Digital Salad: Watching Watch_Dogs

Watch Dogs is the latest big release and I decided to pick it up and give it a go. I recently blogged that I’m beginning to realise that I’m something of a classic gamer nowadays; so I wanted Watch Dogs to be, perhaps my last, foray in to cutting edge new games. I wanted to see if it wowed me, to see what I thought of the much lauded new franchise that looks set to stay.

So, here’s the Digital Salad review of Watch Dogs on the Xbox 360; although it is available on all other consoles!

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Ubisoft’s latest offering, Watch Dogs, has been out for a month or so and much has been written about it’s highs and lows. IGN reviewed the game and gave it 8.4 out of 10, which seems a fairly solid score.

I’ve been playing around with Watch Dogs for a while since I picked it up, completing a few missions but mostly just exploring the open world – and more often than not getting myself killed or horrendously stuck. Just open world things!

The first that strikes me, and seems to have struck nearly every player, is the absolutely appalling driving in Watch Dogs. Cars are a big part of the game, they’re the only reasonable way to get around the large map quickly, and you get access to all sorts of different vehicles over time. Its something they needed to get right, but got oh so very wrong.

Granted, Ubisoft Montreal haven’t ever really made a game with driving in before. Given that though, they should honestly have got some support with the driving mechanics because they are so awful it really hurts the overall gameplay and enjoyment. It really is that bad, and is the main reason why IGN marked it down in their review.

Not including shooting whilst driving as a mechanic is another part of the poor overall driving experience, and leads to far more frustrations than it should. I’m right behind the mark I’m tasked with taking down but I can’t shoot them off the road, collision damage is limited and there’s no hacking opportunities nearby – you just have to wait for them to crash themselves in that situation!

Driving is awful in Watch Dogs
Driving is awful in Watch Dogs

Talking of the screenshot above, the graphics look awful on the older generation of consoles. A lot of current generation console gamers took to the internet to vent their frustrations, many accusing Ubisoft of purposefully degrading current generation graphics to sell more next generation copies.

Honestly, I don’t suspect such an underhanded plan from Ubisoft, but it does feel a little bit like they didn’t really try enough with the current generation copy. That’s fair enough, its now a dying platform, but it still feels a little sad that they didn’t both to provide for so many gamers.

The story was touted as a ground breaking aspect of Watch Dogs, playing a hacker who can control the world around himself and use it to his advantage against the dystopian politicians and bureaucrats who use it to – to be honest, generally stop crime. CTOS, the government’s anti-crime system that hacker and protagonist Aiden Pearce breaks into and uses to his advantage, isn’t really all that far fetched. I think Ubisoft wanted that to be some sort of social statement, but throughout the whole game the only person who really is doing bad with it is the protagonist Aiden Pearce.

The story is not all that great to be honest, Aiden isn’t likeable in the slightest and seems like a walking cliche. Not only that but he makes himself into judge, jury and executioner in what is a very grey world of ethics.

CTOS servers in game
CTOS servers in game

The hacking, one of the most core mechanics of the game, is pretty boring. It’s not all that different from the game world, touted as open and dynamic – but, within an hour I was seeing the same info snippets pop up for different random civilians. It doesn’t wow me, the world is just too empty and the hacking too shallow. All you can really do is open some doors, raise some barriers and steal some details. Neither element is all that groundbreaking.

All in all, Watch Dogs feels far too much like a modern Assassins Creed knock-off. Many of the aspects of Watch Dogs, produced in the very same studio as all the Assassins Creeds, resemble those in its Assassin counterpart. Honestly, though, Watch Dogs would have benefitted from taking on a few more of the elements from its successful cousin. The Chicago of Watch Dogs is ready made for the parkour of Assassins Creed, but Aiden Pearce is condemned to the ground or as high as ladders can take him. I really really wished parkour had been carried across to Watch Dogs.

It was almost inevitable that I was going to end up mentioning Assassins Creed in this review, and isn’t entirely fair to compare the newborn Watch Dogs franchise with its older, mega-successful, relation. Watch Dogs is a good game, just nowhere near good enough to justify the intense hype surrounding it before release.

I have had fun with Watch Dogs, but there’s a nagging disappointment for the the expectations it didn’t live up to. Without the hype upping my expectations before I bought the game, that wouldn’t be there and I would just be content playing through what is a good, solid game. I think that’s perhaps the biggest lesson the gaming industry needs to learn right now, hype is not necessarily good.

All in all, Watch Dogs gets 3 out of 5 from Digital Salad. Its disappointing in many ways compared to the hype, but remains a good game that is worth a good chunk of your time.


Watch Dogs


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