Does anyone remember the Watchdogs graphics debacle when it released in 2014?
I do, it still burns that the game was released and it looked so different to the demo we saw at E3. It was my first realization that publishers will just lie to sell their games. Stupid I know but I was naive before this. I thought you couldn’t show something that wasn’t true. It was made all the worse when someone found the original graphics files and I saw how the game should have looked.
PC gaming is where its at if you want your games to look and run the best. It’s even more galling than when we end up with watered down console ports, games that could be great but fall short of the mark because consoles can’t keep up.
Well at least Watch Dogs 2 has some good options for the PC. Graphics and resolutions that will show the game at its best and at 1440p it certainly looked great, well greater than the console flavours.
So thinking about the first game it was no wonder then that I was worried about Watchdogs 2 doing the same thing. I wonder if that’s why I didn’t care about the Watchdogs 2 announcement. Don’t get me wrong it looked incredible and appeared to be packed with exceptional ideas but I have as of late been less and less impressed with Ubisoft as a production company, The Assassin’s Creed franchise wasn’t doing it for me any longer and had gone from a fun distraction to a boring repetitive button bash.
So it’s clear that I wasn’t expecting much and this is often a great way to approach a game for review. No expectations.
So let’s start with some positives for a change. It’s better than Watchdogs. Cool, that’s that dealt with then. There is more but I’ll come back to it. I like to get the negatives out of the way as ever so I’ll start with something that just irritates me abut many Ubisoft games. It’s not something specific, its not anything I can say they always get that one thing wrong but it’s the host of annoying little pinching, itchy, tiny scratchy things that seem to plague their games.
Slightly off movement, only very slightly and you get used to it but it’s still off, things don’t happen as you would expect and actions are slightly hit and miss especially when traversing the terrain, the time you need it the most.
The story centers on a gifted hacker by the name of Marcus Holloway who is the latest recruit fro DedSec, a hacking collective operating in San-Francisco in the not so distance future. The plan is to take down the evil corporation Blume. The “world’s foremost innovator of high-tech, high-performance communications and security technology”, the Blume Corporation specializes in everything from wireless phone operating systems, home computers, to digital imaging processors, and linked-by-network security systems. Blume (German for flower) is the company responsible for all the WI-FI hot spots throughout the city.
So Blume bad, DedSec good, got it? DedSec has a plan to take down Blume by setting up a massive botnet utilizing all of the smartphones and linked devices so that they can expose them and their allies.
You are joined this time by Sitara, Wrench, and Josh. These guys have their own unique abilities and will all help Marcus, the man on the street, to hack the systems and uncover the truth. Gameplay is very similar to Watch Dogs and whilst Assassins Creed has better parkour mechanics Marcus can hack devices nearby device to steal data, control window cleaning lifts, fork lifts to get you to higher areas or just open doors and set traps.
You do have a melee weapon, which is a hard ball on a rope and you can print guns on a 3d printer back at the DedSec HQ. These naturally unlock and give you more options as you progress through the game and gather more wealth. There is an RC Jumper two wheel drone that you can send into enemy hideouts and with it, you can hack into systems.
Beyond that, Marcus has a selection of other gadgets. A hard ball on a rope works as his basic melee weapon, while a 3D printer back at DedSec HQ can print a range of stun pistols, handguns, shotguns, assault rifles and SMGs, the selection growing as DeadSec hoovers up more cash. New gadgets are cool too and then Watch Dogs 2 gives us the new RC Jumper, a two-wheeled drone with a claw arm that you can use to hack enemy systems and can travel through vents to get to those hard to reach areas inside enemy bases.
Of course, you have the obligatory side missions and activities, just so you know I don’t like most of them and the whip about, go here, do this mechanic is getting boring. I really hope that there is a new idea soon.
That said, its better than most of Ubisoft previous open world attempts that center around complete a mission conquer an area and move on. The hacking mechanic is excellent and actually good fun and the game appears to have stepped up the stealth mechanic and now it’s only if things get FUBAR is it time to go loud. This doesn’t suit my preferred play style and of loud and shouting while blowing things up but even I managed to stay quiet for the most part, mainly because of the RC Jumper which I found myself relying on for information. With the Jumper and the Arial Drone, I was able to appreciate the mission design a lot more than in the first game and even though the build up for the missions involved a lot of camera hopping, I managed to maintain my composure and not attack everyone.
Driving is still wrong, I don’t like the way cars feel and this is certainly the weakest area of the game, they are certainly better than Watchdogs but still nowhere near where they could be to make it not feel like a chore.
The AI is still wallowing around the bottom end of the IQ pool. They will keep up the predictable route patrolling and God help them if you go loud, they will happily swarm towards the sharp end of your gun so you can mow them down one after another. There is no need to worry either, most missions where you get loud, kill everyone and make a lot of noise doing it end with you simply walking out of the front door. I don’t remember the police caring so little in the first game. It’s great that you can actually escape from a mission unhindered but it does mean the game has lost some of its edges.
There is also a fragmentation to the game that I can’t quite put my finger on, it’s almost as though you are playing a series of missions designed by different people who attended the first meeting about the game and then went away to work on their own separate mission. I mentioned movement early but its pretty hit and miss. I wanted to jump to a roof ledge, instead, I jumped to the floor and was spotted. Irritating.
Watch Dogs 2 is a good game, but it has a problem. Do you want an open world game to run about in, drive cars, do missions and have fun. Cool, GTA V is probably what you will play, Do you want a game with a great story and cool parkour, Assassins creed 2 is still the best of the series and is perfect for this. Do you want to play online with people with future tech and have your friends hop in and out in an open urban environment, well The Division is what I will play. Aside from the hacking Watch Dogs 2 has nothing that isn’t done better in other games, I was let down by Watch Dogs so I didn’t put a lot of faith in Watch Dogs 2 and I would say that overall, it met my expectations.
It’s definitely going the right way for the franchise and if you really liked Watch Dogs and want something mostly the same, Watch Dogs 2 will be right up your alley.