2014’s Watch Dogs was an open-world third-person action title where you took on the role of Aiden Pearce, a hacker with a penchant for handkerchiefs, hats, and shades of grey, both in his fashion sense, as well as how he viewed the law. He used his custom CtOS phone to hack his way around the city of Chicago in pursuit of his niece’s killers and use his unique abilities to expose the corruption running rampant in the Windy City. With the official announcement of Watch Dogs 2 last week, it’s a good time to look back at the original Watch Dogs and see what it did right, and what it did wrong, whilst offering opinions on what can be improved for the new game.
What Watch Dogs Did Right
Watch Dogs was a game with a new, interesting take on the open world genre. It had lots of potential. The concept of roaming around a city using hacking skills to fight crime was simply fantastic. You have immense power, all in your hand. The way you could hack into anybody and everybody walking down the streets was very cool. Finally, the third person shooting mechanics were great. Unfortunately, those elements didn’t come together to make a great game.
What Watch Dogs Did Wrong
You know how we said it had a lot of potential? That potential was squandered and put to waste. The graphics were horrendously downgraded from what was shown at E3 2012, and at times looked like a game from 2006, not 2014. The story was bland and generic. The ending was bad. The main character was bland and even the voice acting performance by Noam Jenkins seemed really unenthusiastic at times.
The games most original and highly-touted feature, the hacking, was essentially nothing more than pushing a button and occasionally solving puzzles in which you have to get an electrical current from the source to the objective in a minigame of “make the line blue.” Hack a camera to hack another camera to hack a control box to play a hacking minigame. It was repetitive and boring.
Even the small little touches that can make a game feel lived-in and give it that extra special something were not present. For example: There were no radio stations in the game. Instead, you were given essentially an MP3 player to cycle through songs.
Watch Dogs is a perfect example of cool and interesting concepts executed extraordinarily badly. This isn’t to say Watch Dogs was a terrible game; for what it was, I enjoyed it. It was just extremely flawed, which leaves plenty of room for improvement in Watch Dogs 2.
How Watch Dogs 2 Can Improve
From what we’ve seen so far, Watch Dogs 2 has potential to be a good, even a great game. Then again, so did the first Watch Dogs. What Ubisoft needs to do is to take the foundation that Watch Dogs put forth and kick it up to an eleven. The core gameplay mechanics were strong, now they need to improve on those. Judging from the gameplay shown at E3, that is exactly what they are trying to do.
The aforementioned MP3 player they gave you could be something like a radio receiver to listen in on police conversations or 911 phone calls so you can go be the vigilante and save the day. Leave the music for the car unless they can do this correctly.
One area we already see improvement is with new protagonist Marcus Holloway, whose style and mannerisms, along with the rest of the DedSec accomplices shown in the recent footage, seem to signal that the game will be taking itself much less seriously, which is a smart move by Ubisoft.
Watch Dogs 2 seems to be headed in the right direction, with the vibrant new setting of San Francisco to explore using all-new parkour skills on display from a charismatic protagonist with a variety of tools and toys at his disposal. We are excited to see what else the game has in store.