Does the sequel to the open world hacking thriller live up to the hype?
We have had a couple years to move on from the adventures of the first game. In Watch Dogs 2 we find ourselves on the west coast with a new hero. There were a number of issues that players had with the first game, but it looks as if those cries have been heard and received after playing the sequel. Did Ubisoft deliver with the second installment of the series?
If you played the first game, or similar games, the overall gameplay will be familiar to you. The gunplay and cover system are easy to use as the controls and feel of the system is almost universal in these types of games now. You are still able to wield a number of weapons (some are quite destructive and fun), but in this edition of the game the player, now playing as Marcus Holloway, feels more prone to enemy attack. I found myself having to be much more careful in some shootouts because if I became overwhelmed I could only take a few hits, especially from well equipped enemies.
The core aspect of the game is hacking, and this system has seen a number of improvements since the first game. You can hack the usual streetlights, pipes, doors, electrical boxes, and more, but as the intro discusses, we are living in the internet of things. There is more to hack, and it only gets better as you expand your abilities through research. You can hack unmanned forklifts, robots, and more as you make your way through the city.
As your hacking skills increase you can hack vehicles so that you can control their movements as well. This is extremely helpful when being chased by police because you can drive close pursuers off the road. You can also eventually force police helicopters to leave you alone.
One of my personal favorites is the new ability to be able to call in police to arrest a target by hacking their profile and uploading false criminal data. You can also upgrade to the “Gang War” skill which allows you to call in crews of gang members to assassinate the target. I have to admit to abusing this sometimes to create the ultimate distraction in some situations especially when you combine the two in the same area. (You really should try it yourself)
Another new aspect of the game is the use of remote controlled tools. The jumper and quadrocopter are part of your arsenal now, and both allow for you to complete missions and scout areas in different ways. I would often use the jumper to scout out rooms and paths before taking Marcus inside. There are some missions you can use the jumper to complete all of the objectives. While this allowed for multiple choices to complete missions I feel there should have been more times where you had to go in and take a little more personal risk.
Finally on this point, hacking puzzles, while still playing a large role, seemed much less daunting. I feel the pacing of encountering them was improved greatly in this game versus the first one.
The story of this game felt almost as nebulous at times as the first game did. When the game started I felt like lost as to who I was and what I was doing. As the game progressed I felt that this picture became clearer, but I still feel that I wanted more background about Marcus. I finished the game feeling like I had accomplished this big goal and made new friends along the way, but that I still didn’t know the real why behind Marcus and his character.
The other characters you meet in the game have easy to read, almost cookie cutter personalities, but this isn’t a bad thing because it felt like this rag tag crew fit together. By the end of the game I really felt like I liked each of the cast members in the DedSec group, and I enjoyed their dialogue and wanted more of it.
The overarching story was an interesting commentary about the world we live in from politics to the internet of things, and big data. While I understand that this game has you playing the part of a member of a hacktivist group, I felt that the animosity that drove all the characters thoughts and actions was never really revealed. It felt like we were hacking for hacking sake and just happened to run into a group of really bad people. Upon finishing the main story I felt that the ending was a bit of a letdown as well. No spoilers here, but I was left unsatisfied by the finale.
Sights and Sounds
The new setting of the bay area produces some amazing views. Many landmarks are recreated in the world which is still always busy with the daily life of the computer controlled characters. There is always something soothing about walking through the park and hearing the conversations as the sun sets. The textures and lighting are outstanding and enhance the views you can encounter. The sounds ranging from busy streets to high in the hills were immersive. The dialogue between characters wandering the streets serving to help keep you in the setting.
The game appears to run smoothly in all but a few circumstances. When driving at high speeds through the city there is an apparent loss in framerate. The same goes for when there are multiple explosions and many other nearby objects to render. While this is notable, it was very infrequent in my playthrough. My experience, with those exceptions, was fluid through all times of day and places.
In almost every way Watch Dogs 2 is an improvement on the first game. The gameplay allows for various routes to complete objectives and remains familiar to fans of the series. While the main character feels more relatable I still feel like the story suffers from the need of more of a driving force so that I know why I am motivated to do what I am asked to do. The missions are still fun and the puzzles are challenging without being overwhelming, and the game is absolutely beautiful in both graphics and sound, but I was left wanting more. While this is a huge step forward for the series I feel there is still more that can be improved on if a third game makes an appearance.
Have you played Watch Dogs 2? Do you agree or do you have another opinion? Let us know in the comments below!