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The original Watch Dogs turned heads during its preview at E3 2012. Everyone looked to as a marvel, the next step forward in video games. When the game debuted, however, it fell short of reaching expectations. The original Watch Dogs failed to give players the hacking fantasy they envisioned, feeling uninspired and rough around the edges. Watch Dogs 2 moves the series forward by putting hacking in the forefront. With this new focus, Watch Dogs 2 is every bit the game that the original wanted to be.
Set in the lovely San Francisco area, Watch Dogs 2 casts players as a new hacker, Marcus Holloway. After infiltrating a ctOS headquarters, Marcus erases his identity and becomes the newest member of the DedSec hacker group. With his new friends in tow, Marcus and his crew attempt to expose the truths of the controlled society – all with the power of his godlike smartphone. Marcus is a step up from the empty personality of Aiden Pierce (the first game’s hero), even though he has his own issues. Marcus is designed to have a strong sense of justice, but his actions contradict his goal. His actions tend to come off more as a prankster or a delinquent instead of a legitimate hero. Although the theme of exposing corruption is timely, its expression through Marcus can be off-putting at times.
Hacking is overall improved this time around, giving players plenty of ways to cause havoc. Players can control nearly anything like crane for finding new paths around the environment to someone’s phone causing minor distractions. Performing these quick hacks are easy and makes the mechanic feel super accessible. Players can also go deeper by luring enemies to imploding fuse boxes or destroying a facility’s light system creating a stealth opportunity. During car chases, players can cause vehicles to lose control for an amusing way to lose pursuers. Watch Dogs 2 gives players enough creative freedom to complete any scenario whichever way they please. This sense of variety and seeing your crazy ideas turn successfully making you feel powerful, giving players a sense that anything is possible.
Along with the reworked hacking system, players are introduced to a flying drone and tiny remote-controlled car to help with missions. These gadgets let players reach new heights and sneak into impassable areas. Both are incredibly helpful, such as distracting enemies and gaining access to hackable devices. I would often use the RC car to sneak in through small holes and scope out the area before I ran in. If an area didn’t have any means of distraction I would use the RC car’s distract feature, causing it to shout profanity in a British accent. Missions can be complete without using these new toys, but using them makes for an entertaining venture.
As for combat, Marcus has a multiple options whenever a fight breaks out. Marcus has a weighted ball on a string that he uses to silently takeout enemies. Melee is best used out of sight, because players can easily be trapped in an animation leaving you vulnerable. Players also have access to a non-lethal stun gun along with numerous lethal weapons like machine guns and pistols. There is no repercussions for a lethal versus nonlethal approach, which raises the question as to why give two options.
Weapons just feel incredibly out of place in the narrative sense of the game. In the original Watch Dogs, it made sense since Aiden became this vigilante throughout his story. In Watch Dogs 2, it’s strange to have a shootout because I don’t see Marcus having the need for a weapon at all. Marcus is this happy prankster that wants to stop corrupt corporations by using his hacking techniques, why is there any need for a lethal approach? The stealthy approach that uses hacking makes for a more enthralling and entertaining experience.
Your main goal throughout the game is to gain as many DedSec followers as possible. Gaining followers gives DedSec the processing power to fight off one evil corporation after another using their own app. This leads to every action and mission netting players more followers, which means both more power and furthering the plot. Small actions like taking selfies in graffiti filled alleys and completing off-road races can give players more followers and rewards. Silly sequences like stealing a talking car from a famous film and driving it around town making headlines often prove to be entertaining. As the game progresses, Watch Dogs 2 tackles heavier topics, like rigging elections giving players plenty of different types of missions both silly and mature.
Hacking invasions return, which make for fun games of hide-and-seek. Players can either find the hacker stealing your data or become the hacker themselves. These provide fun diversions and give Watch Dogs 2 a casual sense of competitive play. Along with invasions, players can also partake in co-op matches. These missions are fun and can be played solo or with a friend. It’s fun coordinating with a teammate while one sneaks into a facility and the other spots enemies.
Watch Dogs 2 is a lot more of the same, but addresses many of it’s issues and fixes them. Putting hacking in the forefront was a smart choice. It’s a step in the right direction and puts Watch Dogs back on the map. Hacking is everything here, and being in control of everything makes for a fun and crazy experience.