An Open World Dive Into ‘Watch_Dogs’

Miguel Concepcion

Between “Watch_Dogs”’ E3 2012 debut and its demo at the PlayStation 4 unveiling, Ubisoft has only offered glimpses on how hacking can be used in the game’s open world. We know it plays a central role in both the narrative and as a survival tool. Yet we haven’t had a chance to see this mechanic in a free roaming context. This week, Ubisoft gave us a more robust look at “Watch_Dogs”: about 30 minutes of open world gameplay, without a single second devoted to the campaign. Here are the five things that has me more excited about “Watch_Dogs”, and five things has piqued my curiosity:

Own The Network
However advanced your smartphone might be, you can’t automatically hack into every nearby device, at least not at the start of the game. It might be easy to cause an accident by changing a traffic light, but it might be harder to hack a specific phone. Each district has a control hub and only by infiltrating that hub can you gain total access of the nearby devices.

Own The City
With “Far Cry 3″ still fresh in my mind, I’m recalling the game’s similar ’territory takeover’ level design. “Watch Dogs” features similar options of being an aggressive shooter or just using stealth. You only had rocks to distract guards in “Far Cry 3″; “Watch_Dogs” lets you manipulate objects through hacking to distract guards

Be The Eyes Of The City
Learning to hack and use surveillance cameras is key. It can be used to show where guards are going and also reveal other foes you might not spot with the standard view. Spying into someone’s home is also possible and often necessary in getting key information, like gaining access to a car.

Apps, Apps, Apps!
Augmented reality apps! If you see a couple NPCs pointing their smartphones at each other in street, they’re not as crazy as they look. They’re merely playing one of the latest AR games and you too have access to these apps as well, such as the “Space Invaders”-inspired “NVZN”.

Music For The Mood
When a foot chase turned into a car chase, it was a pleasant surprise to not hear licensed music from the radio. Instead, the soundtrack made a context-sensitive shift to give the chase a more ominous feel. The first thing that came to mind was John Williams’ ’Encounter in London and Bomb Malfunctions’ from the superb Munich soundtrack.

Take A Bite Out Of Crime
This dive into the “Watch_Dogs”’ free roaming shed more light on protagonist Aiden Pearce’s potential as a vigilante. Urban crime unrelated to the story serves as one of the optional mission types. You have the choice of stopping an incident and ignoring it. What’s intriguing is that you can also stop a crime from happening but choose not to punish the offender.

Karma Police
Your choices in stopping crime will have an overall effect toward the rest of your playthrough, though nothing as complex as “Run Lola Run”-style repercussions. The moral choices you make reflect on your reputation, but you’re not automatically feared if you decide to be judge, jury, and executioner.

Friend Of The People
If you do go the vigilante route, some will admire you for taking the law into your hands. The same surveillance cameras you use to spy on others will be pointed at you when you shoot a rapist on the street. Then your reputation builds through social media, another important element in “Watch_Dogs”

Your Choice, Your Game
“Watch_Dogs” might defy many open world game conventions, but what is familiar about the game is how it’s accessible to many types of action game fans. You can just stick to the mainline story missions, be an open world completionist, or find something in between. This also includes multiplayer and Ubisoft assured us that this mode will use the same world as the campaign. I’ll be pleased if it’s anything like the “same world” single player/multiplayer functionality of “Burnout: Paradise”.

Online Friends… or Foes
Multiplayer is the one feature of the game I’m most curious about, especially in the way it was shown at E3. While one player is clearly playing as Aiden, who are the other controllable characters and what are their roles and responsibilities? How rewarding will it be to play as these characters if they’re only in supporting roles? Are they friend, foe, or neither?

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Watch: Watch_Dogs Gameplay Trailer

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