Over this weekend I accomplished one task, that task being finishing up the story campaign in Watch Dogs. To be honest I didn’t keep track of how many hours I have invested in the game, but probably not as much as I’d like to think. I’m not sure how well the game is currently doing ratings wise, but from what I’ve heard people are saying they feel a bit let down by the game. Personally I enjoyed the game, but you only ever seem to hear the negative reviews because the other people are to busy enjoying the game.
Now a bit of a disclaimer, I played the PS4 version of the game so I can’t attest to any PC / XBox One issues or graphical quality. I also didn’t watch much of the initial E3 demo from when the game was announced so I have no personal opinion about the supposed graphical tune-down that people are complaining about.
I thought about doing a Good/Bad series of posts like I did with ESO but I frankly have very few problems with the game. Not enough to warrant a second post. With E3 this week I imagine some of the rest of this week will be devoted to talking about stuff coming out of that.
So on to the review….Finally (I’ve been wanting to write this but wanted to finish first).
The story to this game is fairly straightforward, and goes by quickly. I believe the story itself is only composed of 45 missions, some very quick and some kind of drawn out. These missions are probably your typical Assassins Creed / GTA fare in that there is some missions where you’re tailing people and there are some that involve lots of driving around. That’s a bit of a broad generalization though, but really the missions are fun more often then they aren’t.
Some of the missions feel a bit unbalanced though, especially when you have to deal with a “boss” fight. Granted there are probably only two times in the game I would consider it a “boss” fight because in those two instances you have to deal with a very heavily armored person and the difficulty is based solely on the weapons that you have available to you. If you happen to have IED’s or a grenade launcher they’re not too difficult. If you don’t, well, it’s gonna take awhile. This is what happened to me on the first of the two, in that all I had at the time was what I had picked up in the area. The second time I had full access to all my stuff so after a few failed attempts I just started lobbing IED’s at the guy to take him down.
The only missions that I felt were slightly annoying were the ones with car chases. To me these were a mixture of fun and aggravating due to the controls in the game which I’ll discuss in a bit. Most of the infiltration type missions give you the option to run in shooting or go in stealthy using distractions and non-lethal take downs to get around. I felt this was where I really enjoyed the game, as each building and guard pattern provided a different challenge. These were especially tricky when you had to guide an NPC character out of harms way.
As to the story content, it is kind of predictable in the sense that a couple of the “big reveals” were not all that shocking. This was no “he was dead the whole time” , out of left field type shocking twists. I kind of had a hard time liking the main character because he’s a bit of a jerk to the people around him. I understood the motivations of the character enough to understand you’re not exactly supposed to like him. He’s a guy who feels guilty over something that happens early in the story and decides to go all Punisher on the evil corporation that is spying on everyone.
To end the story discussion, I’ve heard this game called “sequel bait” meaning that this game was done solely to ensure that there would be sequels. I don’t necessarily agree with that assessment. I can see the possibility of there being sequels, but I don’t feel they are necessary. The story of Aiden Pearce is wrapped up by the end of the game, and all the information is given to the player. If you were to have a sequel, it could easily be done with other characters.
The controls on the game are very easy to pick up and possibly one of the easiest to pick up and remember. Most of the game only involves 6 different buttons and 3 of those are for combat. I thought the controls worked fine out of vehicle, targeting was easy and I never had any issues with responsiveness. The only problems I had were vehicular controls. And that is to say the cars handle like crap.
The game has your typical driving controls, but I never could quite get the hang of high speed sharp turns. More often than not I found myself crashing in to the buildings or just stopping completely. They felt a bit better in the more open areas, but in the main city areas it was almost impossible to take a corner. Now this could have been the vehicle physics being too accurate, because some of the cars did seem to handle a bit better than others.
Talent System /Skill Trees
As you progress through the game you acquire skill points that you can place in any of four different skill sets, hacking, combat, driving and consumables. By the end of the game I had enough skill points to have every single talent (except one so far). Early in the game you have to pick and choose, but as you do more side activities this becomes less and less of an issue. The only problem here is that most of these talents are pointless. The ones I was mainly concerned with were the hacking tools, which you have to unlock to do all the really awesome take downs you see advertised, or the combat talents which allow you to deal and take more damage.
There are not really a ton of driving missions so the driving talents probably only mean things to online players, or players who are always being pursued by the in game police. The consumables are useful, but after a certain point in the game you open up a shop where you can just buy everything you want so you don’t even have to craft them anymore, which defeats the purpose of talents to craft them.
The combat in this game is a mixture of fun and exciting to incredibly simple. One of the first talents I picked up was called “Focus” which basically slows down time and allows you to get a better shot at an enemy (see GTA V or Red Dead Redemption). This made most fights laughably easy as all you had to do was wait for enemies to start shooting and then slow down time and pop them with a head shot. The combat only gets frustrating when you are dealing with an overwhelming number of enemies that do a very good job at trying to flank you. There were a number of missions I had to restart because I got in over my head.
