Watch Dogs: The Kotaku Review

Watch Dogs: The Kotaku Review

My first question for Watch Dogs was, “Well, what if I don’t want to shoot Maurice?” “Sorry,” the game replied. “You are going to shoot Maurice and that’s all there is for it.”

It was the very first interactive moment of the game, and I had two things: A gun, and a prompt to shoot a cowering man.

I pulled the trigger and heard a click. Maurice screamed. Turns out, the gun was empty.

OK, Watch Dogs, I decided. You and I are not off to a great start.

If you asked a Ubisoft marketing rep to summarize Watch Dogs in a single word, they would probably say “Hacking.” The game’s near-future Chicago is monitored by a new all-seeing security system called ctOS. The main character quickly gains access to ctOS, making it possible for him to use a smartphone to spy through mounted cameras, control basic city infrastructure, and peer into the private lives of the city’s citizens.

When Watch Dogs made its show-stealing debut at Ubisoft’s E3 press conference two years ago, the publisher seemed to be promising something smarter, something more dynamic, something more interesting than “Shoot Maurice.”

As my boss Stephen Totilo watched that demo, he thought the same thing a lot of us thought: What is this game, where a guy takes down a city with his phone? Can it be possible that it’s about hacking more than it is about shooting people? Could this really be something different?

Looking back on that moment almost two years later, he wrote:

For four minutes I thought I was seeing a wonderful, gun-free expansion of ways to interact with people and things in a video game city. There were four minutes of so many possibilities. Maybe, just maybe, no guns were needed for this new game to seem appealing and for the game to be fun.

Needless to say, the finished game involves shooting.

Lots of shooting.

The “Shoot Maurice” moment captures much of what makes Watch Dogs so frustrating. It is both a game that makes you shoot Maurice, and a game that attempts to subvert that impulse by surprising you (and Maurice) with an empty gun. It is both fresh and rote, both interesting and profoundly boring.

I’ve spent more than 30 hours exploring Watch Dogs’ city of Chicago. I’ve pursued protagonist Aiden Pearce’s quest for justice to its conclusion, and in the process I’ve crashed countless stolen cars, killed countless men, wasted hundreds of dollars gambling, and taken digital drugs that let me alter reality. Despite being in the middle of a real-life move from one state to another, I tried to relax and lose myself in the marginalia of big-budget video-game sprawl.

In the week since I installed Watch Dogs on my PS4 I have been alternately wowed by this game’s potential, annoyed by its many shortcomings, maddened by its worst missions, intrigued by its many hidden diversions, and ultimately unsure just where the game itself is located, like a body with ten arms and no heart, or a shattered ceramic sculpture, strewn about the floor.

With the whole Maurice situation over and done with, Watch Dogs makes a much stronger second impression. You stroll down a rainy Chicago street, one hand in your trenchcoat pocket, the other holding a mobile phone. With the press of a button, you can suddenly see personal facts about any of the citizens around you. This lady over here directs a high school choir. That guy over there makes cosplay. This lady makes only $US17k a year. This guy is an avid video game player. You hack into someone’s phone and overhear a conversation. That guy’s cheating on his wife!

For a time, it feels as though anything is possible. You’ve got an entire city infrastructure at your fingertips! But of course, this is a modern big-budget video game, and it’s constrained by all the limitations that go along with that. Anything is not, in fact, possible.

You realise that the names and the information you’re seeing are randomly generated and serve no real function. You’ll see a person’s dark secret repeat, and then repeat again, and you’ll start to wonder how many Chicagoans are sex addicts. You’ll read the same text message exchange twice — omg I slept with a hot guy and then he robbed me! — and the illusion will weaken further.

But while you’ll eventually realise that the only meaningful interaction you can have with these people is to either shoot them or steal from them, that first impression lingers, hinting at the as-yet untapped potential of this idea: For a moment, it felt like these were all people. For a moment, everything was connected.

Hacking is Watch Dogs‘ best idea. It’s the notion that feels the freshest and, when it works, the most exhilarating. Watch Dogs shows us a game world with another world humming beneath it, a network of interconnected digital switches and currents. Change something in the virtual world and a door opens in the real one. Climb to a new vantage point in the real world, and you can access a new part of the virtual one.

Early in the game, I found my character infiltrating a Chicago prison, looking to have a word with a particular inmate. After sneaking past a half a dozen guards, I learned that my target was making use of the exercise yard up on the roof. I expected to have to make my way up a flight of stairs, and was surprised to see an objective marker telling me to head down to the basement. I made my way down, down… down to a bank of servers, where I hacked into the prison’s surveillance system and gained a bird’s eye view of the entire exercise yard. When Watch Dogs is at its best, physical space is reshaped into virtual space, and down is literally up.

Watch Dogs tells the story of Aiden Pearce, an overcoated tech lord with the personality of a loaf of bread. Aiden is a master hacker who at the start of the game has been spending his time pulling grey hat hacking jobs in Chicago and generally getting one over on the man. A job goes wrong, and someone sends a guy (Hi Maurice!) to rough Aiden up and scare him, that mission goes awry, and Aiden’s six-year-old niece winds up dead in the crossfire. Aiden blames himself for her death, assumes the mantle of “The Vigilante,” and sets off on a glum quest for sad revenge.

“The Vigilante” is just about the most uninspired superhero moniker I can think of, which makes sense, since Aiden Pearce is a supremely dull hero. He’s a 39-year-old man in a dopey baseball cap and an overly involved sweater, more or less what a suburban dad would come up with if asked to imagine a “cool hacker guy.”

I mean, look at this jerk:

The most unintentionally funny parts of Watch Dogs occur when Aiden sits in a car with his nephew and talks in his Batman voice. He’s telling his nephew that he cares about him, and wants to keep him safe, and the whole time he sounds like some guy doing a Dark Knight impression.

(For a good laugh, whenever Aiden ends a sentence or a conversation in the game, imagine him saying “I’m Batman.”)

Aiden’s story loses focus after a handful of missions, and in short order he’s gone from interrogating the man who killed his niece to murdering a millionaire pervert so that he can assume the man’s identity and attend an underground sex-slave auction, through which he can obtain information from the guy running security, who is a projects crime-lord named “Iraq” who has a secure server in his projects base housing a bunch of incriminating data but can only be accessed directly and… uh… did I mention the sex slave auction?

