While Kirk plays his way through the entire game in order to get our formal review done, I thought I'd pass the time by writing up my own impressions of Ubisoft's Watch Dogs, which I've been playing for a couple of days now.
The short version is I don't really like it that much.
The longer version is as follows:
- This game isn't very interesting. You might think, thanks to a two-year marketing campaign, that it's going to be a unique open-world experience where hacking takes precedence over gunplay, but nope, most of the missions I've played (I'm probably halfway through) are about driving and taking on guards. Just like GTA. Only it neither drives nor shoots as well, and some stealth missions will insta-fail you if you're discovered. Which is never fun.
- Has anyone ever enjoyed a sliding morality scale in an open-world game? Where you're punished for accidentally killing civilians? No, they have not. Pity, then, that Watch Dogs has one.
- The way you can bring up biographical information about every person in the game is a novelty that's yet to wear off. Sure, most of them are just generic people with generic jobs, but every now and again you come across someone like Zeke.
- Don't listen to the radio in the car. Whatever you do. Don't do it. Just turn it off and listen to the engine.
- The hacking powers are great. Weirdly, they make you feel less like a hacker and more like a wizard. Example: you can hack cameras to watch things, but while using that camera, you can then hack anything that camera sees, and so on. It makes little sense technologically, but it's fun for the missions you get to use stealth on, as by discretely distracting, shepherding and even killing guards remotely it brings a little bit of Splinter Cell to the game.
- Aiden Pearce is a black hole. I'd call him the worst playable character in a blockbuster game in years, but that would imply there is a character there to begin with. There is a gruff voice and an "iconic cap", and that's it. It boggles the mind how Ubisoft spent so much time and money on this game to assemble such a forgettable cast of characters.
- Watch Dogs has a button that lets you slide down in the driver's seat and stay hidden while staying inside the car. I wish more games had this.
- Chicago has been recreated (at least in caricature form) in such painstaking detail that at times the game feels more like an intricate diorama than a 3D world. As someone who loves dioramas, this is a good thing.
Some further notes: this was retail code that unlocked "early" because I'm in Australia. I'm playing on PC, with an AMD card, and for what it's worth haven't encountered a single issue.
Remember, these are just my impressions from a couple of days spent with the game. Kirk's working on our full review, and it will up in the next day or two.