I'm Scared To Actually Start Playing Watch Dogs

I'm Scared To Actually Start Playing Watch Dogs

When you write about video games for a living, you're occasionally faced with the launch of a game so big that even random people you haven't heard from since high school will reach out to ask for your opinion.

For a long time, that game was Grand Theft Auto V. Then for a hot second, it was Flappy Bird. Now -- at least as far as the random messages I've been receiving from high school classmates go -- it's Watch Dogs, the new cybersecurity-themed open world game from Ubisoft. Since the game was announced two years ago, it's been described by critics and expectant fans as being like Grand Theft Auto, only with smartphones instead of guns.

I'm talking about the game here as if it's still in its pre-release phase because, for me, it sort of is. That's what I've told the many people that have reached out to me since the game came out last week. I haven't started playing Watch Dogs yet. I'm probably not going to for a while, either.

This isn't because of any technical or logistical problem. The blue-edged plastic case for the PlayStation 4 version of Watch Dogs has been sitting on the edge of my TV-side table since the day the game came out. I even took the plastic off one night after getting home from work and hovered over the game for a moment, debating powering up my console and seeing what the its near-future version of Chicago really looks like in practice.

I couldn't bring myself to sliding the disc into my PS4, however. Honestly, I'm scared to.

I'm Scared To Actually Start Playing Watch Dogs

Partly this is just a matter of scheduling. The game industry's largest annual convention takes place next week, so life is pretty busy for everyone at Kotaku, myself included. I had to review Murdered: Soul Suspectsthis week, which ate up 15-plus hours I could have spent playing other, better games instead. And last week I had to move to a new apartment and then travel out of state two days later, which separated me from my consoles temporarily.

There are also a lot of really good games coming out that demand my attention. I mean, a lot. Mario Kart 8 finally arrived last week, and I'm thrilled to finally start playing the game with more of my far-flung gaming friends. I didn't expect it to, but Wolfenstein: The New Order has seized me in a profound way. Child of Light, another recent Ubisoft game that received high marks, is glaring at me from the top of my mountainous pile of shame. And I still want to replay Transistoranother four or five times when I have the chance.

All these other games offer far more tightly framed, succinct experiences than Watch Dogs. That can be good or bad depending on how you look at it, but open world games have always been an incredible time sink for me. Shortly after picking up Skyrim back in 2011, I remember opening up my Steam account and seeing that I'd already spent 50 hours in that game.

50 hours! That's more than two days of my life I knew I was never going to get back. All that time, and I'd barely completed the first step in the game's main story-driven quest. That part only took me an hour or two. I honestly have no idea what I was doing for the other 48 other than wandering around and admiring the game's gorgeous scenery.

I'm Scared To Actually Start Playing Watch Dogs

Open world games are overwhelming for me, in other words. That's part of what makes them exciting. But as all the visual and mechanical parts of games become increasingly impressive and life-like, the first step into a virtual world brimming with life becomes more intimidating in turn. When I first got Grand Theft Auto V last year, I spent the majority of my first night with the game just driving through the city of Los Santos, gawking at how intricate everything in its world felt.

Delving into an open world game isn't a simple matter of making a purchase and completing a story in 12 hours or so. It's a contract I form with a game, a pledge I make to dedicate the next few months of my life to living with one foot inside a virtual world. The next few months at the very least -- I'm still playing Grand Theft Auto V, and I haven't even finished the main storyline yet.

I'm Scared To Actually Start Playing Watch Dogs

These all feel like excuses I'm making for myself, however.

The real reason I'm scared to play Watch Dogs is that I'm not sure if I'm going to like it or not. And I really, really want to like Watch Dogs.

For a long time, the hype for this game was incredible. The "Grand Theft Auto with smartphones" descriptor wasn't just rhetorical flair; Watch Dogs looked like it could be the rarest kind of big-budget video game: one that's culturally and politically relevant in a truly immediate way. It's hacking and surveillance states themes are practically ripped from newspaper headlines, after all.

If Ubisoft could keep its ear to the streets while also managing to make a game even half as fun as Grand Theft Auto? Well, it sounded too good to be true. For me, it's still too good for me to actually go and see if it is true.

Something happened that seemed to sour people's opinions about Watch Dogs. It finally came out. And now that the game is available for all to play and see, the reaction has been mixed at best. A year ago, Kotaku editor Stephen Totilo described it as a game that "needs to be on your radar." Yesterday, Kirk Hamilton gave his verdict in our official review, and said: No, this game isn't worth playing.

I'm still going to play Watch Dogs despite Kirk's warning. But for the moment, I want to keep the fantasy of what I want this game to be in suspended animation.

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Comments

    The game is worth playing.
    i finished it when i had holidays last week and enjoyed it alot.
    only gripe with the game was not being able to have helicopters to fly in and cars being a but to u realistic.
    8 1/2 ot of 10

    The game is only being held back by it's own hype and peoples unrealistic expectations. Sure, thats partly Ubisoft's fault (but that's called marketing), but what is a solid, fun and interesting game is being marred by the fact that it was peoples first real hope for a new "AAA NEXT GEN EXPERIENCE". This game was meant to be the messiah, but in the end it hasn't changed the world. It's interesting and it's fun, but that's all it is. The thing is, does it really need to be anything else?