By the time Aiden was ramping a dirt bike through the countryside while helping a zany country guy fight off militia maniacs, I’d mostly lost interest in why I was doing what I was doing. That’s a shame, since it does appear as though the people who made Watch Dogs would have liked nothing more than to have made some sort of point about family, loss, and/or the perils of the modern surveillance state. Instead, the game succeeds only at saying that guns are cool and police helicopters are annoying.

Watch Dogs has spent five years soaking in the brine of the thirtysomething white guy, and those juices leak from every pore. This game feels aimed squarely at the predominantly male video game demographic and cares nothing for women or minorities, let alone any substantive investigation of real-life issues like the cultural fallout of sex trafficking or Chicago’s long history of racial violence.

One of primary groups you’ll be fighting is a gang called “The Black Viceroys,” a group of tech-savvy project hoods who embody blackness in the most uninteresting and trope-y ways imaginable. These guys talk ceaselessly about bitches and hos; they call each other “B” and say “sheeeit!” with regularity. “You there B?” they ask one another. Upon seeing a comrade get shot: “Yo, B’s been hit!” When engaging Aiden in combat: “Ain’t nothin’ can save you now, cracker!”

This video sequence, encountered partway through a story mission, pretty much sums up how Watch Dogs views black people:

Only one black character gets anything resembling character development; the rest exist simply to kill or be killed, or occasionally to engage in sexual assault while on camera. Toward the end of the game, I pondered just how many of Chicago’s young black men I’d helped Aiden Pearce murder. A hundred? Five hundred? A thousand? It was enough to make me feel like I was playing as some sort of weird techno white supremacist.

It’s well past time for video games to depict black characters as more than street hustlers, gangsters, drug addicts and thugs. In this regard, Watch Dogs is so lazily distasteful as to be almost boring.

Meanwhile, female characters in Watch Dogs exist to be killed, kidnapped, or threatened in service of the plot, and the lone exception eventually proves not to be an exception at all.

“Most women die without purpose,” muses a villain at one point in the story, “but [this particular lady] had enough sense to die in front of the camera.” But in the world of Watch Dogs, the women do die with a purpose: To grease the narrative gears with their blood, moving things forward so the men can have a new reason to fight.

It’s not just that it’s lousy, it’s that it’s lazy, and that laziness permeates almost every aspect of Watch Dogs‘ story. The game never embraces a new idea when a cliché will do, and if you’ve seen techno-thrillers like Sneakers, The Net, Swordfish, Live Free or Die Hard or Hackers you’ve seen every narrative idea Watch Dogs has.

Guns work well in Watch Dogs — they’re easy to use, they aim straight, they carry lots of bullets. That’s a good thing, since you’ll spend a lot of time in this game shooting people. Like a lot of good modern action games, Watch Dogs allows for stealth at every turn, meaning that a nighttime creeping mission can quickly transition to an all-out gunfight and back to sneaking in a matter of seconds. The game does well when Aiden is on foot, creeping through an enemy compound, using his phone to hack into camera systems and reconnoiter enemy locations before surgically striking and vanishing into the shadows.

Other missions vary dramatically in quality. It wouldn’t be a Ubisoft Montreal game without a handful of unwelcome “Follow the guy who periodically stops and turns around” missions, though one of those is made humorously easy by your ability to simply hop from surveillance camera to surveillance camera, keeping tabs on your target without actually getting near him.

To my surprise, some of my favourite levels were the elaborate, combat-free environmental puzzles, which require players to hack open doors by finding hard-to-see circuit breakers. For a while I thought that I simply hadn’t arrived at a point in the story when these puzzles were accessible, but it turned out I simply wasn’t thinking laterally enough.

Things get far less enjoyable the moment Aiden gets behind the wheel of a car, and Watch Dogs spends an unfortunate amount of time on the road. We’ve built this great huge city, the game seems to say, and we’re gonna use it! Cars handle sluggishly and lack a certain drift that I’ve grown accustomed to, and every car chase eventually involves a huge group of enemy cars — either police or the anonymous “fixers” that fill in as the game’s faceless goons — attempting to drive you off the road.

Vehicles lope around corners in wide swings, the brakes and hand-brake rarely allowing for all that much finesse. Sometimes I’d collide with other vehicles and come away without a scratch, or hit someone headfirst on a motorcycle and simply grunt and remain seated. Other times I’d get rear-ended and my entire trunk would fall off. It’s all fairly crusty and never all that exciting or satisfying.

If Aiden attracts too much unwanted attention, the police will give chase. According to Watch Dogs, the Chicago Police Department is staffed entirely by ridiculous arseholes, and escaping them is rarely less than a frustrating churn. Cop cars stick to Aiden’s vehicle like buzzing bees, ramming and piling into him with a level of gusto that’s one Yakety Sax lick away from pure parody. (Given the Chicago setting, it occurred to me that the goofy police chases could be read as a subtle Blues Brothers reference, but the game’s soundtrack isn’t nearly good enough to sell that.)

Several of the final missions were such a pain in the arse that I repeatedly found myself dropping my controller in my lap and exclaiming to the ceiling, “Why? Why? Who on earth thought this would be fun?”

For all its surface sheen, many aspects of Watch Dogs feel rushed and unpolished. Missions begin to repeat as the story draws to a close, as if the designers were simply falling back on tricks they knew they could make work. OK, this one will have a car chase with a helicopter. This one will have some sneaking and shooting. This one will have a car chase with a helicopter. This one will have some sneaking and shooting.

Oddly, there doesn’t appear to be a way to go down ladders; you can only climb up them. The map doesn’t automatically trace a line to your next destination during a mission, meaning you have to go into the map to do it yourself. The soundtrack is a drab mess, alternating between a thrown-together playlist of licensed songs and a dispiritingly phoned-in score from the usually superb Brian Reitzell, who has earned so many accolades for his work on NBC’s Hannibal.

