Platform Reviewed: PS4
Platforms Available: PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: November 18, 2014
MSRP: Php 990.00 (Datablitz)
This review is quite late. And to be honest, I didn’t have that luxury of time to finish Watch Dogs after a few weeks I bought the game. I pre-ordered the game from Datablitz, our local video game store like GameStop in the US, and got a Watch Dogs Cap and shirt. Why did I pre-order Watch Dogs? I was literally sold how the game was presented at E3 2012. Visuals were stunning, alluring, and eye popping. There, bubbles floats from my head with the words: THIS IS THE NEXT-GENERATION GAME. Imagine, the city is controlled by your phone… in the grasp of your hands… that power. Now, was it all worth it to look on my video game shelf, and take Watch Dogs, put the disc on my PS4, then play the game again? Let’s find out.
It’s another open-world game from the team who brought you the most successful Assassin’s Creed II and most damaged of them all, Assassin’s Creed Unity – Ubisoft Montreal. Watch Dogs brings you to the modern city of Chicago powered by an operating system called ctOS. You take control of the vigilante, Aiden Pearce. Events triggered after the incident in the Merlaut that caused his niece’s life. Filled with vengeance and the full drive of unmasking the identity behind the ghost who called the shots to send him a “warning”. You meet people like Clara, Jordi, and T-Bone. These supporting characters were far more interesting and has their unique personality that, in all honesty, gave life to the game. Without them, it’s just one bland vigilante who’s just desperate on killing the person behind the “call”.
Jordi was my personal favorite supporting character in the game. All the logical, yet, ironic clumsy but that-works-decisions make him who he is. Imagine, he’s the most trustworthy ally you can have – until he double-crosses you in a tough situation where someone puts a big bounty on your head, but still helps you anyway. He’s an Asian guy who just thinks everything is just a game, no fear of losing anything but money and his life. And as for T-Bone, a lad who has been into hacking and known as the legendary hacker/employee of Blume who has been “off-the-grid” for quite some time. It’s quite disappointing to see how these two characters were pretty much underused in the game. With two big personalities wasted, I didn’t expect that it could have been more fun to have missions with these two. There were a lot of opportunities missed to have these great characters on the spotlight.
Putting supporting characters aside, we have the gameplay on our table now. Watch Dogs showcased “hacking” in a different way, and a scary one too. With a push of a button away to disrupt the whole city’s electricity to cause a blackout, a phone that can have millions of personal data with the Profiler, and dangerously with guns. Ubisoft Montreal has taken the open-world genre in a whole new level. It’s quite nice to have a fresh take from what we’ve experienced in the past with open-world games, in Watch Dogs it’s all about technology and how to use it for good… or for the worse.
You remember how Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V was, Los Santos was surreal, and it surely gave players the GTA multiplayer they wanted. Now, what Watch Dogs offered was also interesting. As what I’ve previously stated, it was about hacking all throughout but it seems that it wasn’t totally the case with Watch Dogs. It did offer some puzzle gameplay when you hack into a system, solving on how to connect these data flows to bypass their so-called “firewall”. At first, you’ll just say “damn, that was easy”, and when you get at the final chapter you’ll think otherwise. Your own advantage taken away from you, altering your mini-map, hacking view, and even your objective icon which makes the game really challenging and difficult even on Normal mode.
As an open-world game, it opens a lot of tactics and how you approach a situation. You choose your own path on how you complete all of your missions — may it be stealth or heated gunfights. There are only small instances where the game forces you to go full outburst war. And you know what? Your enemies are smarter than you think. I did mention Normal, didn’t I? Yes, even on Normal mode, your enemies will outflank you, force you out from your cover with grenades, and even send out full-armored bastards to take you down. Every time you restart a mission on a checkpoint, the game slightly changes how your enemies approach, it’s pretty neat. I find the car chases thrillingly exciting. High speed chases, using technology as your advantage, and escaping cops were moments that I would take a big breather when I successfully evaded them.
Combat in the game is perfectly challenging, the gun controls are perfect. The recoil is not horrible as it does go well with the type of weapon you’re using. The covering system is also nicely polished, you can take this into your advantage. You’re able to duck and cover and move to corners by holding the analog stick to the direction you want then press the button to move in that corner. What I do am concerned about is the horrible driving controls. Most of the cars feel a lot heavy or, with smaller sedans, too light. It doesn’t respond quite well when doing hard turns which can annoyingly disrupt your high speed chase events.
Replay value of Watch Dogs is where the game shines the most. I completed the main missions of the game and there are still a lot of side-missions for me to do. Well, it feels more like a chore to reach 100% progression. But it does give you some slack if you want to divert from the story or even after. There are mini-games which makes it more hilarious and enjoyable. Like really, it’s hilarious. You have this alternate reality where you have to survive waves of digital aliens coming out from digital portals. Cash Run, my favorite amongst all, where you have to beat the time as fast as you can by getting all the gold coins while avoiding the digital ghosts.
Digital Trips is like what you call “digital drugs” where Aiden gets immersed in an alternate reality where you can run over monstrous people with a Mad Max-esque muscle car. Play as a Giant Spider in Spider Tank and cause much destruction as you can. Psychedelic, where Aiden needs to jump from one flower to the other – you can definitely feel and see that Aiden is literally high. Boom! These fun, amusing, and entertaining mini-games are present for you to let loose if you get bored on the main plot.
Aside from Digital Trips, there are online features in the game like where random players can invade you any time that it prevents you from starting a mission. The backdoor hacking is one of my favorites; you’ll be the hunter or the hunted. You can identify the other player with the Profiler but you have to be quick before the hack reaches 100%. Sometimes it gets annoying that it mostly happen you already tried to start a mission but you can’t due to this – however, there’s an option to this disable this in the game options.
Now, we go through the graphics of Watch Dogs. It’s no doubt that there was a great downgrade from what Ubisoft has presented in E3 2012. It was greatly disappointing to see the game from an eye-catching next-generation visuals to a bland with lesser shaders and lighting quality. Even the face quality of the characters has changed to seamlessly flat and dull 3D renders. But I do applaud the fact that the water effects are still impressive despite the graphical downgrade. The water reflections are still spot on, the city of Chicago is also huge with great views at night. The god rays are impressive as ever from what I’ve seen in other games.
I can’t say that I was disappointed just because of the visual downgrade. For me, it’s not all about graphics, but I won’t deny that I was really sold because of how the game looked at E3 2012. Watch Dogs was graphically disappointing on launch from how it was presented in E3 2012 but what it offered in terms of gameplay and replayability, the game does not disappoint. You’ll have a lot of things to do in Watch Dogs to keep you company and that overshadows the flaws of it. We hope to see more better gameplay, improved driving, and an interesting story in Watch Dogs 2 this year.
This review is based on a retail copy purchased by the author.