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Game: Watch_Dogs Age Rating: 18+ Genre: Open World Action-Adventure, Third Person Developer: Ubisoft Montreal Publisher: Ubisoft Game Director: Jonathan Morin Lead story writer: Kevin Shortt Played on: Playstation 3 Overview Watch Dogs is another open world game developed by Ubisoft Montreal, set in the near future of Chicago. The player dons the role of Aiden Pearce, a very talented hacker, who lives dangerously in a city where everything technology related is controlled by a single AI system called the ctOS. A simple job goes wrong which leads to a series of events that ends in the death of his niece, Lena Pearce. Aiden sets out to find the man responsible and with the help from a few ‘friends’ Aiden gains access into the ctOS. With the whole of Chicago now under his control, how far will Aiden go in the name of revenge? How far will you go? STORYLINE AND CHARACTERIZATION The story follows Aiden’s path of revenge as he tries to track the man responsible for the death of his niece, Lena Pearce. It takes the player on a journey through the shady world of Chicago where no one is what they seem. With the city being filled with philanthropists involved in human trafficking, gangs controlling illegal trades, corrupt cops and fixers who are willing to trade their morals for mullah, there’s bound to be bullets flying and batons clashing. With Aiden having full control over the city, the story is fast paced but yet it somehow fails to keep the player engaged with the ever so distracting Chicago brimming with tons of interesting and surprisingly detailed side content. THE GOOD The idea of hacking in an open world game was an innovative one and Ubisoft did a wonderful job of implementing it in the game. Ubisoft took a whole new approach to the open world genre, by trying to make Chicago more lively and realistic than any other in-game city. With the unique NPC profiling system, where every NPC has a unique persona, the city feels very much alive and humane. Not only that, but Ubisoft were clever enough to use hacking not only as a game play element but also as a central background theme to the narrative. Its almost a requirement for video games nowadays to perfectly balance storytelling with game play and Ubisoft made sure they did just that; the concept of hacking is beautifully integrated into both the game play and the narrative. And hence the story feels a bit more interesting than your average revenge story. The characters in the game are carefully constructed with their very own detailed personalities and the voice acting is pretty good although it could have been a lot better. Aiden, who knows humans as well as he knows computers, is a man with many flaws which makes him seem more human and less clichéd. Its a relief that Ubisoft didnt stereotype the whole ‘hacker’ dimension and modelled characters in a unique way. To sum it up, the storyline is ambitious and the characterization is pretty solid with every side character being able to hold his/her own ground. THE BAD When there is a huge amount of side content in a game, there is a risk that it might over shadow the main story missions and that is exactly what has happened in Watch Dogs. The main story isn’t strong enough to compete with the interesting and defined side content that is in the game. It fails to hold the attention of the gamer for more than a mission or two. Also, the story is not enjoyable if it isn’t played on a continuous run; take too long a break from the main story missions and you’ll have no idea what is happening in the game. Although, Ubisoft did a good job of integrating hacking into the storyline, sometimes it feels rather forced and unnecessary. There are whole chunks of the story which the game could have done without. The storyline tends to stray away from the main purpose way too often; most of the time you forget that your niece has been killed and you are doing these missions to find the man responsible. In an attempt to cover a wide ground Ubisoft ended up stretching the story to such a point where the story feels ‘too much work’ for the gamer. GAMEPLAY An open world game, by definition, has a lot of game play aspects and endless possibilities. Add to that the ability to hack any electronic device in the game; the thought itself is orgasmic. But does it live up to the expectations? THE GOOD The first thing you will notice when you start playing this game is the high number of points of interest that are on the map of Chicago. The amount of content in this game is mind boggling. The side missions are very detailed and unique. With digital trips that cause weird yet graphically amazing hallucinations to AR games to fixer contracts, the world of Watch Dogs is filled with a variety of game play content. Add to these mini games like chess and drinking; side content in a game has never felt better. Also the ctOS’s crime detection system, which systemically predicts crimes that are going to happen, gives the gamers a chance to be the vigilante they have always wanted to be. The gamer gets a chance to stop a crime before its even happened ( yea, you finally get to live your dream of being Tom Cruise ) and the fact that its systemic ( completely random ) makes it even more fun. And it never gets too repetitive as the victim and the perpetrator are always different people with different personas and the chase with the perp always adapts itself to its surroundings. Also, the shady world of Chicago is filled with criminal gangs that need a lesson to be taught and criminal