May 29 2014 2:30pm

Gaming Roundup: Watch Dogs Turns You Into A Hacker Extraordinaire

Watch Dogs

It was an eventful week for Ubisoft’s latest offering, the hotly-anticipated Watch Dogs. Not only did the game launch this past Tuesday, but it quickly became the fastest-selling title in Ubisoft history (yes, that includes all the Assassin’s Creed games, as well) and instigated a real-life bomb scare in Australia, to boot (note to Ubisoft PR: small beeping safes in newsrooms from an unknown sender... maybe not the best idea). So what’s the deal with Ubi’s hack-heavy shooter?

In some ways a spiritual successor to Deus Ex, the action/adventure-based open world shooter is set in alternate Chicago, and finds the entire city running on a central operating system (CtOS), providing ample opportunity for our hero, vigilante hacker (is there any other kind?) Aidan Pearce, to tap into his magical smart phone to hack and manipulate any and every electronic device in his vicinity. And herein lies Watch Dogs’ core gameplay innovation; you can use your phone to change traffic lights, view security cameras, empty pedestrian bank accounts, eavesdrop on text and phone conversations, remotely detonate grenades, raise bridges, and more. Then, you can combine your hacking with more traditional open world gaming elements such as driving and shooting to progress.

The accidental realism of Watch Dogs is not lost on its audience, either. A Big Brother-run Chicago, an overreaching government, unsecured technology, a vigilante hacker... there are obvious parallels to NSA overreach, Edward Snowden, the routine breaches of online institutions, and more—despite the fact that Watch Dogs began development in 2009, prior to the release of many of these revelations. While the universe seems ripe for powerful storytelling, some reviewers indicate that the scope of the game causes the story and character to fall by the wayside, victim to the desire to instead simply set up cool gameplay moments with Aidan’s abilities. For many, fun gameplay is enough, but the sacrifice of story over gameplay is somewhat tired at this point.

We have yet to get our hands on the game, but if any readers have had a chance to play, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Watch Dogs is available now on PC, PS3/4, and Xbox 360/One, and will be available on the Wii U later this year.

In other gaming news this week, The Evil Within gets pushed, a refreshed Final Fantasy III hits Steam, and Gears of War looks to reinvent itself. Read on!

  • Nintendo took a lot of flak last year when they started a Content ID program on YouTube that took any video using Nintendo content and shifted its monetization from the creator to Nintendo. The company is now trying to make amends, as it was announced this week that the program will now share revenue with authorized content creators.
  • After Microsoft acquired the rights to Gears of War from Epic and assigned them to Black Tusk Studios, the new developer realized their task was a difficult one. Black Tusk knows it has a difficult line to toe in order to preserve all the familiar elements of Gears while also finding room to create new elements, but it sounds like they’re willing to take some risks and “betray” core fans, to an extent, in order to innovate.
  • The Evil Within, Resident Evil creator Shinji Makami’s next survival horror project, will be delayed to October so it can undergo a little more polish (refinement that the game apparently needed, according to some reports). Just in time for Halloween! (Note: The trailer below is not for the gore-averse...)

  • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel plans to explore a gentler side of Handsome Jack, Borderlands 2’s murderously lovable villain.
  • Of interest to Final Fantasy fans: a visually refreshed Final Fantasy III is now available on Steam.
  • Many remember the RPG Planescape: Torment as one of the best stories ever told. Its spiritual sequel, Torment: Tides of Numenera, has quite a legacy to live up to, but certainly doesn’t suffer from a lack of ambition: gamers will reportedly be able to complete the entire game without once engaging in combat at all.


If there are games you’d like us to cover or blogs you think we should be following for more news, please let us know @tdelucci or @pritpaulbains.

Chris Nelly
1. Aeryl
You know, I decided that I would give Watch Dogs a try(in a few months, price drops please!) before I found out today it was from Ubisoft. They just get how to push my buttons.

It's similarities to AC is what caught my attention, the hacker comes across like an assassin, in how they use the environment, terrain and allies to their advantage, is very similar to how Aidan sets up situations.
Pritpaul Bains
2. Kickpuncher
@1 Aeryl - The gameplay sounds like a total blast, I gotta say. I'm doing my best to hold off on games available on next-gen until I have a PS4, but it's tough.

Looking forward to your thoughts once you get it though!
Thomas DeLorenzo
3. flyingtoastr
What attracted me to Watch Dogs first was that very same fact - it's made by Ubisoft Montreal, the developer of some of the good Assassin's Creed games. I had high hopes that this game would follow a lot of the same kinds of cues - prioritizing stealth, using clever items to incapacitate enemies without drawing attention to yourself, etc. A lot of the early coverage backed this up - the game was going to be about hacking and using the city's own security against itself, NPC's were all going to have biographies to make "collateral damage" seem much more visceral, and the narrative was going to deal with some big issues like the survaliance state.

It isn't that game. It is, for all intents and purposes, Grand Theft Auto. Well, a GTA where once in a while I can press X and the traffic lights go crazy and the cops go away. I have been pretty disappointed so far, and really wish I had held off on buying it. It's not a $60 game, in my opinion, just another ultra-violent consequence-free open-world city felony sim.

YMMV, though.
Jeremy Goff
4. JeremyM
I would have to say with Watchdogs that while I'm not blown away by it, I'm definitely not upset that I bought it. I've only played a couple of hours but so far it's been fun. It does not look or feel like a next gen game to me though. We'll see how it progresses, but for now I'm satisfied.

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