    I can't disagree more with Kirk's review, mainly because you shouldn't go and describe your own personal experiences with certain aspects of a game, and then brand it as something that nobody should even bother playing. The shooting is solid, the driving is not as good as GTAV but you get a handle of it quickly. The story is pretty bland (but not as bad as some people are claiming), but the stealth, hacking and gadgets are great, and the mini-games are ridiculous and fun. No, it's not the Citizen Kane of gaming, no it doesn't compare well against GTAV, and no it doesn't break the mould of games narrative, but it's well built, and it's fun. To say that it's a game not even worth looking at seems pretty unfair.

    Bascially, screw other peoples opinions, and screw your own pre-concieved notions of what you want the game to be. Just pick it up, play it, and then decide what you think of it. You might actually find yourself enjoying it along the way.

      I agree. I guess it's natural to compare any open-world game to GTA, and in a 1 on 1 comparison I'd definitely prefer to take GTAV over Watch Dogs, but that logic is only valid if you are only buying one game and will never play another open world game ever again! To complain about Watch Dogs being not quite as good as GTA is like saying "I'm sad because I have two great games instead of one!"....

      There is room for multiple entries in the open-world genre, and Watch Dogs is "good enough" to warrant attention.

      And props to Ubisoft for bringing a big budget to a new IP!

      I think it's up to personal preference in whether it's bland or not. How the hell can you tell other people how to experience a story? I could give away every single plot point and no one would be surprised at a single thing. It's bland as hell and i get to say that because i'm completely uninterested in characters who have lost family members. Go to a game store and try and see if you can work out how many games use the deaths of family members as primary motivation and also consider the fact that the game does not a single thing different or better in that regard.

      Game is ok, i agree, getting a bad rap because it is sort of bland but that doesn't necessarily mean terrible. It's competent and can even excel at times and to be honest; it's basically in line with all of the actual information, footage and gameplay that was shown previously. Graphics are fine as well, people jump on bandwagons and the graphics bandwagon is one of those instances. Again, we were shown these graphics after we were shown obvious pc or pre-rendered footage. I'm not sure how anyone could have thought early tech demos would be 100% reflective of the finished game. Has anyone ever seen initial promotion that perfectly reflected the game? Halo 2? Killzone 2? Sons of Liberty? No?

    The game really resembles the first Assassin's Creed. Boring, soulless, repetitive. However, that base spawned a solid series and the same will probably happen to Watch Dogs. The groundwork is here for a great game and no doubt they'll get there in a future sequel. The game isn't bad, it's just dismal.

      I found the original Assassin's Creed to be reasonably well polished, even if it was repetitive. Watch Dogs is not what I could call polished by any stretch of the imagination.

    Driving cars are terrible to bad. Stumbling through the missions at times with no understanding of what your meant to be achieving. Weak story and character. Don't believe the hype!

    I enjoyed it. Not best game ever but much better than a lot of other tripe at the same price point.

    Don't listen to reviews. Too many people jumped on the hype train and now that it's not the best game they've ever played it's apparently "crap".

    I maybe watched one video since it was announced. I knew what I was watching was similar to what I would play but not the exact game. Some people just don't realise that and see an amazing prerendered scene and expect it to get even better over the next year or two.

    I can't remember the last game I was actually properly hyped for. Hell, I'm a HUGE halo fan but I knew reach and 4 were going to be terrible compared to the first 3, so I didn't get caught up in the hype and what do you know, I thought they were both crap (imo).

    People just need to stop getting caught up in the marketing and assuming a game is going to absolutely blow them away. Because chances are it won't and you will just be let down. But if you go into it without bias and no prior expectations even games which people label as terrible can be great fun.

    My 2c.

    Just my personal opinion but I actually prefer Watch dogs over GTA V. I especially enjoy the mechanics where I don't always need to out run the police to loose them (which is one of the big criticism I have for GTA V). I love using hacking to delay police just enough so I can hide in a alley or quickly change vehicle and hide in it. Watch them close in but unable to pin point my location always gives me a great thrill!

    While I have to agree with Kirk that the game does not exactly give a good first impression (I was reminded of Medal of Honor: Poopfighter A.K.A Medal of Honor: Doorfighter and their opening scene. I went to shoot in the leg which poopfighter wouldn't let you do and was actually rather surprised when the gun clicked). The rest of the game itself IMHO is worth it

    Lame story, and kinda dated compared to other games, but definately a fun experience

    Without trying to cast too much of a negative spin on the game, you're not really missing out greatly by not playing, or at least delaying it. Now, I'm not saying it's a 'bad' game - most people will derive various levels of fun from it, including myself - but it falls well short of the triple-A status most were expecting. If it weren't for the hype machine and this game launched in relative obscurity it would be a somewhat fun romp for most and then I suspect (speculate really) it'd fall away as barely a blip on the radar except to a small fanatic group.

    It took a little while for the game to warm on me, definitely worth playing though, still a 7/10.

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