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.