The wonderful thing about today's connected world is information is readily available at our fingertips whenever we have the inclination to look for it. We have smart phones, smart cars, smart TV's and smart watches. Now anyone can access the internet from practically anywhere at anytime, and even the most bone headed internet “experts” can post their opinions on websites for all the world to see. A bonehead such as myself.
Watch Dogs introduces us to the next level of smart technology; a smart city! Chicago Illinois is now the home to an experimental central monitoring and social interaction system known as ctOS (CenTral Operating System). With the ctOS, the population can book transit, arrange medical care, check their banking and the local police force can actively monitor crimes in progress. Here's some of the cool stuff you can do in Watch Dogs.
#6 Interaction: Hacking
Let's get the obvious out of the way. Like myself there's a good chance that the majority of you aren't playing Watch Dogs for the Grand Theft Auto experience or even for the story. There's a pretty darn good chance that you opted to play Watch Dogs so that you could hack the ever living crap out of everything with a microchip.
Watchdogs let's you do exactly that! From the very moment you are let loose on the streets of Chicago the ctOS is available at your fingertips. Pull out your smart phone and you'll immediately be filled in on the vitals of every passerby that comes within 20 feet of you. You'll learn everything you need to know about that random guy down the road such as his name, his job, his income, if he has any medical problems and if he has a criminal record. If they have a phone out you can also monitor their phone calls, text messages and pilfer their bank account.
#5 Side Quests
Most open world games these days are full of side quests that really fill in the gaps between story and free roam. Watch Dogs does the same thing but it makes sure to use the hacking mechanics to give you maximum enjoyment of what you are doing. There's all kinds of fun missions to do, such as a bizarre 3D mix of Mario platforming and Pacman ghosts, digital trips and chess games. There's also neat little story missions such as one where you track down a serial killer who seems to be only targeting specific demographics and it's up to you to find out where he is and stop him.
Another neat mission is to find a bunch of hidden QR codes on the map and scan them. For extra fun if you have a smart phone in real life you can scan the in game QR codes off your TV for amusing little messages.
For me the most memorable missions involved invading enemy strongholds and hacking their ctOS hubs which in turn gave me more stable access to data in the surrounding area. The other memorable missions involved hunting down gangster convoys which usually ended up in tense highway shootouts. One of these convoy missions required me to hunt down a character from the Assassin's Creed series, which for me was a really wicked surprise!
No it wasn't this guy, be serious now.
Have you ever been in an absolutely insane police chase in games like Saints Row or GTA and nothing you can do seems to be able to get them off your tail? No matter what you do the police are absolutely relentless and along with trying to run you off the road they also seem to have no qualms about turning your getaway cars into Swiss cheese in the process? Well the same things happen in watch dogs but thanks to your trusty smart phone and the ctOS system, you can easily turn the city against its doughnut munching servants.
Mmmmmm doughnuts....... Where was I?
During police chases you have many options at your disposal that make for some truly amazing chase breakers. Have 7 or 8 cops on your tail that just won't let go? Reprogram the traffic lights as you whizz through them and watch the daily commuters crash into your pursuers. That didn't work? Well I suppose you could overload the pressure of the subterranean pipes and watch the road erupt in a cloud of hot steam thus ejecting the unsuspecting cops off the road and into the nearest building. What's that? They've sent helicopters? Hack the search light and navigation systems on that chopper and watch them break off the search in a panic while they try to restore their systems.
Finally, my favourite chase breaking feature involves breaking the line of sight of your pursuers by driving into a dark alley, turning your car off and hiding behind the dashboard. This might sound silly but the most insanely tense moments I had were sitting in a quiet car at night after a 20 minute police chase while they shone searchlights within mere feet of my car, all while barking orders and updates to each other. The entire time I was sitting there hoping to hell that no one would find me. Which brings me to....
THIS is a feature that I wish would show up in more sandbox games. One thing that always drove me up the wall in GTA and it's various clones was how the cops knew EXACTLY where you were the very instant that you did something criminal. It's almost like they could see into your brain and know exactly what you'd done..... kind of like my mom always knew when I'd not done my homework.
