Though this was on my radar, I can’t say I was particularly hyped for it. Maybe it’s because of the whole downgrading thing Ubisoft’s been doing since the original Watch Dogs, with The Division, Rainbow 6 Siege, and so on. Maybe it’s in part because of how infuriating I found Assassin’s Creed Unity, which is the reason I haven’t even shown any interest in returning to the franchise since then. But, with how Ubisoft approached with revealing the game, just like Bethesda did with Fallout 4, revealing it at E3 and releasing it a few months later was the right call to avoid any comebacks.
So, with that said, what about the actual game? Set in San Francisco, it’s, well, really quite a pleasing to the eye game. It’s not the Grand Theft Auto level of visuals, but when you haven’t got the same resources (hundreds of millions in cash to throw at game development), it’s never quite going to get there. But saying that, there’s nothing wrong with how it looks. In fact, from memory, it’s quite vibrant in colours compared to the original set in Chicago, which I remember it being quite grey. While San Francisco, can go quite grey at times itself, more when the clouds loom above, there’s the varying colours of the sky, the ocean, the trees, grass, clothing, and even the phone menu.
The map itself, though big, I think is the right size for the game. I can’t really say how accurate it is compared to real life San Francisco as I don’t know the place, whether it’s bigger, or accurate with every street, etc… but what’s here’s is good enough to drive around without thinking, “god, why does it have to be so far away”, though there is fast travel to certain locations; shops, restaurants, but I chose not to use it. Just like the original, again, going on memory, which is questionable at the best of times, there are landmarks to visit, but this time you take photos or selfies to add to your social media timeline, with the option of pulling an expression. Some are of actual building landmarks, while others are of people, just as the painted lady, or man dressed as a dancing crab. There are also songs to find, just like the original, that you can add to your phone playlist. However, I am a metal fan, and some of the music, such as the theme music to the Hardy Boys (WWE), which I heard at a biker hangout, couldn’t be added to the playlist, which I thought was really disappointing. That’s considering, there are actually only two metal songs available (Megadeth’s Fatal Illusion and Judas Priest’s Turbo Lover) it seemed that it was more sort of punk oriented, with similar sounding genres crossing between the punk and rock playlists located on your phone. I would’ve been a bit more happier if the two genres were a bit more varied than what they are, even if just more classic rock or hard rock, but that is a minor gripe.
Personally, I preferred the characters compared to Aiden Pierce. It’s not that I disliked him at all like other people seemed to. It’s a different story, more drama and a moody outlook on what’s going on in Chicago, but there’s a bit more optimism in Watch Dogs 2, with being a part of Dedsec and being able to interact with other characters, with bits of humour thrown in, trying to take on Blume and other corporations trying to control the people of the city.
This time around, you have access to a couple of drones. One is a two wheeled jumping RC car, which allows you to drive through vents and grates to either sneak past authorities when breaking in to a secure building, or while out in the world trying to collect research points and key data to upgrade your hacking abilities. The other is a copter drone, though, while the RC car can actually do physical hacks to unlock doors and collect items, the copter drone can only hack wirelessly. But once upgraded, both can drop shock or explosive devices to take out enemies.
The ctOS hacks are still present, and it’s still incredibly amusing just to cause a blackout or do a massive vehicle hack to cause a pile up. There are also the evasive hacks still available while being pursued, whether by police or gangs, such as causing the traffic lights to malfunction to cause a pile up, or create an explosion over a manhole cover in the road, effectively wrecking your pursuers vehicle. That’s on top of all the numerous other hacks available, to taking out enemies by triggering explosive devices, to causing a helicopter to lose control and retreat, and hacking cars to taking away an enemies cover.
There’s plenty to do and enjoy, the online portion of the game is still busy at the time of writing, and all modes are enjoyable. It’s your choice whether or not you want random encounters of hacking, bounty hunting or Dedsec events to come in to your game randomly by visiting the game settings, which aren’t particularly invasive at all when they do happen. The results of your participation in these events go on to a leaderboard where you progress in divisions, which is more of a bronze, to silver, gold, diamond leagues, which seems to reward special clothing after so many days. It’s not something I really looked in to in too much depth apart from seeing my overall score for each event I’d taken part in and seeing what division I was in. I’d actually got in to Diamond 2 division without too much effort for one.
Some games I find can overstay their welcome. This isn’t one of them. There’s enough I feel to do, including races, taxiing people around the city, the online modes, landmark spotting etc… (the trip to Alcatraz was enjoyable being able to explore the island and inside the prison) as well as the characters having a good time (though there is added drama through out). I just had a much more enjoyable time with Watch Dogs 2 than I actually expected to. I didn’t feel at any point like, ‘y’know, hurry up and end already’, and from start to finish it’s just been a good fun experience, which is what gaming’s all about, even with going for the platinum trophy, which wasn’t overly taxing at all.
There are a couple of crazy things you’ll likely come across, but my policy is to keep spoilers out of reviews. While this is a game that didn’t exactly wow me, it’s one that is good fun and I would recommend to casual gamers, or to those that just want to kick back to enjoy the scenery, explore or just cause havoc.