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Watch Dogs review: Meet the new open world game, same as the old open world game (but with hacking)

Hayden Dingman | May 28, 2014
Watch Dogs is beautiful, but it doesn't do anything to change up the same core game we've seen since Grand Theft Auto III. This game is "next-gen" in the looks department only.

The hacking's an interesting twist the first few times you use it, but the shooting in Watch Dogs is just as subpar as I've come to expect from open-world games.

On a smaller scale, Watch Dogs takes up residence in Chicago. Commendations to those who recreated Chicago--I don't know the city as well as, say, Los Angeles, but Watch Dogs sells its incarnation of Chicago hard. One of my favorite features ended up being the in-game take on Foursquare; you can "check in" at landmarks and in the process receive a brief history lesson about the location. It's a more logical version of Assassin's Creed's locale data, which I've always enjoyed.

But the overarching story in Watch Dogs is just bland. Aiden Pearce, a hacker/criminal, is on a quest for vengeance after a job gone wrong left his niece dead. It's a tale that's been told and retold so many times you can see the footprints all across its face.

It's not that a tale retold is necessarily bad. Heck, it's video games. Most of our stories are middling at best--and it's here that Watch Dogs resides. Aiden Pearce and his self-righteous quest for revenge (tinged every once in a while with "Oh no, what have I done?") is the most boring story since Assassin's Creed III's tale of Connor, who was on a quest for vengeance after some other MacGuffin left his mother dead.

Along the way, relationships will be betrayed and secrets revealed and plot twists unveiled with all the hitting power of a foam baseball bat, as most "twists" are telegraphed hours ahead of time. Characters you're never given a reason to care about have things happen to them. Occasionally you'll forget a character's name. Sometimes bad things happen and the sad music starts playing.

I just don't even know what to say about Watch Dogs. The game is long to start with, feels somehow even longer, and at the end you're left with an utterly forgettable storyline and a handful of amazing "Remember when that street blew up?" moments.

Always online
The other differentiating factor with Watch Dogs is the online component. The most obvious of these is the "Hacking" sidequest.

Once in a while you'll trigger a bounty on your head, allowing other players to invade your game and try to steal your information. You, in return, are charged with killing them before they can escape. Invaders must blend with the crowd of computer-controlled characters, allowing them to meld into the crowd and evade notice. Of course, this also works in reverse; you can invade other players' games and do the same.

It's an interesting mechanic that I mostly found myself annoyed by--the missions always seemed to trigger right when I was in the middle of something important, like trying to unlock the next ctOS tower. Next thing I knew someone had invaded and I'd need to stop what I was doing, take care of the problem, and then try to resume my earlier actions.

 

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