Watch Dogs. The oddest game I ever liked.
Watch Dogs as many great things going about it. The shooting is fun, the hacking is a great tool and never feels gimmicky, and the side quests are fantastic. As great as these big mechanics are that makes up the majority of the game. It is the smaller things that make Watch Dogs highly flawed.
You play as Aiden Pearce, a hacker that accidently uncovered something trying to take revenge on those that killed his niece. This includes going after a major mob boss in Chicago. I like the fact that Aiden is single instead of having the trope of having a family killed for revenge. This actually breaks up the trope of having someone have revenge on someone. The problem is that we never know about Lena Pearce. In fact, as distinctive of all the characters are, none of them stands out. They are just there to guide the story along. By the time, you meet them and until the end, you still do not know what drives them to do the things they do. If you are going to make a revenge tale, at least make all the characters interesting. They did try to have Aiden Pearce to look back at what he is becoming, but considering that he was already that person to begin with, it falls flat on the face.
The two major flaws this game has, it major and weakens the game. The driving in this game is horrible. You never feel like having control of the cars, and when you do have control the enemies that will try to spin you out when you are being chased. You could argue that they were trying to make it realistic, but that goes out the window because a small car can easily take out another car three times as big. Because of this, the immersion this game has breaks. You can call on a vehicle of your choosing, but not on a mission. The only vehicle that you can control is the motorcycles. The control in the motorcycles is excellent. It is a shame because when you really need one, there is not one in a close area. To make matters worse, the cops in this game are insane. I have never seen cops behave this way. They are tenacious and they are dangerous. It is good to have smart AI cops, but this is not smart. This is borderline cheating. You have to do some major twists and turns to avoid them, but the weight of the cars makes it more of a risk than reward. The best way to loose the cops is to use your hacks. IF they are not right up on you, which in most cases they are, you can lose them, but it will be frustrating to do so. They have caused me to kill more civilians than the regular enemies do. The sniper that is in a helicopter is impossibly good. Three good shots and you are down. You can try to disrupt the helicopter, but the camera will not go low enough to allow you to do that. It becomes too frustrating to the point where it is no longer fun. It is towards the end of the game where those frustrations become more common. If the driving was a lot better and the cops are not so insane, the game would have been great, game of the year even.
Those are the two major flaws. Another one is instant fail stealth missions. There is quite a bit of them. Thankfully, as long as you remain unseen, you can do whatever you want. You can even kill the guards if you wanted to. It is possible to complete some of the main missions without entering the building. This is where Watch Dogs shines. Taking advantage of the hacking is what makes Watch Dogs stand out. When it comes to hacking, this is where the true potential of Watch Dogs comes into play. Unfortunately, some of the missions will not have you hacking at all. As tight and fun the shooting is it does feel that the shooting was the main focus of the game. Aiden Pearce is NOT a bullet sponge. On normal, it feels like I am playing it on hard on other games. This was the most surprising to me. It does allow you to use hacking in a much better way because Aiden will be dropped in the first sign of trouble. You can go in guns blazing, or using stealth. I find using stealth to be much more rewarding because you are using both phone and gun at the same time. As much as there is instant fail missions, the checkpoint system is very generous at this regard. They do give you some leeway when it comes to those missions.
The true star, and the reason to play this game is the side quests and mini games. There is a LOT of them. Even the collectibles open up a mission after you find them all. It is very easy to lose yourself playing these quests. Sometimes they do not feel like quests at all. I cannot fathom how they did this. The side quests feel like they were better made than the main quests themselves. They are so good, in fact, that you can deal with the driving. They are that good. You do not even have to touch the main missions to get your monies worth. There are hours upon hours of fun to have. The side quests and mini games are worth the price alone.
The graphics look great, and while it did look better in that reveal a few years ago, it does not feel any less because of how open and alive Chicago is. Thanks to the hacking, you can see who everyone is and what he or she does. This makes Watch Dog’s open world feel more alive than most open world games. Watch Dogs looks great and it mostly plays great.
The online aspect of Watch Dogs is interesting. I like the cat and mouse aspect of hacking another player. I only had a couple of people invade my game, so I didn’t get to use the online that much. You can go in and “invade” someone yourself, but waiting for a player to hack took a bit to find. Instead of invading like in Dark Souls, it has this thing that pops up telling if you wanted to do an online game. Most of the time it feels like it is just races, but in time it can grow. This game lives and dies in its community. Thankfully, you can turn off the online aspect, but in doing so will reset all your online progress.
Watch Dogs has the potential to be something truly special. It has a decent story. Characters that are not interesting, but not bad. The side quests and mini games that are fantastic. Hacking that is fun to use and exploit. The driving and the cops are what keep this from being game of the year material. If Ubisoft decides to turn this into a franchise, they need to lay off the cops and make the driving feel tighter. I would love to see this franchise in its absolute potential. Watch Dogs 2 has the potential to being the next Assassin’s Creed II.