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Watch Dogs!

The brand new IP has arrived to much hype, but will the new brand be able to have a breakout debut on next gen consoles?

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Big Brother: Aside from Watch Dogs, often stylized as "WATCH_DOGS", being an intensely anticipated title that was delayed multiple times, the game has received a lot of attention and hype for its unique but very down-to-earth concept that drives the plotline.

With a super-connected city of Chicago utilizing a "CTOS" system that analyzes, tracks and compiles data on all of its citizens and links the entire city's infrastructure together, groups of hackers within the city have begun attacking the system and causing havoc.

A startling realistic scenario considering the "hacktivist" movements that currently take place constantly in the real world, Watch Dogs does a great job of picking apart the finer details of hacking and the different reasons people have for doing it.

With that said, the hacking is just one of two prime narratives that follow concurrently alongside the revenge aspect as the main protagonist Aiden Pearce is on the hunt for the men who put a hit out on him but unintentionally murdered his niece instead.

The storyline is actually very compressive and the depth at which it goes into, particularly in uncovering the conspiracies, cover-ups and intricacies of the inner workings of the hacking community, is surprisingly immense. Over the course of the game you will discover small pieces of a variety of puzzles via the form of primarily audio files and conversations with your contacts in the hacking community and although you always have the option to skip the conversations, the plot is engrossing enough that you listen to even seemingly minute details with interest.

The World Is Your Oyster: As far as the gameplay is concerned, the primary focus of Watch Dogs, unsurprisingly, is the innovative hacking system that allows you to manipulate the city in your favor. With the use of your infinitely useful smartphone and the various apps on it, you will spend much of your initial time hacking into random people's phones, listening into their conversations and transferring some funds from their bank accounts into your own.

Most of the conversations you tap into are meaningless, albeit entertaining (although you will find some conversations repeated by "different" citizens only a couple hours into the game) but some of them will even lead to special side missions that involve you intercepting stashed away goods or funds from (attempted) criminal exchanges.

In fact, a vast majority of your time will be spent completing the numerous side missions that are brought to your attention as you traverse the city. Prime objectives such as "CTOS Towers", which, when hacked into, open the world up and unveil more activities (much like viewpoints in the Assassin's Creed franchise) are typically what you may be heading towards but you're very likely to be distracted along the way.

Attacking criminal hideouts and convoys and detecting, anticipating and eventually stopping random crimes will take you off of your initial objective quite often. As you progress through the game and complete more of the campaign you will unlock even more side missions to pull your attention away from more significant matters and the length of the game is extended immensely because of the various random tasks you will find yourself undertaking.

As you become more adept at hacking, you will also be able to spend more time delving into utilizing your technological tools to evade the police. Attracting the attention of the local police force can be troublesome indeed, as even on "Easy" difficulty they do tend to pursue you vigilantly and with vigor, but the use of your hacking abilities eases your escape.

Finely timing the change of stop lights to cause cars to wreck into the cops, raising blockers and barriers in front of your pursuers after you cross them and blowing up steam pipes and other environmentally destructive objects will allow you to leave a trail of destruction in your wake and, hopefully, get you off scot-free.

From Neophyte To Elite: A few hours into the game, after completing some early campaign missions, you will open up more of the world and be freer to upgrade and explore as you please. Most notably is the unleashing of your upgrading possibilities to improve your skills and talents.

Choosing from three categories (Combat, Driving and Hacking), you will be able to refine and progress your abilities in each category and eventually turn yourself into a dynamic force of nature. Combat skills are pretty standard fare as you will be able to decrease recoil on your guns and do things like improve resistance to bullets and explosions.

Even the "Driving" category has fairly common traits in it such as the vehicles being able to absorb more punishment and do more damage when ramming other cars and the only really nifty ability that feels necessary to unlock is the "Car Unlock", which disables alarms and automatically unlocks doors to any car you want.

However, the "Hacking" line of abilities is quite unique, as expected, and is undoubtedly the most useful of all. As you progress through the line you will be able to command trains, bridges, road spikes, blockers, traffic lights, disable police helicopters, cause entire blackouts in the city, jam communications for your enemies, automatically highlight rich citizens (with loaded bank accounts that are waiting to be siphoned) and much more.