There are no menu options to adjust the heads-up display or reduce the amount of visual clutter on screen. Enemy AI can be sharp one minute and ridiculously bone-headed the next. You’ll be able to access a far-away camera one moment, then unable to get it the next, accidentally triggering something else in the environment. In-mission checkpointing is generally horrible, with failure often starting players back at the very beginning. Worse than that, death will often mean that you have to watch an unskippable cinematic sequence before you get to play again, which just feels inexcusable.

The more I played, the more Watch Dogs began to pull apart into a collection of loosely affiliated design objects, a mess of shards of varying quality strewn all over the floor. There’s just so much stuff here, so many little things to do, so many ways to spend time outside of pursuing the main story missions.

Why does this stuff exist? Why can I play chess in this game, and what does the act of playing chess have to do with hacking, or the hazards of an Orwellian surveillance state? Did some game developer in some boardroom at some point simply proclaim that open-world games are supposed to have chess?

By the time I finished all the story missions, I was able to undertake the following activities:

• AR challenges that had me running and climbing through the city collecting golden coins.

• A game where I’d drive a flaming car through a red-skied hellscape, running over as many civilians as possible.

• A custom AR-game editor that let me make and upload my own coin collecting challenges.

• A psychedelic shooting game that had me defending against waves of enemies.

• A shell-game on the street, following a ball hidden under cups.

• An ordinary slot machine.

• QR codes hidden in perspective puzzles throughout the city.

• A game where I’d pilot a rampaging spider tank through the city and attempt to meet a series of ever-escalating goals.

• Time-challenge based hidden audio signals.

• Texas hold ’em poker.

• A reflex-test drinking game where I’d do shots of liquor and then match button presses to keep from passing out.

• Not one but two different versions of chess.

• A game where alien robots have invaded Chicago and I have to evade them and return power to the city, cautiously avoiding their death-rays and using powerful EMP blasts to return light to the city. (No, seriously.)

• Dozens of Chicago “hotspots” that open up encyclopedia pages with information on the city’s history.

• Online missions that would task me with hacking and hiding from other players, “invading” their worlds and attempting to remain unseen.

• A “trippy” game where Aiden would bounce through a series of giant trampoline-like flowers, hollering with glee as goofy jazz honks away in the background.

• Missing persons investigations that focus on tracking down a serial killer.

• Hidden briefcases that eventually let players shut down a sex trafficking ring.

• Peeping tom side activities where you snoop into the private lives of the people of Chicago.

• Tech towers that function as elaborate environmental puzzles, unlocking safehouses and additional collectables on the map.

• Dozens of various “fixer contracts” that have players ambushing convoys, raiding gang hideouts, stealing cars and the like.

• Hidden weapon crates that can be tracked down in an effort to take down a group of smugglers.

Some of these tasks are dull. Others, notably the spider tank missions, the alien robots and the clever environmental puzzles, were good enough that I wished they were featured in the main campaign. And the seamless multiplayer events, in which players can invade your game and force you to spend several panicked minutes playing a deadly game of hide-and-go-seek, are genuinely fantastic.

Each of those things is a separate shard of some theoretically unified whole, and as I crawled around inspecting them all, I couldn’t help but feel farther and farther from whatever essential core Watch Dogs might have once had. That’s ok, to a point: If the essence of a game is lazy writing, boring characters and annoying car chases, it’s probably better to leave that all behind and go crush things in a giant robo-tank.

Version Check: I played through Watch Dogs on the PS4, though it’s also available on the PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC, with a Wii U version coming at some unspecified point later this year. The game looked nice enough on Sony’s new console; not as lovely as last year’s Assassin’s Creed IV, but still sharper than a last-gen game, particularly when it came to smoke, sunlight and explosion effects. That said, the colours and lighting look washed out, and the game doesn’t have anything close to the glossy sheen of new-gen-only games like Infamous: Second Son or Ryse: Son of Rome, nor does it match the visuals on display in its own impressive E3 debut.

As for the PC version, it theoretically looks good on ultra settings but runs incredibly poorly. My mid-tier gaming PC was unable to maintain 60fps even on low settings; performance would oscillate wildly between a solid 60 and the 30-40 range. Furthermore, the mouse and keyboard controls are questionable at best, with commands mapped all over the place with little regard for intuitive flow. And of course, the PC version requires Uplay, an increasingly unnecessary-feeling game client.

Toward the bottom of my review notes is a single line: “Watch Dogs is not Gunpoint.”

I can’t remember the specific thing that made me write that, but it remains one of the truest things I can say about Ubisoft’s game. It would of course be unfair to expect one game to be another, different game, but the contrasts between the two games serve to illuminate how Watch Dogs loses the thread.

Gunpoint is a simple, focused game created by a single person. Much like Watch Dogs, it casts you as a dude in a trenchcoat and a spiffy hat and tasks you with hacking your way into buildings, sneaking around guards, and absconding with data while navigating an ever-more-elaborate web of intrigue and betrayal.

The difference between the two games is instructive, however. Gunpoint has a singular focus — hacking and stealth — and it does what it does very well. Watch Dogs, on the other hand, represents a philosophy of game design that’s becoming more and more common at large development outfits like Ubisoft. First, have an idea and build a game around it. Then, staple on as much extra crap as you can, “increasing value” by filling the game disc to the gills with side missions, unlockable extras, exclusive bonuses and hidden modes.

The upside of this approach is that even if the main dish is less than appealing, the side dishes might make up for it. The downside is that the essence of the game will almost surely be diluted, and all that time and effort spent embellishing optional extra junk could theoretically have been spent making the core game better, more complex and more interesting.

Instead of focusing on its one best idea, Watch Dogs tries to do a hundred different things. It does some of those things well. It does other things poorly. But while both Watch Dogs and Gunpoint offer their share of pleasing challenges, only Watch Dogs makes you get down on your hands and knees and spend hours sifting through the rubbish to find the best bits.

Watch Dogs was created by so many people that at times it feels like it wasn’t created by anyone at all. It’s almost as though it sprang forth, fully formed, when someone entered the words “Gritty Dude Chicago Hacking” into a computer.

The machine barked to life and spit out a mountain of idea-junk, burying the room in the ramblings of its robot brain.

“Play my game,” the robot implored us. “Go ahead. Go to Chicago. Shoot Maurice, open your phone, and see what you see. I promise that eventually, you’ll find something you like.”