Another aspect of the combat was the cover system. Now, the cover system is essential, and I think without it combat would have been impossible, but it had some serious issues. Namely, you’re character might hit cover that isn’t really effective. This is only really an issue when you try to move from cover to cover though, as sometimes you will hit the cover on the wrong side essentially letting yourself get shot up until you move. The other part of the cover system that I don’t think really worked was related to the camera. If you had to manually get away from cover due to enemies closing in or the amazingly accurate grenade tosses you are pretty screwed. You can’t easily disengage from cover which leads to some pretty stupid deaths.
The funniest part of the combat is that you can pretty much get through the entire game, with the exception of boss fights unless you’re really good, with the starter silenced pistol. To be honest, I did all of one group of side missions to unlock a silenced automatic rifle just to change things up a bit. Any enemy short of the bosses or heavily armored guards can be taken down with a headshot. So if you’re stealthing around you can wipe out every enemy without ever being noticed.
To be honest I really enjoyed the voice acting of the main characters, though to be honest I think the best voiced character is one that you only really see at the beginning and ending of the game. Without giving spoilers, one of the side activities involves learning his motivations in the events that lead your character down the path of the Punisher. The actor does an amazing job and you wind up feeling bad for him. Now this is purely optional dialogue and it has no bearing on the story that I could tell, but I found myself being a bit sympathetic to the guy even though he isn’t a very present character.
There is a lot to do in this game. Personally I like that there is a lot to do, even if a good portion of the things are just there as a means to add more play time. You have a wide variety of side missions to do ranging from protecting civilians to hunting down a human trafficking ring. Probably the most enjoyable missions were the gang hideouts that involved lots of stealth and lots of shooting when you screwed that up. The only problem is that some of these require you to do something like 20-40 missions to get the trophy/achievements and by the time you’re halfway there you don’t care anymore. I feel a lot of these activities are just there for completionists like myself who want to get 100%. The problem is once you get to your goal you don’t care anymore because they were just a means to an end.
That is more noticeable in the gambling mini games because all you have to do is meet the goal once or twice. After that I didn’t feel like there was any point to them. Now, I’ll admit I haven’t finished all of these yet, because there are a lot of them to do. And I’ll admit to the fact that I spent 3 hours at a poker table trying to clear the table for the achievement. This is why I don’t gamble outside of video games. And for all I said about the repetitiveness I still find all these missions fun and enjoyable.
Vigilante System aka Reputation
Part of this game revolves around the way the public perceives your character. Are you the justified vigilante, or are you an anarchist trying to take down the system. Your reputation goes up as you stop crime, or take down bad guys, but goes down if you kill cops or drive through crowded streets mowing down the pedestrians. If the people like you they are less inclined to call the police as you mind your own business but if you are a threat you’re more than likely going to have a much more difficult time in playing the game. Personally I was playing to the good guy, my reputation bar was almost entirely filled on the positive side. The only time pedestrians were injured was during a car chase where I missed the corner and couldn’t stop.
Hacking System aka Aiden Pearce is a jerk
The main focus of the game is hacking the system, fighting the power, taking down the man. This is accomplished through hacking the system. Now the overall hacking is boiled down to puzzles to get around system firewalls or used to evade the police or stop people that you are chasing. But this is also the main means of earning money in the game. You use the profiling system to basically hack npc bank accounts and take there money. If you take the time to actually read some of the profiles of the people you’re stealing from however you might feel a bit guilty about this.
In more than one instance I found myself taking money from npc’s whose descriptions stated “recently unemployed” or having incomes below what would be considered the poverty line. And essentially you are taking all of their savings. Now, this is optional, you don’t have to do this. You can only take money from what they call “rich bank accounts” or npc’s whose income shows six figures, but early in the game you feel like you need the money to buy better stuff.
Moral of the story
This game has one heck of a moral to it, and that is how much can we trust any system that can see everything we do. Even if that system might have good intentions how easily can it be used inappropriately. This becomes more evident as you progress through the main story but also as you do some of the “privacy invasion” side missions that involve you hacking in to everyday peoples homes and watching their personal lives. Some are highly amusing, but some make you as the player feel guilty about your actions.
Granted one of the more amusing ones is when you’re obviously hacking in to a kinect camera and the people inside are talking about how someone could be watching them work out.
Oh and Aisha Tyler talking about farting.
If you want to see some of the gameplay for this game you can check out my twitch page, it should still be up. I don’t have a PS4 mic so there is no voice. But you can see examples of the side missions and part of the story. I tried to not record story as I don’t like giving away spoilers.
Oh so final thoughts? I absolutely enjoyed this game. I still want to get 100% on it, currently sitting at about 70% I think.