These tools also help immensely when attacking the many missions you will dive into, as you are often given the ability to approach a task with stealth, brute force or a mixture of the two. Although it can be tempting to jump into every situation with a big gun and a lot of bullets, the fact of the matter is that it is more rewarding and certainly more satisfying to tackle a mission with as much finesse as possible.

Silenced pistols, silent takedowns with your trust Asp (retractable baton), hacking various objects to distract, hurt or flat out blow up your enemies and a lot of sneaking around can be utilized to complete missions, as you slowly work your way through an intimidating group of enemies.

The finer subtleties of hacking and blending those skills in with regular combat and driving takes time to learn and perfect but is a welcome challenge as you feel satisfied as your skills expand and improve.

A Perfect Mess: In terms of the other aspects of Watch Dogs, the visuals and the online portion, there are many inconsistencies and flat out disappointments, particularly when you're talking about the multiplayer.

As far as the more aesthetic aspects of the title are concerned, both the voice acting and graphics showcased are quite impressive and although you don't quite see Metal Gear Solid 4 cut scene-quality in Watch Dogs (and to be fair, who can match those cut scenes in regular gameplay?), you will see a finely detailed city as well as well modeled characters.

There are some occasional clipping issues that occasionally pop up, even in cut scenes where you will see characters magically drive their hand through another persons arm. That being said, most of the time everything blends together well and the meticulous detail at which the city of Chicago was modeled is an impressive feat to say the least (even if mountains are strangely added into the landscape, despite their omission in the real life Windy City).

The online, however, is a far less impressive venture and one that you will be lucky to even get a chance to experience. Marred with connectivity issues, broken utilization of "uPlay" and a strangely reoccurring issue of being unable to "find" any online matches, in any of the available modes, Watch Dogs has struggled to get its online capabilities off the ground since launch.

Although the premise of finding a data objective, securing it and protecting it from other players while you simultaneously hack into it does sound appealing, as does the ability to explore the open world of Chicago with up to 7 other players, the fact of the matter is that, when the game manages to get you into a match, disappointment is quick to follow.

Following too closely in the vein of a traditional deathmatch style mode with a simple singular objective that acts as a magnet for players and their eventual death, the data encryption mode was one of the more notable modes heading into the launch.

A single objective is placed on the map and displayed plainly on the mini-map for all players to see. When the objective is picked up, it will slowly raise the encryption percentage from 0 to 100%, something that, in succession, still takes several minutes to complete.

If the wielder of objective is killed, it is allowed to be picked up by any of the other players and they begin the encryption process from where the last player left off. Now, while all of this is fine and well, the execution of the mode ultimately ends up being quite standard and rudimentary.

The hacking elements seen in the single player campaign are all but missing from the multiplayer, as opening gates and exploding small circuit boxes makes no impact on the fast paced, manic players in an actual match. What you are left with is a pretty typical, basic objective-chasing mode that quite literally has nearly nothing unique about it.

At some point the online connectivity is bound to smooth out but considering the hacking of other players and experiencing a unique take on typical "objective" based modes was a large selling point of Watch Dogs, I find myself immensely disappointed by the numerous troubles they have been experiencing.

Rent vs. Buy: All things considered though, Watch Dogs could very well be a single player-only title and still be a stellar and likely much needed addition to any gamer's collection. The hacking adds an innovative spin to an otherwise fairly standard fare title and plays a large enough role that you forget this title is, at its core, essentially like Grand Theft Auto V, with less mass murder and chaos.

The side missions alone will easily occupy you for extended periods of time in between the run-through of the fairly lengthy campaign and from start to finish you will likely be engrossed in the surprisingly deep storyline, which has another spin on the typical tale of revenge thanks to the seedy underbelly of the hacking community that is explored.

Report Card

All things considered though, Watch Dogs could very well be a single player-only title and still be a stellar and likely much needed addition to any gamer's collection. The hacking adds an innovative spin to an otherwise fairly standard fare title and plays a large enough role that you forget this title is, at its core, essentially like Grand Theft Auto V, with less mass murder and chaos. (Krakrabbit.com)


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