convoys that need to be stopped and although these might sound repetitive, they are fun as there is a lot of game play freedom and each situation can be handled differently; you can go in by hacking the cameras, jumping off one camera to another, locating the target and taking him out by overloading a fuse box, or you could go in stealthily taking out each and everyone out till the target is the only one left with no idea that his whole gang is down. And if everything else fails, there is the always the option to go in guns blazing. Chicago is filled with gun shops and pawn brokers and there is no shortage of money as you can always hack into the bank accounts of the unsuspecting citizens of Chicago who always seem like they have something to hide. The profiler app in your in-game mobile helps the gamer get info on any citizen which makes the game feel more realistic and human. But to gain access to this info, the gamer first needs to unlock the ctOS towers which are similar to the outposts in Far Cry 3. Taking over these towers are fun as they can be approached in multiple ways but it’s a pity that there are only 6 towers and the fun ends before it even begins. No review of Watch Dogs is ever going to be complete without the mention of its awesome hacking mechanism. Hacking is the most important game play element in this game and Ubisoft have nailed that part. With the ability to hack any kind of electronic device from things like a pace maker of a heart patient to traffic lights, draw bridges and the ever famous L train, at any moment in the game, a whole new dimension is added to the game play freedom. There are missions which can be completed by standing in a single place by hacking and jumping off from one camera to another; the number of possibilities is amazing and the credit goes to the meticulous level designing. It was good thinking on Ubi’s side to not include the ability to shoot while driving as it would have made the point of hacking traffic lights and draw bridges or blockers etc while driving moot. The online one on one hacking is a whole new experience; its like nothing you have ever seen before. The aspect of someone seamlessly ( without any loading screen ) hacking into your game is a bit un settling and fun. Inspired from the multiplayer of the AC series, the online experience is a must for every gamer as it gives each and every gamer their own unique experience to share. THE BAD Although the side content is fun, the main story missions fall short on variety. Many of the missions feel repetitive. The driving mechanism is below par and is sometimes a bother given that a significant portion of the game play is based on bringing down target vehicles. Also the lack of realistic car damage spoils the pleasure of cinematically taking down a target vehicle. Its disappointing that weapon customization is totally absent from the game. Granted that the game depends on hacking and stealth but still, the lack of customization is a real let down for the trigger happy gamer. Its surprising that there is no option to replay the story missions. Ubisoft should have included it and the lack of this option further reduces the already minute replay value. Watch Dogs has a morale system that judges you based on your actions in free roam rather than the story based choices and hence it fails to make its presence known. Given that there are a lot of hacking options in the game, a bit more of variety in hacking was expected given the hype that the game was given and the reputation that the developer holds. To wrap it up, a bit more of variety in game play could have made this game a lot more fun. GRAPHICS AND ENVIRONMENT Almost every gamer who paid even the slightest attention to Watch Dogs pre release publicity must be familiar with the whole ‘graphics downgrade’ fiasco. But keeping all the false promises and misleads aside, the game looks decent; decent but not good. There are moments where it feels like the graphics could have been better. The interiors are better than the outdoors although there aren’t too many interiors and the textures vary from place to place. All in all, the graphics were good for what they were but could have been a whole lot better given all the time the devs took and all the promises they made. The environments are well detailed and the ever so humane NPC’s make Chicago even livelier. Gamers couldn’t have asked for a better Chicago and the absence of loading screens makes it even more enjoyable. MUSIC The music is different and matches the tone of the game. There is a touch of techno in the background scores which fits in perfectly with the theme of the game. Apart from the soundtrack, there are a wide range of songs available on your phone and in the in-game radio, which are easy on the ears but none of the songs seem to fit the game mood. The selection of songs is un-satisfactory to say the least and one would rather keep the radio permanently off in this game. FINAL VERDICT Watch Dogs is an ambitious game and almost manages to pull it off. Its got its flaws, but the game has to be appreciated for its ambition, its innovative idea and implementation. For a new IP, this game has done tremendously well and is recommended to all open world enthusiasts and hackers alike. At first notice Watch Dogs looks like an average 7, but with the amount of content thats in this game, it easily deserves a 8. People might argue that it has a low replay value but when the game boasts a game play length of about a 100 hrs ( including the side missions ) who needs a replay value? My Score: 8.4/10