Sorry, Mr Robot, but no sale.


  • Its sad to see that you have decided to jump on the “lets hate Watchdogs” bandwagon like so much of the internet at the moment. Hopefully you won some internet points with the rest of the morons.
    What an opinionated review and quite a long one to basically say “Don’t buy it coz i didn’t like it”.
    I wish i could unread it but i can’t, and I’ll have to live with that.

    • “What an opinionated review”

      A review is supposed to be an opinion. That’s what it is! You can disagree with it, but jeez.

      • yes all reviews are opinionated but then there is “Opinionated”, just like their constructive feedback and hyperbole. This read like the reviewer had an axe to grind not a game to review. Exactly like most of the reviews to this game. Tiresome and unenlightening stuff.

        • I found it interesting to read someone else’s opinion. All the criticisms have the necessary explanations and reasoning’s behind them. What’s the problem.

          Is it a worse review than I would have thought this game would get? Yes. Do I think it is a ‘bad’ review as I have had a better experience with the game than the reviewer? No.

          You are enjoying it – Serrells didn’t. One is your opinion. One is his. The end.

          • I agree with everything you just said — except I didn’t write the review! 🙂

        • A lot of reviewers are complaining about the same things so obviously the game has issues.

          The game has a user rating of about 60-70 on Metacritic. While some of those MIGHT be false, most gaming site reviews I have read mirror what the user reviews are saying but give it a slightly higher score than expected from reading the review (On IGN for instance, given how much they complain about, I wasn’t expecting the 8.4 they gave it. But thats their opinion and thats fine and well.) which is in fact ‘over-rating’ the game, especially compared to the average user rating. (The phrase ‘reads like a 6’ or whatever you want to call it comes to mind.)

          So the game has issues, which frankly is expected form a new IP! That doesn’t meant that you cannot enjoy the game. As you and many agree, the game is still fun. It has better than ‘average’ scores (average being a 5), so why is it ‘HATE’ if the review isn’t all praise!?!

          Perhaps this review was maybe a little harsh, but it is his opinion of the game and he, along with many others (due to marketing hype or whatever you want to blame) were hoping for more.

          • The average game scores about a 7. Very few games score below a 5, most score between 6 and 8. Just because it’s the middle of the scale doesn’t mean it’s where the average is…

      • I always wondered how websites handle the opinions of one individual vs. that of all the people working at that website. Because there’s obviously differing views and it’s quite subjective. I mean, ultimately one review represents the view of an entire website – so it should be more than the opinion of one individual, shouldn’t it?

        Or do people get together and agree on the points that are to be presented in a review?

        Just asking in general – not specific to this review.

      • Ok, yes, thats true
        I guess I’m just really liking Watchdogs right now, and all the (in my opinion) unjustified hating on it is filling me full of crazy anger bile.
        Its a great game, but yes, it was a little over-hyped i suppose.
        But hey, what do i know, I’m buying Murdered: Soul Suspect tonight 😛

      • I don’t think anything he said wasn’t constructive. I have the game, I’m not as far along as he is yet but I have noticed that there isn’t much in the way of character development.
        I don’t think it goes a very long way to explain itself. I’m still not too sure what Fixers are and why they hate me so much…?
        Overall, its enjoyable. I like the game but sometimes it feels like an unfinished product.

    • It’s a review: by nature it is someone’s opinion of the matter at hand. If you liked it, great. But a lot of people didn’t.

      Personally, I think every point Kirk made was well backed up with specific examples from the game.

      If a great many reviews are criticising the game, maybe it’s not because they’re all “morons”, or because they’re just jumping on the bandwagon. Maybe it’s because they’re onto something.

      (For reference, after 30-odd hours of playtime, I’d consider the game mediocre. It’s not the worst game ever, but it’s certainly got more than it’s share of flaws).

    • I seriously felt the review reflected my experience with the game almost perfectly. Reviews rarely reflect my opinions exactly and i welcome that. At times reviews can seem to miss the point but just because you like something, you can’t just lump every damn thing in the same pile. I mean, you’re basically saying “everyone who thinks differently than i do, must be fixed”. Think about that.

    • How can a review not be opinionated? By its very definition, a review is a subjective assessment. I’m getting sick and tired of people whining about objectivity in reviews when it is simply not possible to be objective in a review. “He dosen’t like this game I love so he’s a biased prick wha wha wha”!! And why do people always hate on those who have opinions that differ from their own anyway? Why do you refer to the people who have (rightly) criticised this game as “morons”? Because they have an opinion that differs to yours? Because they have the balls to point out the flaws in a AAA game release? You sir are the moron.

  • Sorry Kirk, I couldn’t disagree more. Perhaps it’s because, as a games journalist, you’ve been caught up in the Watch Dogs saga since it was announced. Perhaps the expectation and need to constantly read and report on this big, next gen game soured the end product for you. No matter how much you wanted to start with a clean slate, it still feels, reading your article, that the history of the game and your involvement in it’s coverage, meant it wasn’t the experience you were expecting.

    As someone who’s experience with the game has been excitement at the original announcement at E3 two years ago, and now playing the game, I’ve found it to be a really engaging and entertaining experience. In my gaming circles, everyone who plays it feels the same way. I can see how the ‘guns’ vs ‘no guns’ perspective surprised you, but I don’t feel like the violence in the game is a detractor by any means.

    Anyway, just my take, I’m sure there’s a big split feel on this game, but I get the sense it’s proportionate to expectation, which is a shame because it’s a very good game.

    • If they had released the game without such fanfare people would be calling it a hidden gem, Instead of overhyped and under delivered.

      • That’s pretty much it – It was hyped, people were disappointed, disappointment leads to anger, anger leads to a lack of enjoyment, a lack of enjoyment leads to negative reviews.

        Keep your expectations low about games in general, and you’d be surprised how many awesome titles there are. Many which are widely considered to be shit.

        • hehe yeah, well the funny thing about hype: who is actually guilty FOR it? The people who use marketing and advertising etc to manipulate the public or the public for having weak and squishy brains that allow themselves to be hyped by the those previously mentioned people,

          I say the players themselves, advertising is designed to screw with you, so you only have yourself to blame when of course everything is not quite what the say. Advertising is all about bending the truth.

