Preview – Watch Dogs


Preview – Watch Dogs
Quis Custodiet Ipsos CustoDogs?
Watch Dogs won E3. Not a conference, not a theme, not a studio, developer or publisher.

A single game won the prize, and with good reason. Whether it’s truly next-gen or just a PS3 pushed to untapped limits, scripted sequences or organic gameplay, a true open world or expansive if ultimately linear stages, we can all agree were Watch Dogs a dude, it’d be enthusiastic fist-bumps all round!

Besides the reduction in wanton acts of violence, Ubisoft’s big surprise distinguishes itself from contemporaries via its emphasis on Networked Information.
And ways to hack it!

In a city ruled by ctOS (Central Operating System) anti-hero Aiden Pearce’s radial menu can hew through the city’s surveillance, security and utilities, raising bridges, hacking cell phones, disrupting Wi-Fi and intercepting communications. With hack functionality available on everyone so much as sporting a wrist watch, Pearce can infiltrate the securest forts (or pretentious art galleries) without even furrowing an impeccably rendered brow.
Less slash. More Hack.
Less slash. More Hack.Enlarge Enlarge

Presentation is predictably faultless for a title which stakes its claim on visual information. Beyond the sharp lines and data streams of the corrupted ctOS, Pearce’s clothing rustles in the fait wind, dampens in the soaking rain and bunches as he draws a bandana across his face.

Immersive details abound, from the frustrated throngs lining up to gain entry to the post-modern spirals and neon contours of DeMarco’s fogged gallery. And let’s not forget QR Code Head Man Waiter Bot!

Scan it!
Scan it!Enlarge Enlarge

He’s a ruddy delight.

Perhaps this IS the next generation of graphical fidelity. If so, it takes after its parents because for all Watch Dogs’ technical accomplishments, it looks no prettier than Crystal Dynamic’s Tomb Raider or Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us.

Fortunately, no such doubts hound the voice work. The enmity between gruff Pearce and his impatient contact is palpable, their barking escalating as the tension cranks.

“Oh my God, I love it because it’s such a horrible idea!”

This line, illustrating the contact’s measure of confidence in Pearce’s strategy, demonstrates Ubisoft’s conviction on breeding a fresh high quality IP.

Too often preamble outclasses the main event, but Watch Dogs’ action holds its own against a superb set-up. Pearce’s CQC baton sees some delightfully harsh canned animation, while his deluge halting bullet time and bonnet jumping takedowns spice up an otherwise pedestrian cover mechanic.

Enemies seem omniscient as to Pearce’s whereabouts sadly, while an overused screen discolouring, regenerative health system marred the demo. Yet the invention of pulling civilians from totalled vehicles, calculating the statistical probability of violent outbursts and explosive resonance of... explosions, make this easy to forgive.

Watch Dogs is about sabotaging the city, setting intricate traps for your prey, and ending them in decidedly low tech fashion. Oh, and finishing demos on a needless stunts, ramping sports cars over bridges triggered from your pocket-bound supercomputer.
Online dating takes an unsettling new twist in Watch Dogs
Online dating takes an unsettling new twist in Watch DogsEnlarge Enlarge

Finally, for all the emphasis on campaign play, a multiplayer element was even teased as the viewpoint shifted to the roof-bound Bixxel_44, who proceeded to distract the pursuing police and parkour up the place a little.

The details of Watch Dogs’ co-operative play have yet to be outlined, but given the constant inversion of status quo elsewhere, expect it to be tied to the campaign in unlikely ways.

God knows when Watch Dogs will be in your hands. Q4 2013 is a conservative bet, but I’ve been wrong before. And in this particular case, I’m more than happy for that particular trend to repeat itself.

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