Watch_Dogs 2 Review

By Megan Walton,
Back in 2014, the original Watch_Dogs was released after a lot of hype built it up and gamers expected a lot from the game. Unfortunately, for some people, the game did not deliver on its promises of being able to hack the city of Chicago and it was largely considered a disappointment to a lot of people who were expecting a new and exciting game. Even with this criticism, the game was still enjoyed by many and was enough for Ubisoft to decide that it deserved a sequel. Now we're here two years later with Watch_Dogs 2 and we've moved from Chicago to San Francisco, taking control of cheerful Marcus instead of dull Aiden. So, how does this sequel compare to the original and, for those of us who held a grude against Ubisoft for the first game, is it time to forgive them?

Logo


You are Marcus, or Retr0 if you want to go by your hacker name, and you are the newest member of DedSec, a small organisation with whom you may be familiar if you played the first game. DedSec's aim is to hack their way through big companies, politicians and anyone else out there who might be lying, then show the world the truth, letting the general public and individuals decide how to move forward with their lives based on these revealed truths. DedSec's target this time around is Blume. The company has implemented ctOS2 (an improvement from the original ctOS from the first game), which has brought the city into a new, futuristic age. Everything is controlled by smartphones and all of your information is available to almost everyone, and it's an age where both of these things are protected by hackers. The story, which is of decent length, may not be the most groundbreaking, but in an ever-changing, technology-reliant society, some of the game's tales may ring truer than we'd like them to do. However, whereas Aiden's story was fairly dark and built around revenge in the first game, Marcus' story is a lot more light hearted for the most part this time around.

You and DedSec are out to prove Blume wrong, to show the world what they are really doing and to hack your way through their systems. To do this, you'll need support in the form of followers who you earn by completing main missions, side missions and various other activities, including taking selfies, racing in boats and hacking to your heart's content. There is a nice variety of missions on offer throughout the story, although they will usually find you hacking something or someone at some point. The game never forces you to play through the main missions over anything else and you have the freedom to aimlessly roam around the beautiful city of San Francisco should you feel the urge to do so.

Living in a hacker's paradiseLiving in a hacker's paradise

The hacking is very similar to the first game. A couple of presses of a button allows you to intercept a text, hear someone's phone conversation, grab an access key off a phone, or potentially blow them up. You won't just be hacking phones, though, as the game takes you around the world hacking VIP servers and more during your quests -- there are very few dull moments throughout the game. You'll see a lot of similar hacks from the first game, including hacking into people's houses using ctOS boxes, but unfortunately there are very few of these hackable houses or related missions. Those that do exist are a lot of fun. Whether it's saving the life of a man who is trying to take his own life in his garage after losing his job, or showing a girl who streams her bedroom 24/7 that the internet is not a safe place, there are all sorts of activities and lives for you to uncover.

You have a couple of new playthings to help you with your hacking, one of which was vaguely touched upon in the Bad Blood for Watch_Dogs DLC for the original game. The remote control car, or RC, has been implemented as a regular hacking device in this sequel and can be used to hack items such as phones, as well as unlock security boxes and pick up important items. It is a quieter way of moving around an area and you can quite often be in and out of an area without being seen. There's also a brand new remote control drone toy that can fly to places that you can't reach, allowing you to solve certain puzzles and hack boxes to which you wouldn't otherwise be able to get. The vehicles are limited by the distance that they can be away from Marcus; the fact that some items must also be hacked by yourself means that the vehicles aren't an easy way of running through the game, but they are definitely a postitive and handy tool to have by your side.

You've been searching on nudle for what?! "You've been searching on nudle for what?!"

Another helpful tool for your hacking is the nethack vision, which changes the world to a black and white fuzzy environment and allows you to switch between cameras to move closer to objectives. You can also see important missions items and enemies that can be tagged, meaning that you can plan out your path from a distance and then before executing it. Once you decide to enter a location, it is fairly easy to run through it quickly with the seamless running and jumping that Marcus is able to achieve, as is the aiming and gunning down of people, or the more subtle takedown depending on which route you want to take. The simple holding of a button means that you'll be able to jump over an object as soon as you get to it and you are able to run indefinitely without ever getting tired. As unrealistic as it may be, you needn't worry about escaping from potential disasters.