          Not to mention what we see too much these days is haters and trolls posting endless negativity for sport and fun, it is that perceived negativity has the same effect that hype does just in the opposite directions. Is this game truly as bad as people say or is it our minds are full of that junk when we start so we look for the badness they made up. Once someone looks for flaws its easy to find.

          • Great points! I agree that people are to ‘blame’ in so much that they need to understand that companies use marketing and advertising to draw people in. It’s not like this was the first sneaky time it’s happened.

            It’s a systemic issue that’s plagued many other games (here’s looking at you Gearbox!). In saying that, companies are also to blame for using these tactics and hyping their games up. They’re well aware that they’re presenting consumers with footage that will not represent the final product, yet are happy to do so in order to increase hype for the title.

            I say it’s both that are to blame. Companies should stop doing it and consumers should realise that this practice is rampant and ignore it.

          • Its funny because I rather Enjoyed Watchdogs because up until I played it I assumed it was going to be garbage.

            By far the worst part of the game is that they called it Watch_Dogs instead of just Watch Dogs. What a load of wank that is.

        • I do this with movies people have complained about heavily. I’ll watch the HISHE (How It Should Have Ended) lampoons, notice (and be spoiled by) all the plot holes, then when I watch the real deal for the first time, have a bit of fun with it.

          This approach led me to really enjoy myself while watching movies I’d been told not to, like Man of Steel and Hunger Games.

        • Which is why I am really glad I shook off the hype early. I mean this is Ubisoft we are talking about here. Their open worlds are always hit and miss and filled with lots of fat to burn. They have a clear unchanged pattern that they have never said would stop.
          Far Cry 3 was essentially Assassins Creed: Papua New Guinea in it’s mechanics, crafting, stealth, towers that unlock the map etc.
          Was Watch Dogs really going to be any different?

          I understand the anger and think we should make the companies accountable. But we don’t, we buy in to the hype and complain after purchase only to do it again the next year when the follow up title is announced.
          Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. It’s like getting shocked by a Joy buzzer…eventually even the most stupid stops trying to shake the offered hand.

          The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So freaking glad that line was used in an Ubisoft game

          • I’ve crossed Ubisoft and Gearbox off my hype list many moons ago. I almost forgot about this game until a friend reminded me it was coming out the next day. Living a hypeless life is so much more enjoyable in the long-run. 😛

  • Wow I couldn’t disagree more about the polish side of things. Sure the game has the typical launch type bugs. No better or worse than every other game that has come before. But the game feels rock solid in terms of game play, the details are absolutely amazing and thorough. Yes some people are having PC issues, but once again, when haven’t they? On my machine it looks incredible and plays pretty damn well.

    I cant comment on the story as I am still going through it but the one thing I can comment on the complete ridiculousness of these reviews for this game. At some point the gaming community decided to hate Watch Dogs and set it up to ‘fail’. Me thinks mostly to do with the fact it was delayed, so everyone immediately thinks its must be rubbish so they went looking into flaws. So flaws they found, yet amazing Arkham Knight has been delayed and everyone is all “oh thanks okay, thats a good thing”

    GTA V was far more instantly a “Wow” game straight away but Watch Dogs it takes a few a few days to stop the hype and stop these hyperbole reviews getting in the way of the fun Im having. The first few days I was why cant I do X, Y, Z completely overlooking that I can do A, B, C instead. This is a new IP and people are treating it like it should have been 130% awesome straight out. GTA certainly wasnt that for a few games. It was only later that true depth came.

    Sure the driving handling is harder but like any game once you get a feeling for it, that doesnt matter even in the slighteous unless of course, in this instance, you are trying to find fault in everything.

    • It’s funny how little things can affect people’s opinions on the entirety of a product. Street Fighter X Tekken got hit hard after they announced the whole Gems angle (essentially you can attach a couple of boosts to your characters that activate under certain circumstances, and the preorder and purchaseable ones were generally better than the ones that came in-game as default, giving people who paid more of an advantage and arguably ruining the balance that fighting games truly need), and it made people write off the entire game. It made people become super-critical of everything else (“why does it look like poo?”, “The roster is terrible because it doesn’t have insert-character-here!”, “Why is there yet another stupid comeback mechanic?”). When the game launched, there was very little hype left for it, and it sold a lot worse than a Street Fighter and Tekken crossover arguably should have. And the funny thing is that SFxT is actually a pretty decent game, but the one thing that people didn’t like (although an important thing, in the feelings of most) just killed it.

  • I really, really enjoy this game. The first 25 hours i spent, i did side missions and online and i was only 6 missions into Act 1 of the campaign. I am now 36 hours in and i am still only into the third mission of Act 2.

    That should speak volumes as to how enjoyable and richly dense the open world is. Yes it is not perfect – far from it but it is easily the most fun i have had with a game this year and one of the best and most engaging open world game i have played in a long time (GTAV was great but still the open world felt empty).

    Also playing PC version and reporting zero problems so far. I know some high end users report stuttering but luckily on my 680 and playing on high i don’t have issues

    • AMD/SLI/Crossfire seems to be having the most issues. Single card Nvidia has been pretty solid.

      • Not sure what is the problem with SLI/Crossfire since I am using SLI 670 and I didn’t get any issue besides the in game occasional turn lag that everyone gets.

        • I didn’t get any turn lag but there has also been a driver update out since last week that was meant to improve SLI quite a bit from the green team.

  • The only thing I didn’t like about the game was how disconnected I felt to a hypocritical main character. He’s got issues about his niece being killed, yet has no problems gunning down 1,000 others.

    Granted you’re given the option to take them down instead – but that’s ridiculously hard in some instances. So there’s a disconnect that only pushes you further away from liking the protagonist.

    Other than that, it was damn enjoyable.

    • The hypocritical main character was one of my favourite parts, It always made me snicker when he would talk about bad guys while walking over the bodies of someone who I killed for J walking or something stupid.

      I made a point of killing everyone it was possible to kill and when we would get to a hideout or whatever I wouldn’t even try to stealth, I just walked right up to the front gate and put a grenade into the first person I saw.

      I enjoyed the absurdity :p

      • It was pretty absurd at times wasn’t it?

