*This was originally posted on my old Tumblr account on July 10, 2014.
Author’s note: I promised I was supposed to make a review of Watchdogs a couple of weeks ago. I apologize for the delay but I was quite busy after just getting my first job. Still, my time out has given me the opportunity to distance myself from the game and get away from its hype. So here it is, my full review of Ubisoft’s newest AAA game, Watchdogs.
When Ubisoft first premiered the trailer for Watch Dogs, I was over the moon. I bought into the hype quickly. I was eager, very eager, to get the game as soon as it got out. Needless to say, I was one of those who spread the hype further by bragging and blabbering about it on my social media sites. I even promised I would come up with a review as soon as I finished it.
My euphoria died down quickly as I got into the first hours of the game. In fact, my exact words after finishing the story was “Well that was… fine… I guess…that’s it?” I’ll get to that later.
This was not something I would have expected after Ubisoft practically drowned us all with the media hype. Ubisoft spent millions of dollars for Watch Dogs’ very ambitious, albeit creative marketing campaign. I would expect something more than just above mediocre.
With that being said, here’s why I feel Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs underwhelmed me after its overwhelming marketing.
Ubisoft promised, through its E3 demo, that we would bask in the glory of next-gen graphics with Watch Dogs. The detailing, the texture, the lighting, and just the sheer beauty of the Watch Dogs E3 demo blew us all away. Needless to say, I was disappointed.
This is not to say that the graphics were terrible. The game still looked beautifully detailed. But it was not next-gen graphics. Not the graphics that dropped jaws in both E3 2012 and E3 2013.
For a visual representation, refer to this Youtube video that recreated the scenes showed in E3 2012, 2013, on the actual retail release:
Notice that the E3 demo had more visually appealing details than the one they actually released? Despite their defense that sometimes what you see is what you won’t get in reality, the difference from the demo and the release is too glaring for us to not notice.
Aiden exploits ctOS’ big brother features in Watch Dogs.
“Hacking is our weapon.” – This one, Ubisoft totally delivered. Literally almost everything can be hacked in Watch Dog’s open world. From traffic lights, to steam pipes, to ATMs, to CCTVs, and even soda machines.
Hacking does not stop in the open world however. Hacking is very valuable in the campaign. When it comes to sneaking in highly secured areas, you practically need to hack the silly soda machines and fork lifts. Early on, as the game teaches you how hacking works, it already presents to you the importance of using your hacking tools as your strategy in completing missions.
With that being said however, the hacking feels very simple. Though there will be points in the game where you have to complete a puzzle to get into a treasure trove of voyeur, most of the time you literally only need to press or hold the hacking button and voila.
The open world details into this game is amazing. The city feels alive with good NPC animations and sudden game play situations that you don’t normally expect in other open world games. One minute, you could be hacking accounts, and the next minute a potential crime could happen in front of you and its up to you to disable the perpetrator.
There are also a ton of things to do with Watch Dogs’ Chicago setting. As a vigilante, there are a variety of missions which are open to you that you can take at your spare time. There are criminal convoy missions, fixer jobs, and even gang missions as well.
The problem with the side missions is its repetitiveness that is sure to drive you crazy. You enjoy the first three to five side missions but by the end of it, you just want to shut the game down and give yourself a break. Build ups to side stories let you down immediately as it gives you nothing after completing those repetitive side missions. Not even a nice little cutscene.
The combat gives you the familiar feel of different games from popular genres. Some will say it gives you the GTA feel. For my part, it will remind you of Splinter Cell and Assassin’s Creed. The smooth cover to cover movement gives you that Splinter Cell feel, while the stealth and chase or escape methods make you feel as if Watch Dogs is the modern day Assassin’s Creed.
What I love the most about the Combat system in Watch Dogs is the variety of approaches you can make. You can switch up your strategy every time in the game when you need to. You can use your hacking skills, explosives, guns and lures to execute your plan. You can sneak around or go out guns blazing. There’s nothing I love more than when combat gets creative.
With Aiden’s flat characterization, you’ll care more about Jordi Chin’s whereabouts than Aiden’s misery
Watch Dogs has intense drama scattered throughout its plot which mainly kept me from turning off my console and giving up on the game. I will say however, that it uses the old vindictive vigilante set-up which frankly, reminds me too much of Batman. Adding to that familiarity is Aiden’s deep throaty voice which at times made me feel like he is the Dark Knight himself.
Despite Aiden’s cliche story the plot remains exciting and unique as his quest is intertwined around the massive story of Chicago. There are a lot of things going on with the hackers, ctOS, the mafia, gangs, and even the government.
The city’s story is thought-provoking. As you play, you get to discover just how much ctOS knows about the citizens of Chicago. It plunges you into the world of Big Brother and it is down right disturbing. It gives you an ugly sight of how an uber-connected and uber-monitored society can be exploited easily by powerful people who wish ill.
The most frustrating bit of Watch Dogs is Aiden. Aiden has had so much potential for character development that Ubisoft has failed to maximize. He felt bland all throughout, and parts where I expected emotional outbursts were left with “self-narrated” feelings.
A story so good should have an equally good character and it was annoying to find that as I go along with the main story, Aiden had no turning point or emotional climax.
However, Aiden is saved by his merry band of brothers and sister. My favorite would have to be Jordi Chin, his fixer, whom I think was under utilized. He was eccentric and incredibly funny, and he needed way more screen time.
Despite Watch Dogs underwhelming me after its great media hype, it makes a decent triple A game with its good attention to detail, intense thought-provoking plot, and creative and unique gameplay. However, it’s sad that the game did not live up to the standards that it was marketed as. So, I give it a 7.5/10.
Obviously, with Ubisoft selling 4 million copies of the game within the first week, their marketing campaign succeeded and a sequel should be in the works as well. Knowing how Ubisoft does better sequels (Assassin’s Creed 2 remains one of the best games of the Assassin’s Creed franchise), I am expecting a better Watch Dogs with real next-gen graphics, less repetitiveness, and a more well-rounded Aiden/new character.