Whereas Ubisoft left us seriously impressed with its demo of Star Trek: Bridge Crew in VR, we didn’t quite get the same impression from Watch Dogs 2. At Gamescom, we got about 20 minutes of hands-on time with the PS4 variant of the game. Even though the game does have a pile of new features over its predecessor, it felt as if Watch Dogs 2 might amplify the repetitive gameplay issue we had with the original Watch Dogs from two years ago. Or will it?
In the new game, you no longer take the role of Aiden Pearce in Chicago, but rather the role of Marcus Holloway in the Bay area. You have access to San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and some surrounding landscape, and the environment is also secured with ctOS, just like Chicago was in the original game. As Marcus, you’re also part of the hacker group DedSec, whom you reinforce by completing various missions throughout the campaign.
Hack All The Things
In the demo, the first thing that we noticed was that Marcus can hack much more than Aiden could in the original game. For instance, Marcus can disrupt people’s phones to make them panic, and he can hack every single car--and it’s not just setting off their alarms. At the press of a button, he can start engines and even drive them remotely. This makes some sense when we’re talking about modern cars (it’s almost comical in light of recent events), but even in a game I wouldn’t expect to be able to start the engine of a 1982 classic when I’m on a bench half a mile away.
In addition to increased hacking abilities, Marcus also has a a small RC car and a quad-copter drone that can get to high, otherwise unreachable locations. They’re not only useful for reaching the unreachable, though. He can also use the drones as distractions and to reach and hack objects remotely
As I started a simple hacking mission, a Ubisoft level designer that was sitting across from mejoined my game. He wasn’t particularly amused by my "guns blazing" approach, but with a bit of effort we managed to hack the two targets and proceed to our escape.
Part of what makes the Watch Dogs 2 multiplayer unique is the ability for other players to seamlessly enter your world. The idea is that players can aid each other in completing missions, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if some characters drop in to sabotage your missions, too.
Inventively, Ubisoft came up with a solution to that problem. If you go into someone’s game and kill them, you’ll get a bounty on your (digital) head. In turn, when the police are after you, other players can drop into your game and help the fuzz capture you and then collect the bounty. To make matters worse, up to three players can band together to hunt you down. The question is, will that solve the problem, or just encourage more chaos?
As my time with the demo was running out, the Ubisoft spokesperson had me pull out the in-game phone and switch to the camera, which I could pivot around me to create my perfect in-game selfie. The result? Marcus posing for the selfie, with cops gunning down my co-op buddy in the background. I cringed.
Are You Serious?
When I went into the Watch Dogs 2 demo, I went in with the expectation that it would be like the original game, but with an extension of its plot. What I saw was completely different. I was placed into a new city with a new protagonist, and it was only after I found myself squirming at the thought of other players coming into my solo game, and cringing when I saw the selfie mode that the penny dropped: Whereas the original Watch Dogs was more serious, Watch Dogs 2 is about all-out shenanigans and hooliganism.
Fortunately, you have the option to switch off the co-op/bounty hunting mode and ignore the phone camera. All the new elements may turn you into a hacking god, but more importantly, they open up the possibility for vastly different approaches to the campaign. If you’re well-coordinated, an aggressive ‘guns blazing’ approach could work, but Ubisoft also confirmed that you’ll be able to play through the main campaign without making a single kill.
|Name||Watch Dogs 2|
|Platforms||Xbox One, PS4, PC|
|Release Date||November 15 2016|