        “This guy stole that old lady’s handbag. I have to make him pay.”

        One grande launcher shot, 3 innocent bystanders in cars and $1M of damage later…

        • But isn’t that absurdity the very meat of the vigilante? Stopping crime with crime.

          It’s also a problem with these sorts of open world games with guns and story. I think Yahtzee did a clever song about GTA V in which he sung about Michaels struggle with a return to life he ran away from and his moral dilemma with his actions.
          Then the chorus is upbeat going straight in to the uncharacteristic actions we do straight after a mission. Run out the door and steal a car, shoot an old woman and teabag her corpse, drive a school bus in to an orphanage etc
          It was a observation of the very conflicting differences between profound character story and the chaotic free roam.

          For me it’s also true choice too. Games which force you along a moral path with black and white choices isn’t really choice (I do like those games though) With Watch Dogs the moral delimma was basically the players 100% They let you do as you want and the only one you answered to was yourself. After doing a mission in which Aiden questions his own actions, it is us who leaves the mission and shoots the first civilian we see, not the game.
          (of course a lack of mechanics to back that up only lessens that impact)

          • Totally agree – The only problem I had was that Aiden would speak. That’s what ruined it for me. If I was just given a brief on the screen that said “X did Y” and then I got do decide what to do and have that internal dialogue all by myself, it would have been fine.

            But if the character I’m playing had a mind of his own, so to speak, it ruins the ‘choice’ and disconnects the player from the character.

          • I get that, it’s the problem with story driven and player driven characters. It’s very hard to have both.
            Look at the Last of Us, a lot of people felt the mindset of the characters and pushed through to the end understanding the motivation, others felt upset they weren’t given the choice that the character would never have made to begin with.

            Like reading a novel and a choose your own adventure book. One is interactive and the other isn’t.
            (I know games are interactive, I mean story wise)

            I know what you mean about having the option, it’s just sometimes you are along for a ride and other times you take the wheel. Ya know? Aiden had his story and it’s up to you to see it through just like Shepard had his story but it was yours to build.

            I don’t think either is bad, just that each has it’s place and doesn’t have to be the other.

          • And then we have Mass Effect which proved that we can infact have both. Its not trivial to create a game so exemplary driven by story while still giving meaningful and player driven choice but it’s something more developers should strive for.

          • The illusion of choice isn’t choice and the impact is lessened when it becomes a repeated mechanic.

            Also doesn’t change the fact that not every game has to be the other and is not lessened in anyway when it isn’t.

  • I think the real disapointment here is the review. Its a great game and it wasnt this guys cup of tea. Get over it.

    • What’s with all the comments about how poor a review this is? All his main gripes are legit – the characters are bland and the story is convoluted and ridiculous. This isn’t really opinion – in every review I’ve read, both praising and negative, no one likes Aiden. The positive reviews seem to just hype up how great the hacking is, where this one, in my opinion, shows it how it is – nifty, but not really groundbreaking, and not enough to make the game a worthwhile purchase.

      • I disagree. I finished this on my holidays last week and loved it. At first i was a bit disapointed about the lack if optimization and car issues, but that isn’t a reason to lable a great open world bad.
        i personally had no issues eith aiden or any other people or the story for that matter.
        and in the end you decide to shoot maurice or walk away.

        • I’ve got no problem with the open world aspect of it – it’s great. A lot of effort has been put into the game world, and it shows. But a good setting doesn’t make a good game. Infamous – Second Son’s Seattle was great as well. I still disliked the game, as I felt the characters were stereotypes, and the story was incredibly predictable.
          Maybe I just don’t “get” Aiden. At no stage in the game could I connect with him. Even in GTA, I can “get” Trevor. He has some moments which actually make you feel empathy for him, the deranged, murdering drug lord he is. Aiden just seems so blank. There are moments where you overhear him contemplate what he has just done, as if he’s showing remorse, and then the very next mission you’re beating information out of some guy who’s done nothing to you. There’s no moral continuity.

          • What do you want them to do? Make him cry for the camera? Not every person needs special personalitys, take gordon freeman for example.

          • Watchdogs is an open world game with hacking correct? Now would I be out of place in comparing it with other open world games like GTA? Red Dead Redemption? L.A. Noire? Even Saints Row or Mafia 2? I would think not. All those games I just listed did open world immersion a lot better than Watchdogs has managed to do. There’s nothing to say it isn’t a solid game in its own right but it lacks polish and all the issues that Kirk has mentioned are legitimate issues especially when it’s a new IP being brought forward by a gaming giant like Ubisoft.

          • Kirk is bitching about minor issues.
            mountaints out of mole hills.
            and i never said i disagreed about it beinh open world.

          • This part, I actually agree with. I suspect the evocative nature of the language and scathing indictments in the review are exaggerated out of disappointment.

          • I wasn’t saying you disagreed about it being open world I was trying to bring into perspective the kind of games Watchdogs was competing with. A review isn’t a standalone opinion, it’s an opinion based on the context of other games similar in nature/mechanics/budget and production value. Watchdogs wanted to compete with those games I mentioned and it came up short. And not because it was missing anything in particular but because it really did lack polish, it needed more time in development.

            One small issue (by itself would’ve been fine) but there’s no radio stations in cars just a shuffle playlist of songs. I used to love listening to the radio stations in Sleeping Dogs, GTA and even Saints Row. It’s just incredibly slack for Ubisoft to have left that out. But once again this is just one issue which would’ve been fine by itself, Watchdogs has an abundance of little issues that bring it down.

            I still don’t understand the inclusion of Poker or chess in the game either. It has no bearing on the game! Not to say it isn’t done well but it didn’t need to be in there!

          • But he does. The game is so story-heavy. Cutscenes, flashbacks, relationships with other characters… Also, Aiden is a voiced character, and we’re following his story of revenge. Giving him no personality creates such a huge void, and it’s very difficult to ignore.

  • After playing a couple of hours of Watch Dogs last night, I found myself really just wanting to play Gunpoint instead — I can entirely agree with that point in this review. I just don’t think it’s a very *fun* game.

    • Well i logged 25+ hours and still loving it and its multiplayer. But hey, i’m not on the hate train though.