In Watch Dogs the cops aren't magical, and they most certainly aren't psychic. Instead they use a much more realistic approach to tracking you down. First off I'll point out that simply committing a crime isn't enough to get their attention as it all depends on witnesses. If someone witnesses you gunning down someone it's up to them to pick up their phone and call the cops. If you happen to catch them you can snatch the phone out of their hands or hack the communications using crafted hacks to cut off the call. If a 911 call is successfully made then the cops still don't instantly find you. They hop on to the ctOS and start accessing cameras all around the city, which they use to profile everyone until they find someone matching your description. Now you can use the same hacks you used to cut off the 911 call to interrupt the ctOS search but that only gives you about 5 seconds to clear the search area before they are back online and keep in mind that your electronic countermeasures are only good so long as you have enough crafted.
Damn I hope the cameras don't come back on... I forgot to wear pants again.
Another really cool thing about Watch Dogs is that even if you are playing only single player, you can still interact with your fellow gamer. Scattered throughout Chicago are social check points that let other players know that you were recently in the area. If you are feeling particularly nice you can even leave gifts of ammo, gadgets and cash to help other players in their game and in turn you can collect those same gifts for yourself. If you're a selfish asshole like me you might even get a little bit greedy and take everything but leave nothing.
Another cool thing you can do is invade other player's games. The way this feature works is that you show up in their game as a rival hacker known as a Fixer. Your job is to sneakily hack the other player without them catching and killing you. Other neat things you can do is race with the other players, chase them down in vehicles while once again hacking them...... oh! And of course all this stuff that you are doing to them (you jerk!) they can do to you in return.
There you go! Now go buy yourself a kitten.
You know what the neat thing is about playing the vigilante known as Aiden Pierce? The entire time I was on foot I felt like an awesome mash-up of Batman and Sam Fisher. One minute I'm sneaking in the shadows hacking terminals, disrupting communications between enemies and generally being a little asshole to everyone around me who has no idea what's going on. The next minute I'm creeping up behind Jim-bob and silently beating the snot out of him.
Hold still dammit! I'm trying to learn the Vulcan neck pinch!
Now the best way to handle any combat situation in Watch Dogs is to be as stealthy as possible. Aiden doesn't have much health to work with and he can die pretty quickly so make sure to remember to use all resources at your disposal. If you get caught make sure to remember the 3 F's in fire and maneuver tactics. Find whoever is shooting at you, fix them into place my spraying them with fire and then flank them before they know what's happening.
I, for one, am not the kind of person who likes loud firefights in stealthy games. I think it's a sloppy way to play. That's not to say that I am not infallible though. I've had more than my fair share of whoopsie moments though and that's why I am thankful for some of Watch dogs tricks to get the drop on the enemies.
First off you can kill off most of your enemies without touching any of them or firing a shot if you are clever. Get into a good position, hack the nearest camera and start bouncing your signal around the room to get a good bead on where everyone is. From the cameras you can also remotely hack almost all your foes. In one instance I scanned an enemy who was waiting for results back from a biopsy on a lump he found on his back. Using this information I was able to hack his phone and send him a text message telling him that he was likely going to die from cancer. He was so distraught that he walked away from his post and stopped next to a nearby electrical panel which I promptly overloaded. The explosion killed him and scared the ever living crap out of most of his friends.
Also he no longer needed to worry about cancer killing him
Other options at your disposal include sending painful feedback into helmet communicators, remote detonating enemy grenades and remotely closing doors in peoples faces. My absolute favourite feature for combat in Watch Dogs is best used at night though.
Picture this; It's really dark outside, there's a huge mass of enemies in a well lit open area with very little cover, you've got few bullets to spare and would rather not be turned into the hunk of meat formerly known as Aiden. What do you do? All the guards are carefully watching each other and there's no way that you are going to be able to grab anyone without accidentally running into some bullets. In this situation I liked to use the blackout hack. One button push and all the lights and communications go down and the bad guys panic. They don't know what's going on and they can't see more than two feet in front of them. This is the best time to pick off a few silent head shots and bum rush a couple nearby guards with a silent tackle.
So basically if hacking is something you love, along with open world games and the feeling of being a super spy/Batman then you definitely need to try Watch Dogs. Just please don't hack me or I'll cry big blubbery man tears.