The Open (And Mobile) World Of Watch Dogs

Watch Dogs may be the most anticipated game of the year and with good reason. I haven't seen a showing of this game — a demo, a trailer, anything — that didn't reinforce the game's potential for greatness. At E3 we sat down for a demo with the game. Then, afterwards, we saw a demo that we couldn't record. Both were among my highlights of E3.

The demo not featured in the video was billed as an 'open-world' demo. It was intended to show the non-mission side of Watch Dogs and replicate the kind of experience you'll be having outside of the game's main structure. It began in a less populated area of the game's version of Chicago, a poorer district with less technology and, hence, less potential for fancy mobile wizardry.

As a result the demo featured more of the gameplay we typically expect from open world games — shooting, hand to hand combat, exploration, driving — but it also provided an insight into how the game's systems worked in tandem. This was by far the most valuable part of the demo: the chance to see how Watch Dogs hung together as an experience. I was not disappointed.

The open world experience of any games lives and dies on its options. What are the possibilities? What options does the game provide you with to achieve any given task? In order to spread the reach of your protagonist's mobile technology and grant him the ability to mess with tech in any given district, players must hack into a mainframe in each specific area — it's the Watch Dogs equivalent of synchronisation points in Assassin's Creed or scaling the radio towers in Far Cry 3.

These mainframes are usually heavily guarded. You can shoot your way through if you must, but watching as the Ubisoft rep cruised through in an agile (and clearly planned) fashion really gave a feel for the vast array of options availble. You can scope out situations, mess with the environment and — in general — plan out a slick assault on these areas. The game genuinely allows you to 'perform'.

But it's the accessibility of the systems that is perhaps most impressive. Options unique to Watch Dogs hover over objects you can interact with using your phone — cameras, computers, mobile phones, etc. It's as simple as a button press, but the challenge comes from deciding how you want to approach each scenario. The game makes it relatively easy to put plans into practice and I think that's a good thing. It allows you to think your way through each situation and focus on the performance of it.

Watch Dogs seems like the end point. It's the culmination of lessons learnt in games like Assassin's Creed, Far Cry 3 and Splinter Cell. The hacking angle weaved into this familiar experience is a unique point of difference and it's been seamlessly integrated into the universe. At this point it's difficult to see how this game could possibly fail given its pedigree. It was certainly among my favourites at E3.


Comments

    Remember when we thought Assassins Creed 3 couldn't fail?

    I've got hope for Watch Dogs, I'm looking forward to it, but I'm being realistic in my expectations.

      I don't think I've ever been so disappointed in a game.

        Agreed. It felt as though no-one outside of the Assassin's Creed team had any creative input into the game. It felt designed in a completely insular fashion, without a voice to say "Hey guys, are you sure this is a good idea? That is way too many side missions."

          You are right; it felt like it wasn't designed by anyone that has had any involvement with the previous games. So much of it was badly done.

          I just couldn't play it, I tried more than a few times.

          To me it felt the opposite. The problem was too much input. They had literally dozens of separate teams in different geographic locations working on small parts of the game in isolation and then when all the parts were fit back together again it didn't feel remotely cohesive, plus it was riddled with bugs.

        Ooooooh I have. Daikatana. This was back in 'the day' when John Romeros name carried weight and gravitas with it... back when he wasn't an industry joke. Then Daikatana came out and shit changed. Tears were shed. Tears...

    This Scottish guy looks like Gollum

    What I reeeeeally want to know is what will the differences be between the PS3 and PS4 versions? Is it worth getting it for the PS3 now (seeing as i'm not made of money) when everyone else will be playing? Or should I hold out for a superior experience on the PS4 (when i get one probably mid next year)?

      Honestly, I suspect the difference to be mostly superficial. Given that they're not going to be producing two independent game engines for the two generations (four consoles), the primary difference is going to be in visual fidelity and foofaraw. There may be some Next Gen Edition DLC or somesuch, but aside from that I would think that the main difference is that it will simply look better on later hardware.

        It's definitely a conundrum I haven't faced before, the same game released on old and new hardware simultaneously, especially since people playing both versions will be able to interact with one another. It will be interesting to see just how much better looking it will be or if there will be exclusive DLC or extra features available for the next gen consoles.

      Personally I kinda want to wait for the PS4 version, but that's because I'll more than likely have put enough money aside to not have to wait long at all. I guess it depends - could you avoid the spoilers and put up with those around you enjoying it until you get it midway through next year, or would you crack under the pressure? :P

      Anyway, I reckon you could grab the Last of Us or some other PS3 greats to tide you over until September, and then there's usually way more than enough juice in the major GTA entries (September) to last you a long while. So if you decided to wait for the PS4 version, you wouldn't be at a loss for some thoroughly enjoyable distractions. :-)

        Hmmm you make good points for both sides of the argument, way to keep me on the fence :/

    I want to put a lot of faith in it based on what I've seen, but whilst the Assassins Creed games were beautiful and had their moments, they all had some pretty major flaws, and the last one was both awful and a chore to play through rather than being fun... I'm sure it'll be a decent game, but whether or not it's everything it's hyped up to be? I'll wait until I've seen/played it all. :P

    Nothing ruins a very decent game faster than too much hype. Same with movies. I'm not saying this game won't be brilliant, by all accounts it looks it, but I'm trying my hardest to moderate my expectations.

      This is true to an extent, but I will say, genuine hype, such as what's surrounding Watch Dogs, has me anticipating the game... Hype that is only from closed-doors, hands-off previews & CGI trailers, makes me nervouse, because it feels like they're trying to hide the gameplay to an extent.

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