Watch Dogs 2
A few years ago, back in 2013, Ubisoft shocked the world by unveiling a revolutionary new concept of a game, hack everything. That game was Watch Dogs. A year later, when the game came out, what was previously-known as a revolutionary became labeled as a flop with critics and gamers, alike. So, it made the idea of having a sequel seem like a shocking move by the well-known studio. That is, until you press start on Watch Dogs 2.
Watch Dogs 2 begins by thrusting the gamer into the action with a mission meant to be as a test for our main character, Marcus Holloway (a.k.a. Retr0). If successful, the hacker group DedSec would allow Marcus to join their movement. If unsuccessful, our story would be over and Marcus would likely end up in jail or perhaps an overqualified “Genius” at the Oakland Apple store. Obviously, the latter isn’t the case. After Marcus succeeds, he joins DedSec’s cause in taking down Blume Corporation, the evil tech company in charge of ctOS, which is connected to everything and gathers information on citizens to sell to the highest bidder. In order to accomplish this goal, they must gain followers to download their app, by completing various missions, which will fuel a massive takedown of the tech giant.
Among the many knocks on the first Watch Dogs, one of the biggest was the lack of quality, relatable characters. The main character of the Chicago-based game was Aiden Pearce, a brooding character with a sordid backstory, trying to rid his city of the scum that resides within. The only character in Aiden’s small group that was remotely interesting was the backwoods hacker, T-Bone. The rest were like Aiden, brooding and uninteresting. That isn’t the case in Watch Dogs 2.
The eccentric cast of Watch Dogs 2 isn’t the only positive update Ubisoft made. Overall, the story for WD2 is better than it was for Watch Dogs 1. Part of that, has to do with a villain that actually makes sense for this type of game. The first Watch Dogs had a bit of a crisis of identity. It was a tech game, inside of a watered-down version of Grand Theft Auto, with an old, crotchety villain who wasn’t really tech-savvy. In WD2, we get a villain in Blume Corp CEO, Dusan Nemec who plays DedSec like a fiddle. He’s always quietly in control, pulling his puppet strings, and letting every move DedSec makes be in his own favor, rather than let it tear down his company. He’s one of my favorite characters to watch throughout.
Additionally, what makes the story fun to play is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. With light-hearted conversations like who would win in a fight between Predator, Alien, and DC Superheroes, to even playing out like an old-school 80’s action flick with their cut-scenes that include fun montages, Ubisoft noticeably had more fun making this game. Plus, they have the benefit of being in San Francisco, rather than Chicago. That’s not a knock on Chicago, by any means, I’ve been to both places and loved both cities. It’s just that when you think of creating a technological game, the first place that would come to mind would be Silicon Valley, Palo Alto, places where everyone is trying to sell an app. That’s not what you’d find in the Windy City. Therefore, Ubisoft had more freedom to create a game in a setting that just made more sense. I would regret it if I didn’t mention how spot on Ubisoft’s San Francisco is. I went recently with my wife and playing this game brought me back to a lot of those places.
Watch Dogs 2 isn’t without its issues, though. First being its lack of identifying characters. There are a lot of secondary characters in this game. So many, it tends to be hard to keep track. However, what all these characters have in common is that they somehow know Marcus. Except, we never find out how or why. For instance, a politician named Miranda helps out our merry band of hackers and it’s obvious Marcus and Miranda have a history, but we never know what that is. It’s almost as if there was a previous game that would explain who some of these people are and how they got in touch with the man known as Retr0, but by all indications, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Additionally, the poor communication doesn’t just stop there with the secondary characters. There is a member of the main team who is given very little screen time and almost feels like an afterthought. (SPOILER) It appears the developers at Ubi felt the same way because midway-through he’s taken out, causing an emotional moment for the characters but less-so for the gamers. It’s a ballsy move to pull a main team member, but considering how they barely used him it made a lot of sense.
In terms of handling, certain controls are extremely hard to grasp. For instance, driving. WD2 has a bevy of cars to choose from and all have their own quirks. I found that sports cars, while fast, are extremely hard to handle. Several times, I found myself driving down the street hitting everything in my path because I had no traction. On the other hand, motorcycles, the Nudle car, and cars reminiscent of a Fiat were the easiest to drive, while still being plenty fast. Ubisoft, does make up for it in new and improved hacking features, like calling in gangs and police to do your dirty work, that create an even better gaming experience.
On another negative note, WD2 doesn’t really give the gamer a wide-array of armory choices. They’re mostly the same but with the ability to customize them with different paint jobs. On the flip side, the wardrobe customizing far exceeds what you could do with Aiden’s wardrobe in 1. Ubisoft gives the gamer way more options in how to dress Marcus. Although, the issue with that stems from how he was constructed. Marcus is a bit disproportionate in that he’s got a big chest but skinny arms. So, trying to fit him in anything, but a long sleeves hoodie, ends up looking strange.
Overall, Watch Dogs 2 makes Watch Dogs 1 feel like a beta, in a lot of ways. The sequel has better characters, story, and overall environment than what we experienced with Aiden. You can visibly see all the lesson Ubisoft learned from their disastrously-critiqued first game. Obviously, it’s not a perfect game. There are still those trademark Ubisoft glitches, we’ve grown to accept. However, with all these updates and a fun variety of missions, Watch Dogs 2 is an addictingly fun game to play. I realize you may feel burned after the first game, but you can rest easy in knowing that it’s not like how it was. Watch Dogs 2 is its own game and should be considered as such. If you can look passed a few of the glaring errors, it’s a game you’ll definitely enjoy.
The Watch Dogs We Wanted All Along
The best thing I can say about this game is that Ubisoft learned from their mistakes. Watch Dogs was ok, it wasn't the worst game I've ever played but it wasn't the game we were promised. Watch Dogs 2 delivers in every possible way because Ubi learned from their mistakes. This is the Watch Dogs game we wanted since 2013. It's time for people to forgive and give this game the play-time it deserves.