Saturday, August 8, 2015

[REVIEW] Watch Dogs

Watch Dogs
Played on: Wii U
Genre: Open-world action-adventure
Developer / Publisher: Ubisoft

Nintendo has a well known modus operandi, choosing to pave its own way rather than follow industry trends. For the most part, this is precisely what has kept me so interested in the brand over the years, although there is a particular trend I wish they'd show more interest in: open-world gameplay. Sadly, Wii U has seen only a few such games, meaning the existence of Watch Dogs, which is supposed to be Ubisoft very last non-casual offering on the platform, is welcome.

The game puts you in the shoes of Aiden Pearce, a vigilante with a somber personality that also happens to be a highly skilled hacker. The main idea is that, as you explore Chicago and follow through the story, you'll use Aiden's skillset to hack machinery, cameras, ATMs, cellphones, traffic lights, and whatever else strikes your fancy. It's certainly an intriguing gameplay premise, and it often works well.

For this setup to even be plausible, the game's Chicago has to be a highly connected city. Here, there's a single operational system which controls pretty much everything in the city, and that's why Aiden gets to hack everything so easily from his cellphone. Of course, that is something that no public administrator would ever think of as a good idea, precisely because it makes everything so vulnerable. This, coupled with some pretty unbelievable cellphone apps available to the player, makes it hard to truly believe in this world as a living, breathing place; given that the games goes for story-focused realism, this is a problem (although one that plagues many similar titles, to be honest).

When it comes to the actual action, results are varied. Some story sequences are great, others not so much, thanks in part to the less-than-ideal driving controls; the same can be said of non-story objectives throughout the city. Exploring the city should be cool, as there are many points of interest along the various neighborhoods, and the game allows you to "check in" to each of them and learn a bit of history while you're at it.

One thing that bothered me is just how easy it is to get money: basically, you just need to walk across a citizen with money in the bank, effortlessly hack his phone from yours and steal his credits. It's an interesting idea at first, but it quickly grows dull from the lack of challenge.

As filled with things to do as Watch Dogs is, I couldn't help but feel it was a bit stale in the end. It boasts such a cool premise that the execution simply falls short of what could have been. It also suffers from frame-rate problems, sometimes quite severely, even if the graphics are serviceable enough. It's a cool option for open-world fanatics on Wii U, but far from a game that will be remembered as a bastion of the genre.

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