Moving between areas in the city is similarly seamless and easy and the huge scope for fast travel means that you can get anywhere in a flash. All of the local amenities, such as restaurants, clothing stores and coffee shops, serve as fast travel points. The frequent location of these means that travelling the city of San Francisco is easier than ever and you don't need to waste time driving. If you do want to drive, it's still fairly erratic so expect a few uncontrollable moments and potential crashes along your journey. If cars are your thing, one of the side objectives that you can complete is taking on the role of taxi driver and running people where they need to go, whether it's following potential crooks or rushing an expecting father to the hospital. The peculiar variety in the driving objectives and the sometimes unexpected endings mean these missions are always fun in which to partake, as well as offering a nice change of pace from the hacking missions.

I'll give you a lift, but I can't promise that you'll get there in one pieceI'll give you a lift, but I can't promise that you'll get there in one piece

Each of the above activities earn you followers to unlock new missions, but each time that you earn a target amount of followers, you'll also earn some research points that allow you to access new abilities. These unlockable abilities vary from being able to hack more things in the city to improving your RC car and drone. Some of these abilities are more helpful than others, such as improving the jump ability of the RC car so that you can reach higher areas, so picking and choosing which expensive upgrades that you want is important. Other abilities are locked until you find the corresponding key data pack on the map, so you are encouraged to explore in order to have all of the abilities that are available to you.

The game feels even more futuristic than last time around, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. You print your weapons from a 3D printer, you access all of your maps, upgrades and various missions from your smart phone, and taking selfies around the city is actively encouraged. The city of San Francisco itself is a much brighter and more vibrant city with outstanding landmarks like the Golden Gate bridge that you can thoroughly explore. NPCs are largely interactable and you can tell that attention has been paid, especially when speaking. While it touches on serious subjects at times, as a whole the game never manages to take itself too seriously. There are even references to other Ubisoft games, both old and potentially upcoming, as well as the original game itself (as well as an special appearance by a familiar character or two).

Play with a friend....if you can connect to themPlay with a friend....if you can connect to them

Finally, the game also offers you the opportunity to play in co-op or multiplayer, if you believe that everything is better with a friend. In the co-op mode, you can either start a special purple co-op mission and join someone who is also doing it, or you can actively invite a friend to your session. Alternatively you can join theirs and simply run around the city doing whatever you wish. This co-op gameplay is smooth and stays connected well. The fact that both players can interact with the environment means that there's a whole potential of hell to be raised. In terms of competitive multiplayer, it's widely known that the game has had issues. Although you can now hack other player's games and hunt other players as bounty targets, the multiplayer issues should have been fixed from release even if it is not a huge part of the game. Apart from these issues, I only encountered the odd glitch of my RC car getting stuck under the ground in an immovable spot, and Marcus dying and being unable to continue the game.

The game comes with an unusually numbered 49 achievements and you should happen across a lot of them by simply playing through the story. Aside from the obvious completion of all of the main missions and side missions, you'll also want to be finding all of the key data packets that are scattered across the city, buy lots of cars and even find one of the secret vehicles if you can. While looking for these, you'll also want to take selfies at famous landmarks, with someone who's throwing up, and also see if you can get someone to photobomb you too. These rather unique achievements make travelling around the game's city a fun endeavour, but it is unclear as to whether the completion is achievable at this moment in time, with no-one having killed 5 bounty targets as of yet.

Summary

Watch_Dogs 2 definitely improves on its predecessor in almost every way. Marcus is a much more enjoyable person with whom to spend time and even though DedSec is hipster central, it's a fun journey that you'll have here. There's a better city to explore this time around and a whole bunch of exciting missions to find and complete, as well as the feeling of saving and changing lives as you do so. Unfortunately, there are still some minor bugs scattered about and the issues with the multiplayer means that the seamless experience that we were promised has not quite hit its mark. These issues aside, Watch_Dogs 2 is easily recommendable for anyone who liked the premise of the first one but longed for improvements. This is the new reality, so don't miss a chance to be a part of it.
4.5 / 5
Watch_Dogs 2
Positives
  • Large amount of interesting quests and side quests
  • Bigger and brighter city to explore
  • More hacking opportunities with addition of RC car and drone
Negatives
  • Online multiplayer still not functioning quite correctly
  • Some minor bugs and glitches potentially encountered
Ethics
The reviewer spent approximately 30 hours hacking their way around San Francisco while gaining followers, saving lives, killing the bad guys, taking selfies and generally messing about, unlocking 45 of the game's 49 achievements along the way. A download code for the game was provided for the purpose of this review.
Megan Walton
Written by Megan Walton
Megan is a TA newshound and reviewer who has been writing for the site since early 2014. Currently working in catering, she enjoys cooking extravagant dishes, baking birthday cakes for friends and family in peculiar shapes, writing depressing poetry about life and death, and unlocking every achievement possible.