      • I have no respect for your opinion because you’re on the “hype train”.

        What’s that? You’ve got an nuanced and considered opinion?
        Nope that’s impossible. We disagree so you must broadly fit into a category of idiots who’s opinions don’t count. Sorry.

          • If our not commenting about the review @lastelle
            then please shut up.

            And @transientmind , that was the point i was trying to make, but it seems people would rather ignor he facts that other games have the same issues and call me a hype train rider.
            Edit: removed hurtfull language.

  • One of my biggest issues with this game, other than the story and characters, is the lack of melee combat. I can perform takedowns on criminals/guards with a baton, so it’s not like Aiden can’t fight, and I can pull out a gun and shoot an innocent civilian in the face, so it’s not like he has a moral issue with injuring people who aren’t criminals. So why can’t I beat people up? Just seems like a huge oversight.

  • Here’s a question for those who have completed the game: If you looked back on this game in 10 year’s time, what would stand out to you as a memorable moment?

    I can look back to Halo: CE and see the Warthog Run, I can look back to Pokemon and see me defeating the Champion, but I can’t think of anything in Watch Dogs that stands out as a memorable moment. There were some definite high-tension moments towards the end of the game, but…
    I guess what I’m asking for is a moment in Watch_Dogs that is memorable and iconic. What would we remember?

    • I haven’t even completed and already think its a memorable game, not all games have to be about definitive moments, like Skyrim for me didnt really have a moment, the whole game was the moment. Likewise this.

      Sadly for me the one thing I will truly remember about this game was it was really the first time the game public actively set out to destroy a game not based on what it was but what they thought it failed to be. Sure other games have had that happen but this is the first time I have read the feedback and thought “WTF, are these people playing the same game”. Guess what I am saying is that May 27 2014 is the day the gaming community jumped the shark, collectively.

      Bet you in a years time the interwebs will be full of “re-considering Watch Dogs” write ups and revisiting the things it did right. Free of hyperbole, hysteria and hype.

      • So basically, people who disagree with you are ‘actively out to destroy a game’. You should probably read the review (and other criticism) again.

        • Have you read the reviews on STEAM? I rest my case. There is nothing constructive about most of those. Saying it has poor graphics (laughable), some saying it’s the worse game ever (please let’s leave that sort of talk for Colonial Marines level of bad), complaining about Ubisoft (not the game itself), false advertising (it’s not their fault you are too dim witted to realise you are being played by advertising, that’s been happening for 100’s of years). So yes I stand by my claim that people are actively trying to destroy and hate this game. It started at exactly the same time they delayed then got worse due to graphics change. It’s 2014 hate and trolling is cool these days, it doesn’t just happen with games.

      • Some one downvoted @blakeavon s comment
        Just because he said what he thought and was right?
        It’s quite amazing how much sheep are here, i honestly wonder how much of you have even finsihed it and then downvoted this comment.

    • I agree. It’s a solid game, it’s just not memorable in the slightest. I’ve finished everything it has to offer, and I can’t point to a single thing that I’d say ‘Wow, that was truly great’ about. I have no intention of ever picking it up again.

    • The first time I completed a hack mission without having to even step foot into the enemy territory. That was pretty cool.

    • I would remember it as the first game I’ve played that recreated the scene in The Matrix when Morpheus leads Neo out of the office space, and subsequently, any moment where I used camera hopping exclusively to get through control bases and scouting missions without even injuring a single person. I honestly tried to avoid hurting good citizens, which includes the police.

      I think my end tally for hurting police and civies is less than 20 in the 20-something hours I spent on this, and most of those were just because the driving mechanics got weird on me.

  • Wow, this game could be more divisive than AC3.

    Lots of people militantly defending it and lots of weird accusations from both sides of people either blindly hating it because of the hype or blindly loving it because they fell for the hype.

    I haven’t played it yet (although I’m certain I will pick up a copy when I’ve cleared my pile of shame a bit), but seriously some of you need to chill the f*ck out regarding other people’s opinions of the game. Not everyone who disagrees with you is doing it because they’re a moron, the games clearly not perfect, clearly not terrible and clearly not for everyone.

    • …People were divided over AC3? I thought we reached consensus that it was bad.

  • I guess from the comments Ubi is the new Bungie, can’t do anything wrong by the fans despite releasing a completely hackneyed game.

    • I disagree with Ubi’s tactics and got bored of the AC formula after Brotherhood, however:

      a completely hackneyed game

      It wasn’t that. If you play the game without preconceptions from GTA, hyped E3 videos and a general sense that all games must be perfect in order to be enjoyable, it was actually not bad.

      • hackneyed
        (of a phrase or idea) having been overused; unoriginal and trite.

        Yeah, it was exactly that. Pretty much the ONLY thing this game brought new to the table was “Press X to hack” and that is not nearly enough and all the old things it brought to the table were half assed.

  • You realise that the names and the information you’re seeing are randomly generated and serve no real function. You’ll see a person’s dark secret repeat, and then repeat again, and you’ll start to wonder how many Chicagoans are sex addicts. You’ll read the same text message exchange twice — omg I slept with a hot guy and then he robbed me! — and the illusion will weaken further.
    To be fair, that’s actually tragically true to life when you have a LOT of peoples’ data pass through your hands.

    People… are not as unique as they might like to think, as you might like to think. See enough people even through travelling and you’ll start seeing a surprising number of folks all reading from the same script, practically verbatim. See THAT enough and you’ll start feeling pretty disturbingly disconnected.

    Maybe not intentional, but a somewhat jarring reflection on how you might view people over time, with too much of their information on display.

    • That’s quite the cynical view transient =\

      I think your argument also reinforces how important it is that organisations that do collect data on us don’t forget that the data is actually connected to real people with real lives.

      • Well obviously, it’s not the whole picture, because no-one ever gets that, but it does demonstrate how scarily similar people can be in the ways they secretly think they’re not, when you have to run your eyes over too much. It’s almost dehumanizing.

        On the plus side, it’s probably reassuring that the spy agencies who monitor everything you do really don’t give a shit what kind of porn you’re into, what sort of existential crises you’re experiencing, what embarrassing poetry you’ve written, or how many friends/family you’ve betrayed utterly.

