When Watchdogs was released back in 2014, it was unique chance to play as a hacker in open world Chicago. It was well received although a few gamers were still left wanting a little more. I have never got around to playing it which is a real shame because it was a Ubisoft title I wanted to make time for. In some ways, this is a good thing I haven’t had the time to dive into it as I’m not going in with the feeling that I may end up comparing the two but with sales of Watchdogs 2 staying a medium pace, it doesn’t feel as though this one has been received as well as its predecessor. So let’s get stuck in….
There is no Aiden and we are no longer in Chicago but we have Marcus aka R3tro and San Francisco Bay to explore. Watchdogs 2 is bright, colourful and unapologetically hipster but in a hacker way which makes it cool… or does it? I think it’s great fun and it certainly makes you want to go out and interact with as much as you can. Marcus has a big problem with the way personal data is being used by big corporations. You become a member of DedSec, a group of hackers who are looking to increase their number of followers, expose a number of individuals and companies while having fun in the process. I was concerned I was going to really dislike the hyperactive hacker crowd, but luckily they are quite amusing and are only slightly OTT. There is a lot going on in the game. I still have a lot of missions and side quests to tackle as well as PvP events and other challenges that pop up and distract you from what you were doing for a while. After the initial introductory mission, you feel like there’s a little bit of direction but then you wake up in your pants (featuring poop emojis and unicorns) and are on your way to the DedSec nerve centre which is beneath a D&D style shop. It’s not necessarily a bad thing as it will keep you busy, but I have struggled to stay on the path of what I imagine to be the main story as a result.
The missions vary in difficultly and what skills you will require to be successful. I can’t seem to get that hang of the stealthy approach which results in shooting everyone to allow me to wander around freely. While I love stealth games, I feel like there are few opportunities to get away with things like unconscious bodies left on the ground which suddenly get spotted and you can’t drag them into a bush or anything. The other options of hacking panels which fry nearby guards draws too much attention and immediately puts everyone on high alert leaving you with limited pathways to your goal. It’s about timing, precision and a certain amount of forethought all of which I seem to lack while playing this game. I tend to use my little RC car in most mission to head in and hack stuff initially before I waltz in and shoot everyone anyway. The RC car is really handy and a lot of fun if you want to play hide and seek with NPCs and if you want to get in and out of places with little resistance. Planning your route is made easier when you can use Nethack mode to get an overview of the area where particular objectives or devices are highlighted. It is handy but if you rely on it too heavily you miss out on what is going on around you and I tend to find it interferes with me seeing that I’ve been spotted by a guard.
While fun, Watchdogs 2 has challenging missions and a lot of content. With online multiplayer and in game PvP challenges popping up left, right and centre, there are hours of gameplay to be had. With a mixture of simple hacks into laptops, stealing trucks and infiltrating corporate buildings all for the greater good. But my only gripe is that Marcus is not the killing type in my opinion and while I’m fine with the taser, I just don’t believe guns are his thing really due to the type of character he is. It might have been an interesting dynamic to only have the taser and melee options available as offensive measures as the capacity to shoot people in cold blood just seems a little extreme. When the time comes though, there variety of guns is pretty good making you feel like you can handle yourself in a fight. Still, there are lots of other possibilities to create paths including overloading junction boxes and even setting up gangs to cause a distraction while you hack your way in to get the goods. At the end of a big mission, Dedsec shares the truth through means of a video filled with pop culture references and hacker style editing which works well and fortunately isn’t irritating.
There are perks to hacking. I love driving along and hacking other vehicles sending them steering into oncoming traffic or blowing stuff up in the middle of the road as I am driving towards it… that’s my favorite. I find driving incredibly difficult. The handling is all over the place and trying to outrun the cops is a mission in itself and in one of the early missions I almost entirely demolished the car only for it to miraculously be in perfect condition for the little 80s montage sequence to jazz it up for a public demonstration. Hooray for continuity. Still, once you unlock the perk to steal vehicles without drawing attention, it saves the cops getting on your back. Hacking phones is a good way of unlocking side missions and getting a little insight into the lives of others. In real life I would hate to be able to see what things people have on their phones and finding out which random strangers have fetishes and criminal records for silly crimes would be a little bit much. In the game however, it’s a source of amusement much in the same way that hacking peoples phones to steal their money is!
Watchdogs 2 is a very enjoyable game but I’m not going to spoil everything for you. It’s fun, bright and busy with challenging missions for you to get stuck into and a great soundtrack to go with it. Sadly, the game doesn’t seem to reward you if you manage to be successful in your attempts to be stealthy and avoid killing everyone which makes the sneaky approach a little pointless in certain situations. With hours of gameplay including Bounty Hunts, PvP and the main story quests, you’ll be busy but grateful that the game has moved on from its predecessor and isn’t trying to be a Grand Theft Auto copy.