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Ever since the numerous delays and lackluster trailers, Watch Dogs has taken a rather large hit as far as fandom goes. What once was one of the most anticipated games had withered into just another game to play on our new consoles. Thankfully, the large dump of info just released for Watch Dogs has ignited some of that lost excitement with some great looking visuals and interesting mechanics.
One of the serious issues with one trailer in particular was how it was shot, the display of story beats and its graphical fidelity. It showed off a rather ho-hum looking story with what seemed to be a massive downgrade in visuals. While the footage doesn’t look as great as its initial debut (most likely PC footage) the game does look substantially better than what was shown in the story trailer. The game seemed to shine and look alive while keeping a stable framerate during the quiet and hectic moments.
On top of that, a few mechanics stood out to me as really interesting and unique. The one that caught my attention the most was the idea of stealth driving. It sounds silly when I write it out but I instantly had flashbacks to great car chase films that used this very tactic such as Drive. Being able to pull into a dark alley and shut off your lights and engine to avoid the law is such a simple idea but a really awesome one at that. Second of all is really what Watch Dogs has been pushing all along, the idea of connection. By the simple tap of a button you can pull up your phone and instantly get data on just about everyone you walk by. Where they live, what their income is, and even read some text messages while you’re at it. Creepy? Yeah a bit, but this is also how some of the side missions get dished out. You may just be reading a live text conversation that indicates something going down like someone planning to commit arson. These could get repetitive quickly but hopefully there is enough variety to keep us interested in the long term. I’m sure there are actual side missions to behold here, the crazy “digital drug” trip just to name one, the former just seems like random events that have become standard in most open world games.
With an infinite connection, Ubisoft has stated that we will be able to interact with the environment in numerous ways and that surely seems to be the case. From detonating a bomb in mid-air to changing traffic lights and raising bridges, there seem to be countless things to interact with your handy dandy smart phone. Some of it looks kind of arbitrary sure, being able to self destruct a helicopter or gas tank is really pushing the limits but hey, we have smart thermostats now so who’s to say what’s crazy and what’s not.
However, the new footage did have some faults I wanted to cover, mainly the shooting. The action in the trailer looked fine, but that’s about it, just fine. It just looked kind of standard and a bit stiff if I am being completely honest. The guns sounded alright and being able to bring up cover and such with your smartphone will add some variety, but the basics of shooting didn’t stand out. A lot of open world games for me have this issue of sub-par action and sadly I did not see really any difference here. Of course things are bound to change once my hands are on the controller, but I was left a bit unimpressed.
Lastly, the core multiplayer made its debut and it fell a bit short. While being able to “hack” into players games is a cool idea, the rest seemed to be pretty standard fare open world multiplayer. As I said before, the shooting looks uninteresting and to implement that for multiplayer seems kind of like a slog and doesn’t interest me in the slightest. It also seems to be a bit less seamless than I had previously imagined, you are prompted when someone is invading your game and it’s not just melded together like say Need For Speed: Rivals was.
The app launching along with Watch Dogs however did strike me as a really fun tool for destruction. The best part is you don’t even need to own a copy of the game to wreck havoc in someone’s world! Players on phones or tablets show up as a small helicopter in people’s games that can make life a living nightmare; Especially during hot purist by tossing up road blocks and other nefarious tools to stop the player in their tracks. It is a really neat idea and in a way kind of fits into this whole “connected” theme Ubisoft is striving for.
I am really glad to come from all of this with my chin up and smile on my face. Issues still linger with the story and general shooting mechanics but who knows, maybe they both could surprise us when the game is actually released. We still have another month to truly see if the game stands on its own, but things are looking up after what we’ve all seen.