Before I get into the review of Watch Dogs 2 allow me to reminisce. Back in 2014, May 2014 to be precise, I was very excited for the release of Watch Dogs. The brand new Ubisoft IP had a bunch of hype behind it and the appeal of an open hackable world filled with possibly had me hook line and sinker. As I got into the game it couldn’t have been more than hour before the disappointment hit. Watch Dogs was not the game I though it would be and I felt like my trust had been breached. It was a struggle to keep playing the game but the more I did the more it grew on me and I realised that whilst it didn’t live up to the hype and had plenty of flaws at it’s core was a good game that could have been a lot better.
Jump forward now to November 2016 and a more reserved me approached Watch Dogs 2. Right from the moment I first fired up the sequel and saw my man, Marcus Holloway it was evident that this was the game that Watch Dogs always intended to be. The presentation, the polish and the character all more enticing than the original. The promise of this open, hackable world has been reached and Watch Dogs 2, in stark contrast to its predecessor, is a much play game that should blow you away.
That’s some very lofty praise so early on in a game review, something I usually reserve right until the closing paragraph but Watch Dogs is well deserving of the praise up front. And warranted given that I’m not likely to be the only one that has approached Watch Dogs 2 more cautiously than I did the original. Now that I’ve set the scene for this review, I guess I better now provide a more detailed explanation so, here goes!
Let’s start with the story and our main character, Marcus Holloway shall we? Watch Dogs 2 follows on from what unfolded in Chicago. Despite flaws in the ctOS system, the powers that be think that it is a great idea and ctOS has now been rolled out further afield. San Francisco is right onboard with ctOS and has signed the city up to it on behalf of its citizens. Enter our brilliant young hacker, Marcus Holloway, the key figure in this whole saga. The ctOS system has classed Marcus as a suspect in a crime he did not commit and understandably he is more than a bit upset about this. Being suspected of crimes you didn’t commit would annoy pretty much anyone but when it happens to a hacker, they of course want some revenge. Enter DedSec, the underground hacking group that Marcus sees as an ally and goes about impressing by infiltrating ctOS. Soon there after, Marcus is initiated into DedSec and that’s when the fun starts. We all know that a system like ctOS is bound to be exploited by corporations and DedSec, being well aware of that fact go about exposing these corporations and exacting revenge on them on behalf of the fine folk of San Francisco. Our main Antagonist here is Dusan of the Blume Corporation. In order to expose Blume and Dusan for what they really are it’s up to Marcus and his friends at DedSec to use their hacking powers to exploit weaknesses in ctOS. Thus the fun begins and the world of San Francisco awaits as you hone those hacking powers.
One of the great things that shines through, right from the word go is that every character has a personality. Moreover, it’s great to see that Marcus has a personality. Let’s face it there were some good characters in Watch Dogs but unfortunately our hero, Aiden Pearce was not one of them. He was dull and for the most part never managed to convince me (or many people for that matter) that we should care about or attempt to understand his motivations. Connection with your character is important in any game, you want to feel connected to them, learn and discover them and drive them forward. That connection was never there with Aiden but Ubisoft have made amends by creating a relatable and likeable character in Marcus that you connect with almost instantly and what to work through the story with. Outside of Marcus the other main characters are equally appealing, the other members of DedSec, Sierra, Wrench, Horatio and Josh all have their own unique personalities and interactions between these characters feels natural and not forced. It’s this focus on character development and recognition of creating relatable characters that helps drive Watch Dogs 2 forward and paves the way for its success as a game.
Gameplay has been tweaked in Watch Dogs and for the better. Almost everything is hackable in Watch Dogs 2 but there are trade offs. Going to ATM’s to get your cash is gone and in its place you can get money directly when you hack someone. The flip side to that is that when you make a decision to hack someone you have to choose what you want from them. Do you want money or Botnet charges? Each decision has a consequence and makes the game feel more real. Marcus also has some new gadgets at his disposal too, he has a little two-wheeled drone and a quadcopter that he can deploy. These two drones will become an essential part of success as the game progresses. They are perfect for surveying restricted areas, gaining intelligence and helping plan the mission that is ahead. Be aware though, your drones can be spotted and will be kicked or shot at and taken offline which also alerts enemies that someone is trying to access places they shouldn’t. Should that happen, Marcus also has some other tricks up his sleeve. He can remotely hack vehicles and objects like lifts which provide a distraction. He can also exploit the weaknesses in ctOS and give people a fake profile that makes them a police or gang target which will immediately see a reaction and cause a great deal of commotion that comes in handy on more than one occasion let me tell you. It can also be fun just to go annoy some guy in the street then hide and set him up with an arrest warrant and watch some poor innocent fool get tasered by police.
This time around your cell phone is much more useful. Everything you do in game is controlled from your smartphone. It has Nudle Maps (sound familiar) which will guide you to where you need to go. The DedSec app will alert you to the missions you can do in game. The Driver SF app is basically an Uber app that lets you become a rideshare driver and earn some extra coin. You’ve got the Scout app that let’s you take selfies by landmarks and earn rewards. This is another area where Watch Dogs 2 shines, taking popular apps like Google Maps, Instgram and Uber and putting a satirical spin on them is a nice touch.
Another area where Watch Dogs 2 hits the mark is the customisation. Aiden Pearce was limited to a bunch of basic outfits but once again Marcus reaps the rewards of Aiden’s mistakes. Marcus has a near endless supply of customisation options for his wardrobe thanks to the sheer amount of clothing stores that you can visit. Be it tops, pants, shoes, hats, bags, if Marcus wears it you can customise it. It may sound like a small thing but it means that you can find your own style for Marcus and immediately show off your creativeness and make him feel more like you in the digital world.
Graphically, Watch Dogs 2 is breathtaking. I reviewed it on PS4 Pro on my 4K Panasonic TV and it blew me away. The character modelling is brilliant, the draw distance phenomenal and the framerates constantly smooth. The PS4 Pro really is an amazing machine and playing Watch Dogs 2 on it shows off how much potential the console has and what it can do to enhance a game. I;ve no doubt that Watch Dogs 2 will look fantastic on Xbox One or PS4 on a 1080p TV but on the Pro it’s some next level stuff. The look and feel of San Francisco is spot on and the atmosphere of this centre of the technological world is well captured.
Watch Dogs 2 also has a seamless multiplayer option which builds on what was there in Watch Dogs. It has been far from seamless though and was down right from day 1. It is back up in some capacity now although admittedly I haven’t tried it. Thankfully though Watch Dogs 2 is an excellent single player game that doesn’t need a multiplayer component to be a massive hit.
My what a difference a couple of years makes. It doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes playing Watch Dogs 2 to see that Ubisoft learnt from their mistakes and have corrected them. Everything that Watch Dogs should have been, Watch Dogs 2 is and then some. Aside from the issues with the multiplayer side of the game there is nothing to fault about Watch Dogs 2. You may look at that score of 10 and wonder how I could do that given the multiplayer problems? Well the answer is simple, the multiplayer side isn’t essential to the experience, the game is a resounding hit as a single player game and would have been brilliant even if it didn’t have the multiplayer mode. It is a bonus to what is already a great game not a part that is the be all and end all and on that basis I can’t mark it down for a part of the game that I think most people probably don’t care about. I’m going to through it out there, Watch Dogs 2 is a serious contender for Game of the Year.
- Relatable Characters that aren't bland
- Excellent Gameplay
- Captures San Francisco superbly
- Excellent amount of Missions and Side MIssions
- Multiplayer wasn't working but who really cares?