Watch Dogs 2 is an open world action-adventure video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. The sequel to very well received 2014’s Watch Dogs. It was released worldwide for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows in November 2016.
Watch Dogs 2
Series: Watch Dogs
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (tested), Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Developers: Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Bucharest, Ubisoft Reflections, Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft Toronto
The original Watch Dogs was a great game and also very well received. That urban open-world experience very similar to GTA and Saints Row mixed with a geeky and technological know-how was very appealing. It started a series that would try to expose the flaws of a futuristic city while focusing heavily on what smart but simple individuals can do in it.
In Watch Dogs 2, we play as Marcus Holloway. Our very first task is to hack ctOS 2.0’s servers. The system labeled us as high risk for criminal activity, even though we didn’t commit the robbery we are accused of. We get in, we remove our criminal records, but then we decide to do something more, something that struck me like very cool and original: we erase our entire profile and make a new one. This is how we create our own avatar in Watch Dogs 2. Oh, and we place a backdoor in the system for future purposes. This “test” proved us worthy of hacker group DedSec’s attention, and now we act as one of its core members as they attempt to take down the entire system.
The story may not be anything new or revolutionary. It is based on a group of rebels who want to take down evil and high-powered corporations. But it works, because it tries a different approach. We are not super heroes. We don’t have super powers. We don’t have access to high tech weapons or vehicles. Instead, we are super geeks. We know how to hack pretty much everything in the ultra-connected city of San Francisco where the Internet of Things boom provides connectivity capabilities to pretty much every single device. On top of that, Ubisoft Montreal goes a long way to tell a good tale, in a good way. The story is full of colorful, identifiable and interesting characters. Each one has joined DedSec for a reason; every character has been wronged or hurt in some way. Each one is interesting, well developed, and has something to say. Each one specializes in something and you get to care about them. They’re unheard and marginalized minorities. And each of them have the knowledge to make a change with a smartphone or a computer.
Watch Dogs 2 is also bigger and better. It doesn’t do much to the original mechanics, but the little changes just work. Every action, every side quest, every little task feels like you are becoming better and more important. The game floods you with resources for new vehicles, outfits and equipment. The futuristic city of San Francisco feels like a huge playground, where every single device is there just for you to mess with. You are constantly earning research points, which in turn help you to improve your skills to hack more and better. You are constantly acquiring more followers, which is some sort of progress bar that gives you the power and reputation to confront and tackle Blume and ctOS 2.0. You are constantly growing, your organization is always getting bigger and better, and it feels like the recreated San Francisco is an awesome place to toy around with.
Watch Dogs 2 also features, like most games from Ubisoft, tons of additional things to do in the city. The map is constantly alerting you of new events and things to collect or do. There is a viciously amount of little side missions or opportunities to pick up a little extra reward on your way to and from missions. Hacking abilities have been further expanded, allowing you to mix and match play styles to become an aggressor, trickster, or ghost. In the end, though, you can do whatever you want. You can restart missions and challenges to try different approaches and that won’t cripple your progression. You can also get anywhere you need via several methods, thanks to an immediately available on-demand app and already-unlocked fast travel options.
And that takes us to the very best thing of Watch Dogs 2: The User Interface and how we interact with our avatar. In the era of Big Data, we have a ridiculous amount of information available for us, and it only goes bigger as we unlock new apps in our smartphone. Nudle Maps always has a mini-map in the lower left corner, giving you a good look at the area. Bringing up information on people gives you a crisp, clear window. Hacking offers a menu with easily recognizable icons, so you always know what your button presses will do. Your phone has all the apps perfectly organized, so you can do what you need to. You can easily identify every objective or item in an area. It’s a well laid-out game.
Unfortunately, not everything is perfect. The game doesn’t feel balanced, which I would attribute to the vast amount of available options we have all the time. You can succeed pretty much in all missions in your first try, since hacking cameras to recognize NPC patterns is trivial. Hacking a door is trivial. Handling robots is also trivial. Luring the police or gangs to get in somewhere is trivial. Messing up vehicles and the city itself is trivial. The drone, the jumper, distracting enemies, disabling security protocols, everything in the game has been fine tuned to be easy for you to mess with, which in the end, is fun, but also too easy. Every vehicles’ traits, such as speed, handling, and durability are easier. It is also easier to hack while driving. I never felt there was a difficult mission for me to prove what I learned. Instead, I felt there was an increasing amount of options to try different stuff, which is also good, since it increases the replay value, if you don’t mind the lack of difficulty. And, if get someone to do a cooperative mission, it only makes things even easier.
Watch Dogs 2 is bigger and better than the sequel. It is more enjoyable, very well designed and full of interesting characters to meet and talk to. It doesn’t revolutionize the open-world genre, but is one of the titles the genre has to offer.