Watch Dogs - PlayStation 4 User Review
'Watch Dogs' on the PlayStation 4 was developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft in 2014. The game promised to give its players a sandbox look into a futuristic world that was filled with technology to exploit, bad guys to kill, and people to save. In short we were being promised a revolution in a PS4 title. With so few new IPs popping up to truly impress us on this generation of consoles we were more than willing to buy into the hype and dive in. So did 'Watch Dogs' pay off or did we end up getting bit?
The opening scene in 'Watch Dogs' shows us hackers working at an almost magical level. By flying their fingers across keyboards the heroes were able to do feats that would leave most people with a headache. And that is sort of how the game pushes forward once you finally get to take control of our hero, Aiden Pearce.
Set in a futuristic Chicago, 'Watch Dogs' gives gamers the chance to run around a world that needs to be set right. You might be asking yourself why you are here and that is a fair question. Aiden Pearce, it turns out, has quite the backstory.
Aiden has never been a truly good guy, he is a hacker after all. When working a job alongside his mentor, Damien Brenks, things get a little too heavy for Pearce. Brenks and Aiden are transferring a giant sum of money via the hacking that their smartphones are now capable of. They find a strange file in this process and realize that it has alerted the security team as to who is doing the hacking and where they are. Aiden ditches Brenks and tries to get home to his family to keep them save, without admitting what he has done. He convinces his wife and two children to get in the car and leave, pretending to go on a family trip. But it's too late. Soon two hitmen intercept Aiden and the resulting violence sees his wife, Lena, killed.
Flash forward and Aiden is now wandering the streets as an outlaw by the nickname, 'The Fox'. His one goal in life is to hunt down the hitman that killed his wife. This mission turns the world upside down for Aiden and soon he is on the run, trying to extract vengeance on a seemingly larger than life entity. His journey will take him all over the globe, with much of the game taking place in and around a scaled down Chicago, Illinois.
The pride and joy that 'Watch Dog' developers promised was the open world map. They did not under sell this point to fans. The map is huge and wildly detailed. You can go from one end of Chicago all the way to the other and experience the differences that the city naturally gives. You can find yourself wandering the rural suburbs or winding down alleyways in Chicago's large urban sprawl. The city feels breathing and alive around you in a way that we haven't seen since 'Grand Theft Auto'.
As you wander through the city you will be tasked with a multitude of different missions and side engagements. Not unlike the 'Assassins Creed' series, there are side quests that you can do to further your character without pushing the actual story ahead. These are great because they give you some more meat to chew on a pretty thin storyline.
We can't discuss 'Watch Dogs' without talking about how gorgeous the game itself actually is. Back when 'Watch Dogs' was still in development a few screenshots leaked to the public and fans went appropriately wild. The game runs smoothly at 30 frames per second and the environment is beautiful as a result. The game comes to life with color and texture and dynamic weather adds another layer to the beauty. Try wandering down the streets of Wacker Ave during a rainstorm or sit on the dirt paths of rural Pawnee when the sun is coming up. There are brief moments absolute wonder couched away in this open world experience and you would do well to slow down and experience them.
On that same note we have to compliment how the characters look, act, and feel. From Aiden all the way to the most side of characters, everyone is beautifully textured and animated. The voice acting is top notch and the cut scenes really capture our attention. The only complaints that we have are in regard to Aiden himself. He is a rather bland character and he doesn't ever jump of of the screen at is. Fortunately many of the side characters are colorful and they steal our attention when they are on screen.
Looking past the look of the game we have to assess the actual gameplay. What is it you will actually be doing here? Well, the game is in 3rd person and it tries to steer players away from violent confrontations. You are a hacker, not a super soldier, so you should know ways to dispatch your enemies without catching a bullet or two thrown your way. You're obviously able to pick up a gun and get in a shoot out, but it is obvious that your actual skills should be put to the test first.
There are a few random tweaks that made us fall in love with the depth of 'Watch Dogs'. As an elite hacker you can scan just about anyone to learn about them. These character backstories are randomly generated and always entertaining. You'll learn their jobs, hobbies, and a few facts of their life. This humanizes the otherwise random NPCs that are constantly surrounding you.
For the PS4 there aren't many games that give us this sense of adventure. We loved being able to wander through the city and work at our whim. The main storyline should last you about 20 hours, but you'll probably exceed that number via your propensity just to run around and take in the sights.