Watch Dogs 2

The original Watch Dogs game had mixed reviews, to say the least, with many considering the game to be boring and dry. But there were those who considered the expansive open-world gameplay to be great, with the main character lacking depth being the only downside to the game. Personally, I enjoyed the game immensely, and thought it was a well done story. But creating a sequel to Watch Dogs put Ubisoft in a pickle: trying to create a game whose predecessor is submerged in such a polarized opinion.

Watch Dogs 2 does actually manage to fix a lot of what was perceived to be wrong with the first game, but I expect there to be another polarization of opinions. This is unfortunate, as I would like to see more entries into the franchise.
Watch Dogs 2 sees the resurrection of Central Operating System (“ctOS”), which is the singular OS that controls all of San Francisco’s infrastructure, smart-tech and IoT devices. Blume Technologies is the company behind the OS and can be thought of as… Little Brother. The OS collects and misuses data for all types of illicit gain, and that’s where you and your rag-tag group of hackers come into play. To try and stop Little Brother.

The games open with our new protagonist, Marcus Holloway, breaking in to a Blume Technologies server farm in order to “audition” for DedSec, an elite hacking group. Marcus has been asked to delete his own digital profile from the servers. In doing so, DedSec comes to realize exactly how much data is being collected, and thus begins their journey to dismantle Little Brother.
DedSec is comprised of four other hackers aside from Marcus, and it becomes clear fairly quickly that even though Marcus is new to the group, he is the man that becomes the unofficial leader and front-man of the group. While each of the other members has a specific trait to define who they are, and how they can help you, it is apparent that Marcus isn’t just some coding nerd. He can hack with best, but he is also pretty adept with weapons. So multi-faceted.

The primary goal of WD2 is to take down Blume and ctOS; however, the game offers a ton of side missions along with plenty of online campaigns. Even that last sentence makes it feel like a cast understatement. If you choose to stick to only the primary campaign, the average gamer should be able to make it through in about 14~18 hours. So, if you truly want to experience the expansive open world of San Francisco offered by WD2, be prepared to devote a significant amount of time to the game.

While the story is linear, and fairly predictable, the execution of the missions is what really shines. You could choose to go in stealthy and complete a task, or just run in, guns a-blazing. Interestingly enough, it is completely possible to make it through the whole game without firing a single weapon on more than a handful of occasions. What was somewhat confusing, though, was that regardless of where and how you steal a car (parked car v. car jack), the cops never seem to really chase you. Same fot reckless driving. The NPCs are very quick to over-react to your fast, but (mostly) ordering driving, but drive onto the curb or even through a building and the cops don’t follow. If you do manage to get a police tail, it’s not all that easy to give them the slip.

It came as somewhat of a disappointment that despite being part of the DedSec crew, you cannot play as any character but Marcus. Though I see this as more allusion to the fact that Marcus is the brains and the muscle with the other DedSec members doing back-end work. Regardless, Marcus is a versatile character who is athletic, well versed with weapons, and clearly a good hacker. It kind of makes you wonder why he had to be given a test for initiation into the group.

Besides your laptop, you also have access to drones and rovers that do scouting, and even hacking, for you in places that you either can’t go into, or are too dangerous to step inside of. Every item in your inventory can be created using a custom 3D printer, which is already setup in DedSec’s base of operations. But everything is absurdly expensive. A sniper rifle costs north of $100,000. But do yourself a favor, save and by the drone first. You’ll thank me for that advice later.

WD2 feels fairly futuristic in its game play, but with a whole lot of eighties thrown in. The artwork feels akin to an eighties hacker movie, including a lot of references to the topic from that era. There’s also plenty of pot-shots taken at the modern-day scenarios, such as the Facebook fake news debacle and Martin Shkrelli trying to buy Kanye’s album so no one else can, just to give some examples. The game is chock-full of Easter Eggs, and anyone with any clue about nerdy pop-culture should be able to notice them.

Watch Dogs 2 offers a very healthy mix of side missions along with the primary objective. Side missions offer a good distraction, aside from possibly offering a deeper understanding of what it must be like to live in a city that basically run by a surveillance system. It offers insight into a life where technology has permeated into every facet of our lives and just how invasion of privacy is only the tip of the iceberg. If that sort of thing isn’t your bag, you could always just keep car-jacking people and driving manically around the city in cars that are very close to modern day vehicles, including Camaros, Ferraris, Harley Davidsons, and even the Toyota Prius. If land vehicles aren’t your thing, there’s always plenty of fast boats.
Watch Dogs 2 is the game the series should have started with. It is witty, fresh, and a punk-rock reimagining of the movie Hackers. The game is a little reminiscent of Sunset Overdrive, but, just like its predecessor, it has a very strong after-taste of GTA. The hacking sequences look absurd, but it only adds to the character of the game. The game is engrossing, despite a predictable story.

The game’s mechanics and controls do take a little getting used to at first, but once you grasp them, they are second nature. The thing that does take a while, though, is raking in enough money to purchase practically anything (useful) in the game.

All-in-all, Watch Dogs 2 is intensely engaging, offering you a variety of activity to fight off any boredom that could set in. Pick up Watch Dogs 2 on PC, Xbox One or PlayStation 4.


4 stars out of 5