Delayed new title is not a hack job

by Shane Dillon

AT LAST, one of the most keenly awaited games of the past couple of years is upon us, with Watch Dogs viewed by many as one of the early trailblazers of the new console cycle.
Indeed, it was delayed last year, making headlines when at the last minute its expected launch release was unexpectedly pushed back by another six months or so for some extra polishing, thus leaving Infamous 2 to placate new Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners looking for a new open world game.
Luckily, the wait was worth it, as Watch Dogs is an entertaining title indeed, and offers something a little different in the open world “sandbox” genre.
(Available on XBox 350, PlayStation 3, PC, XBox One and PlayStation 4, note that, as with all such cross-generation games, there is a noticeable big change in graphic fidelity depending on your platform.)
As a near-future cyber thriller, of sorts, hacker Aiden Pearce goes on the run in a well-realised Chicago, recreated here with notable finesse.
He’s free to follow the game’s complex storyline and engage with all kinds of characters – or simply to goof off, explore, or otherwise while away the days in this sprawling version of Chicago city and its many diverse neighbourhoods.
It helps that our somewhat shabbily-dressed protagonist is a master hacker, with his incredibly powerful/useful smartphone proving a memorable gaming prop to manipulate the city itself, thanks to its relentless “augmented reality” pop-up information on the people, props and objects that are nearby.
After all, virtually everything in this future Chicago is linked up to a single city-wide server, leaving an awful lot in the game left open to Aiden’s tinkering and manipulation.
From getting information on all and sundry in the city’s streets as they pass by, to hacking cameras to spy and eavesdrop on the story’s bad guys, to raiding online bank accounts, to setting traffic lights to be in your favour – and much, much more – Chicago has been turned into a fresh new setting to tinker with, with Aiden also free to help the city’s citizens thanks to the information he picks up on them, or just to be a jerk and annoy them.
Indeed, interestingly, the game notes your actions, with your good/bad behaviour feeding into some of the information you’ll come across.
Like its many counterparts, Watch Dogs can also just be played as a standard action-adventure game, with run-and-gun elements throughout.
However, its imaginative use of hacking, data mining, eavesdropping and other such cyber antics are an integral part of the story.
Ultimately, the delay was worth it, as Watch Dogs offers a fresh-feeling mix of exploration, stealth, parkour, and standard third-person action gameplay, all presented within a memorable setting.
Featuring less of the over-the-top craziness from the likes of the GTA series, but with more engaging and diverse gameplay elements, Watch Dogs has been worth the wait, and is a welcome addition to the “sandbox” genre.
Now, I wonder when we’ll all get a super-powered smartphone that can set traffic lights to always be in our favour, too …

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