Ubisoft bedazzled onlookers with its Watch Dogs trailer shown first time during E3 2012. A brand new IP, Watch Dogs is a take on the wired world we live in, where everything we do is monitored, and our actions controlled without us realizing it. Privacy is thing of the past. And Watch Dogs is a parody to exactly this, it seems ironic that this game is coming from a company like Ubisoft. Jokes aside, Watch Dogs presents an exciting and most importantly, a relevant take that I’m sure many of you can relate to. Watch Dogs is one of Ubisoft’s headlining showcase at E3 2013, and one we will definitely be keeping our eyes on.
We got a chance to sit through a live playthrough of Watch Dogs on the Xbox One. We were guided by Ashley Morgan, the Lead Level Designer for the game.
You play the role of Aiden Pearce, the protagonist of the game, who has one superpower, and that is, his expertise in hacking into the systems of Chicago city. And this ability allows Pearce to control more than anyone could ever imagine. We’ll get into that shortly. The gameplay walkthough being shown to us is a mission where Pearce has to help his friend T-Bone evade the police force. Watch Dogs is based on the Chicago map.
The first thought that came to my mind when Pearce breaks into a parked car and drives to the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot, is, how Watch Dogs is reminiscent to the Grand Theft Auto series. In fact, in some of its parts, the game looks exactly like GTA IV‘s open-world. As Pearce, you can roam freely around the city of Chicago, and can hijack any car seen in the game, very GTA-esque.
Moving on to our mission objectives, we receive a call from T-Bone, who wants to meet Pearce. Pearce doesn’t know the exact location of T-Bone, so he hacks into a nearby Wi-fi hotspot. These hotspots are placed all over the city, and each hotspot covers a specific area. Hacking the Wi-Fi hotspot will grant you access to that area’s security cameras, laptop computers, in-road barricades, etc.
Hacking into the Wi-Fi hotspot, Pearce gets to know T-Bone’s exact location, and his cellular device envisions T-Bone’s surroundings. Pearce uses this information to guide T-Bone away from the cops and out of his apartment. T-Bone gets into a car, and this triggers a car chase by the cops. Pearce helps T-Bone lose the cops during the car chase by triggering ground barricades to pop up before the cop cars, making them crash into it, and thus, helping T-Bone lose their trail.
Morgan says this is one way of doing this mission. Pearce can also go guns blazing at the cops, or use stealth, it is your choice on how you want to do the mission. Transition from land to water is also ever-present in Watch Dogs. Pearce can swim and ride boats. You can use slo-mo during combat as an aid to accuracy. There were no loading screens we saw during this playthrough.
Every area in Watch Dogs has a control center, which are based on the city’s central operating system (ctOS). Pearce must first infiltrate the Control Center, avoiding/killing its guards, and then must hack into the ctOS. Only then can Pearce hack into other devices in that area. Think of Control Centers like the outposts in Far Cry 3. Afterall, both are Ubisoft games, so the mechanics are pretty much similar. Meh.
Combat in the game was how we’d expected it to be. You can tag enemies and use cover as an aid. You have the ability to get a brief background on any person (NPC) walking around you. Information like their job, pay, and other specific and useful info like ‘Lost his father two weeks back’ are given to you.
One interesting feature shown to us during the walkthrough is Crime Prediction. Using his electronic device, Pearce can predict if any crime is about occur in his vicinity. In our playthrough, a goon in a dingy sidewalk threatened to beat up a woman. Pearce gets to know this by his device. Now, it is your choice if you want to intervene and stop the crime, or just be a silent observer. Intervening and helping the victim will grant you Reputation points. If you choose to ignore, your Reputation goes down. Civilian causality during combat or driving will land you negative Reputation points. Reputation points help you upgrade your hacking skills and craft weapons.
In the next sequence, Pearce enters a bar with the news flashing on the TV screen. Due to his stint alongside T-Bone, the Chicago PD have identified Pearce, and the news flash displays Pearce’s face as a wanted criminal. This alerts the people in the bar, who notify the police of your presence, which triggers another chase. This is Watch Dogs’ holistic and integrated open-world.
Now to the interesting part, and something we did not expect at all from Watch Dogs. Other players playing the game can hack into your world. This is a similar concept to the multiplayer in Dark Souls, and expect to see more games in the future implementing the same. Calling this a ‘multiplayer’ mode won’t do justice to the concept, this is more of an ‘online integration’ of players worlds. This eliminates to the use of lobbys and thus, waiting time. You will be prompted if a another player somewhere in any other corner of the world is close by to you, and you can proceed to hack them. If you decide to hack the person seen around you, he/she will be notified that he is being hacked, and he can stop this by reverse-hacking into Pearce’s device, locating his position and confronting him.
This is what Ubisoft meant when they said that next-gen consoles will give them online features that offer a more integrated and connected experience, and they have implemented it pretty well with Watch Dogs.
So far, this is what we have on Watch Dogs. We’re sure you’re as excited about this game as we are. Do let us know what you think about the first gameplay impressions.