Watch Dogs (PS4) | Zombiegamer Review

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In Short

Is Watch Dogs the new beginning and end all of sandbox games, as we thought it could be? No it is not. It is however, a well crafted game that is a ton of fun to play through. Ubisoft successfully implemented some slick new tricks that I will be hugely keen to see where it goes from here. Above all, Watch Dogs is a welcome debut that will at the very least make the GTA and Sleeping Dogs of the world of videogames roll up their sleeves, going forward.

Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Distributor: Megarom Interactive
Reviewed on: PS4
Also available on: Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC
If we had to give it a numerical score: 8.5/10

What I loved

• Splinter Cell-like cover-system
• Hacking goodness
• Chicago, oh you beautiful wonderful playground!
• Interesting fleshed out characters and their back-stories
• Variety in driveable vehicles
• Above all, game is fun and there’s plenty of it

Not so much

• Driving could’ve been a wee bit better
• Some repetitive missions

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I can see how some might be slightly disappointed, but I will totally disagree with anyone who says Watch Dogs is not a great game. You should be forgiven for thinking, from the E3 visuals that introduced us to the game, that Watch Dogs could’ve been a GTA slayer. That it is definitely not. GTA can rest easy, holding on to its throne, for doing what it does. Make no mistake though, Watch Dogs is here to stay, and is actually a hell of an impressive debut into the GTA-like genre.

Ubisoft even successfully bring us some great new tricks. The hacking was perfectly implemented, and ads a massively interesting dimension to the game. There’s so much that you can do with it, from profiling people to opening up missions. You can hack cameras, work your way around a building, just by jumping from camera to camera. You can unlock doors, steal from people’s bank accounts – all from your very capable smartphone. Around 5 or so hours into it, I was grinning from ear to ear when I got hacked for the first time. I was hacked by someone who I think was another actual person, not AI. I’m actually not sure, because the online side of things is so well woven into the singleplayer experience. That and the hacker’s gamer-tag looked “non-artificial.” Anyway, I was on a mission, and I get a notice saying I had been hacked. I frantically had to run around profiling everyone in sight within a certain time, find the hacker and eliminate them. This was a proper first for me. It might not sound that special, but this something so small gave me an uncommon “oh cool” surprising moment, that I rarely get nowadays.

The all important mechanics then? This is an aspect that has helped GTA carve out its special place in the sandbox game genre, due to just feeling better than the wannabbes. Well, It’s not actually that surprising that Watch Dogs shines in this department. Ubisoft has plenty of experience in open-world, action and stealth games. So Watch Dogs is unsurprisingly very solid on the mechanics front. The cover-system and stealth mechanics feel like they were lifted from Splinter Cell, and the shooting is bang on – intuitive and it just feels good.

While getting familiar with it all, I actually worried the devs were trying too much, and that it could all get a little lost. There’s so much Aiden can do to tackle various situations. He can craft gadgets: gadgets used to scramble comm-systems or cause blackouts for example. There’s plenty to upgrade and craft in various departments. So I was worried I would get a little lost with the extensive user-interface. Fortunately this was excellently crafted, and everything works seamlessly. You quickly adapt to what gadgets to use where, or when to hack or profile, or just sneak around. And often there are various avenues in tackling the situation, and not even me, usually easily confused when given too much choice, got overwhelmed. The gameplay design is fantastic in this aspect, and so while it all starts off a bit slow, soon enough you’ll be having a blast as this tech-enabled vigilante with a cause. The only real complaint I have with the gameplay is that there is quite a bit of repetitive missions. The other side of this coin is that there’s plenty to do.

With regards to the driving – I suspect some will find it to be inferior. It is not the most intuitive or complicated of systems. In a strange way though, it works for me. Strange, because I do agree that it’s not all that great, but it keeps the pace going. I loved as much as the next guy, those rampant runs in GTA, swinging the back of the car out and trashing the roads – beautiful chaos. The driving in Watch Dogs is basic; turn and turns, brake and it brakes; and then extremely forgiving. But there are less of those annoying sudden stops or car flips when you skim the bumper of an oncoming car. The bumping is forgiving and dynamics straight forward, so you can get into these long chases without needing to jump from trashed car to the next. It does make for some great chase scenes. I actually like the in-car view, which felt somewhat realistic. The only problem is that you can’t swing the camera in a right-angle to see what’s happening adjacent to you – the camera only swings slightly sideways. The motorbikes’ driving was not enjoyable at all for me. The superbikes felt better that the Harley-like cruisers, but both were awkward-feeling. When riding the cruisers, you don’t need to lean much to turn, you always turn with the handlebars (like you would when parking), and so let’s just say, I would generally look for cars. Fortunately you can purchase various cars as well as steal, then have any in your collection delivered to your position, whenever needed.

Watch Dogs’ online multiplayer is much more than just a value adding bolt-on. It’s clear that quite a bit of thought went into it all. I loved how it’s seamlessly integrated into the game, so you will simply come across request to hop into a multiplayer game, while in your game. You can ignore or join, and matchmaking happens swiftly and effortlessly. The various modes stay within the themes of the game. So there are the straight forward races, the hacking modes and some cat-and-mouse type modes. There’s plenty of variety and because it was well executed, I actually think the multiplayer mode could get a healthy following. There’s a worthy progressive system to work through, and some interesting and unique perks to gain the edge.

As for the audio-visual production, well, Ubisoft shot themselves in the foot a bit. The pre-release game footage was absolutely amazing. Watch Dogs does look good, but it fall short of pre-release footage, and it’s clear that it is a multi-platform title. The animations and lighting effects of Second Son is what I consider “next-gen”, and Watch Dogs is not quite of the same quality. It’s certainly still very good. The huge Chicago looks quite lively and at night it’s just beautiful. It’s just not quite Seattle in Second Son good. Fortunately the game was well put together, so on this PS4 version, I don’t recall any texture or frame-rate issues. A very solid production.

The character design, the script and voice acting is superb. Aiden has a hilarious right-hand man, Jodi, who is a stark contrast to the serious and tortured persona that is Aiden. And the script is as intriguing as any.

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Closing Comments

While Watch Dogs doesn’t quite live up to the lofty hype that was stirred, it is still a very worthy and enjoyable game. From the interesting narrative to the well pleasing mechanics, Watch Dogs is a quality sandbox game that should keep most genuinely entertained for some time to come.

Zombiegamer Rating:

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