Watch Dogs (PlayStation 4) Review

By Az Elias 21.06.2014

Review for Watch Dogs on PlayStation 4

It seems such a long time ago now, that Watch Dogs was first unveiled at E3 2012, with a very encouraging trailer that looked like it could really take open world games to another level. With the action adventure title being pushed back to its eventual release last month, the hype kept building, both in part to Ubisoft's extensive marketing, and fans that were eager for a game that could give Grand Theft Auto V a run for its money. Sales of the game have already surpassed four million worldwide, and the news that Watch Dogs is the best-selling new IP in the industry paints a very pretty picture for Ubisoft. Is it all deserved, though?

The concept of hacking just about anything electronic in the open city of Chicago as a means to gain the upper hand against enemies meant Watch Dogs showed great promise, if it could also tie into a strong and clever storyline with good characters. Unfortunately, the shoddy writing and abundance of flaws create one of the most disappointing big new titles in a number of years.

Players are thrown into the shoes of the monotonous Aiden Pearce, a computer hacking expert whose niece ended up killed after hit men were sent to take him out following a bank heist, in which Aiden's partner-in-crime blew their cover. The rest of the plot has been pulled right out of the book of clichés, and - surprise, surprise - Aiden goes off in revenge to find those responsible for the girl's death.

Straight away, there's a problem. Not once is this niece of Aiden's ever seen prior to her death. The game literally begins with the hacking mission going wrong, Aiden's car with his family inside getting shot at and turned over, and then he's off out on his quest for payback. Watch Dogs wants players to sympathise with Aiden and help him find the killers, but no desire is there because no time is given to develop any feelings for a girl whose face is never shown.

Screenshot for Watch Dogs on PlayStation 4

The scenes between Aiden and his sister and nephew - Nicole and Jackson - who survived the attack, are cringe worthy and lacking in any real emotion. Even after Nicole gets kidnapped (because that hasn't been done before), Aiden hardly bats an eyelid to the situation. His belief that she'd come to no harm because he knew the guy who nabbed her was questionable and unrealistic.

Completely unrelatable and dull characters are thrown into the mix as the plot progresses at a snail's pace, and not a single one of them has been made with any degree of originality. Jordi is about the only one who provides some humour, but he's hardly given any screen time. The game makes it impossible for players to have any affection for these characters, and it has to be said that most simply won't care about what happens to them.

After the bore fest that was Assassin's Creed III, one would have thought Ubisoft would have been able to avoid hitting such low writing standards again, but Watch Dogs somehow manages to outdo it. Aiden gives even Connor a run for most uninteresting protagonist, and his motives quickly become dubious. He might want to take down his niece's killers, but in the process, he murders dozens of innocents along the way, and yet the game tries to make out he is some sort of hero vigilante. Taking on the optional side quests of catching criminals and the like becomes completely ironic with the crimes Aiden gets up to, especially when he's putting down the police, the upholders of the law.

Watch Dogs' plot is nothing more than clichés and melodrama, and it's a total snore from the first to last moment, made worse with an unlikable and unidentifiable main character.

Screenshot for Watch Dogs on PlayStation 4

Away from the story, hacking is the big new gameplay mechanic at work here. It's been designed with a single button input in mind so as to make it a simple and quick interaction. Anything that's hackable will be indicated with a Square button icon, and these will normally come in the form of people's phones, surveillance cameras, forklifts, traffic lights and other devices that can be made to explode or create hazards on the roads or in areas with enemies.

In buildings and other places that must be infiltrated, or where the goal is to gain access to a specific computer for information, the stealth approach used by flicking between different cameras, distracting guards and silently taking them out by leading them away from certain locations and causing their grenades to explode, has its satisfying moments. Clearing out a whole group of enemies just by hacking to enable Aiden to then freely walk about a previously off-limits area gives a smug kind of feeling. A lot of the time, though, it's just easier and quicker to go in and shoot everything, which defeats the purpose of all the hacking. Some frustrating puzzle-like sections that involve turning switches and directing flows of power down certain paths under time constraints only act to break up the flow of the hacking in negative ways.

Screenshot for Watch Dogs on PlayStation 4

It is let down even further in other areas. The AI can be just plain stupid at times and the cops completely invincible during others. High speed chases can last far too long as police cars can hardly ever be out-paced, and causing hazards that miss and drain hacking power creates frustration. It doesn't help that the actual driving mechanics handle poorly.

As an open world, Chicago is quite possibly one of the dullest locations in any game of its ilk. Yes, it looks pretty realistic, but it's nothing but roads and buildings, with a bit of greenery and water in between. Driving through this depressing city is a chore. It's got nothing on the fantastic Hong Kong of Sleeping Dogs, or the variety of Grand Theft Auto titles. It's deprived of personality. Perhaps that's the point in this interconnected and controlled world; it's a miserable reality that's reflected in a miserable-looking Chicago. The end result, however, is a game that makes the one playing it feel pretty miserable, too.

The actual idea of Watch Dogs is great. Just about every NPC has its own unique little profile, and the thought that everybody's personal data is available at the press of a button is a scary one. Ubisoft could have gone places with it, but Watch Dogs isn't anywhere near the revolution for open world games that it was made out to be.

Screenshot for Watch Dogs on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Watch Dogs is a total let-down. The characters, the storyline, the game world - everything is just plain dull. The level of writing is pretty shocking, but doesn't come as much of a surprise after the dire Assassin's Creed III, and certainly won't have anyone eager to play through it for a second time. It has its moments with the hacking mechanic, but its potential is wasted in what's essentially as generic as an open world game can get. It's obvious a sequel will be coming, but Ubisoft really needs to take a good hard look at this title and address the glaring issues and stereotypical plot if it wants the future of Watch Dogs to be a successful one based on quality, and not the result of a huge marketing push that hides the fact this isn't the next level in the genre it was touted as being.

Developer

Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher

Ubisoft

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10 (3 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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