        “Yeah yeah, whatever, drama queen, you’re in the closet/wrote somewhere that your boss is an asshole/want to bang your cousin/stole a pen from the bank DON’T CARE, so don’t care about your all-consuming, ‘end of the world’ shit unless you want to shoot the President.”

        (I mean, boo, I don’t want them to have that shit, but the fact is they’re gonna no matter what anyone does or says because spies kind of lie for a living and pry into everyone’s shit regardless of diplomatic relations, it’s their JOB, why is anyone ever surprised, so just knowing your perverted internet search history is just another unimportant blip is kind of reassuring. And obviously the perfect excuse to continue pursuing your deviant fetish. Obviously.)

    • Those were my thoughts exactly. I recently went on a holiday overseas and as a jobless observer with all the time in the world to spend walking around the city, it made me feel like people were just copy/paste templates.

      The same set of actions, goals and motivations. Of course I realised that I too, back home at least, would be exactly the same. Just another rat out to get some cheese, stopping by Starbuck on the way there.

  • It’s amazing people coming out of the woodwork to defend the game because the reviewer ‘has an axe to grind’. Maybe, just maybe, you should finish the game, reflect on your experiences, and then make an informed decision. The blind hype train is as bad as the blind hate train. This review is neither. It is a solid review with well constructed points (albeit described with a decent amount of hyperbole) and as a person who just 100%’d the game, I agree with it entirely. Watch Dogs 2 has the potential to be the AC2 of the franchise, just don’t go blindly defending it because you disagree with the review.

  • After completing the main storyline and a fair slog of the side quests, I came to the realisation that this game was not fun. It slapped me in the face like a wet fish and I wondered why I had just wasted 20 hours of my life.

    Now, how can you spend 20 hours on something and never realise you’re not having fun? Because it is a mechanically sound game. Sure there are some minor disappointments, (driving could be a little tighter, and the mission structure needed more variety), but all in all the mechanics work together in a functional way. However, this is very much a Ubisoft game, they have a formula for open world games that works well for them, (which I enjoy), but Watch Dogs is different, in that it lacks any sense of soul, identity and uniqueness to make completing the missions and side quests anything more than ticking boxes.

    Far Cry 3 had its incredible combat and a semi-decent story with an enjoyable character, (no plural intentional), albeit with a completely unnecessary and forgettable second half. Assassins Creed IV had its incredible naval combat and the occasional incredibly well thought out missions that used the games mechanics and its setting to great effect, Watch Dogs has neither of those.

    By far the best missions in the game are the CToS Control Centres, which task you with an objective and allow you to observe, plan, and execute your actions in numerous ways, which feel dynamic. Apart from that you have a by the numbers open world game, shooty part, drivey part, stealthy part, rinse, lather, repeat. Aiden Pierce might go down as the most unlikeable protagonist in video game history. Every decision he makes is a stupid one, every action he undertakes I disagree with, every thought he has is idiotic. He is so hateable, he made me hate everyone around him, (actually, he shouldn’t take all the credit, everyone does there part at being boring stereotypes), I couldn’t care less if his sister died, same too for his stupid funny looking nephew. I have the same emotional attachment to them as I would to a haemorrhoid.

    The world of hacking they created had so much potential, but it constantly contradicts the supposed rules it creates for itself and resetting the parameters of what can and can’t be done as the narrative demands it. In gameplay its even more disappointing, “hack your way to object A, through the one route of camera’s we have set up for you! How good is it that you didn’t have to do any thinking for yourself player! Just Press Square, move analog stick slightly, press square again and repeat till you win!” In gunplay you can make certain things explode, an inclusion that defies logic, but seems to exist simply give you a chance in combat, seeing as how you can take so little damage before dying. Its use in car chases is even worse. Do you know what would have made the car chases more fun? The time tested method of being able to shoot while driving. Now, don’t get me wrong I am all for new ideas, but the ridiculously simple execution of drive until it tells you to press square to “neutralise” a single car (only ever a single car, for some strange reason), is insulting.

    Its one redeeming quality are the inspired multiplayer ‘invasions’ these are, in my opinion, a stroke of genius that adds excitement and fun to an otherwise bland experience. Oh, and Spider Tank. Spider Tank rules.

    All in all, its a bland open world adventure with lots of things to do. If you want a shooty-drivey game set in an open world with plenty of things to do, go right ahead and grab your self a copy. If you want a game with some uniqueness, soul, originality, a decent story, characters that aren’t unlikeable stereotypes or dynamic gameplay, look elsewhere.

  • The real shame in all of this is that people are missing out on some of the themes that the game presents because of the negativity surrounding it.

    Themes about data theft, population control through media manipulation, corruption, business interests that overrule democratic governments, lack of privacy, etc. Things that are starting to affect us more and more.

    There are a lot of powerful ideas (which granted could have been done better) that are being overshadowed by conversations about how bad the graphics or driving mechanics are.

    • Except theme can only take you so far. You have to craft an engaging narrative that utilises that theme effectively. Watch Dogs fails to do so.

      • Watch Dogs fails to do so for many people. It worked sufficiently for me and others. I disliked big chunks of the story, but that didn’t stop me from really enjoying the bits that were really well done and the ideas the game attempted to convey through the plot.

  • I have a feeling that like Assassins creed 2, Watch Dogs 2 will blow the original out of the water.

  • UPlay and the 6 crashes I had before I updated my video card drivers aside, I’m rather enjoying the game. The hacking is great in some places (such as needing to hunt around for cameras to ‘bounce’ off of to get a good angle — it’s like a futuristic platformer where you need to jump places to get higher) and in other places, it’s a bit boring and dry (such as car chases. Usually you’re travelling so fast you don’t realise you can hack something until you’re past it). The story is a bit of a dry revenge kind of game, and only a few hours in I’m noticing repeats in dialogue and people. That is something that could be fixed with an update.

    Instead of releasing a bunch of DLC then moving on to the sequel, perhaps they need to start building games where you get incremental updates that add or change missions and features. A game with less of a “Start > Finish” story and more of a Fallout 3 style where you can finish the main quest but you could shoe-horn in a DLC which had an entirely new story and it’d work.

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