forced to restart the entire section again.


Watch Dogs Review – Launch Trailer


What’s Extra?

Apart from featuring hours upon hours of singleplayer content to enjoy, Watch Dogs sports a few seamless online modes that can add many more hours to your total play time.

These modes include Intrusion mode where you can invade other players’ worlds and earn Notoriety points for successfully hacking them and getting away with their data, and Decryption which is a highly competitive four-against-four player-versus-player mode that’s fully integrated into the game’s massive sandbox environment. Notoriety points can then be used to unlock skills that will help players in Watch Dogs’ singleplayer mode.

The Bottom Line

Watch Dogs brings plenty of great ideas to the table and features one of the best realised sandbox environments in the business. Apart from the game’s linear narrative, uninteresting protagonist and minor glitches, Ubisoft has crafted an excellent open-world title that’s hopefully just the first step in a genre-defining franchise.


This Watch Dogs review was conducted on PlayStation 4


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