Since its launch Watch Dogs has suffered from considerable criticism from consumers and critics alike. After an initially overwhelming E3 2013 presentation Ubisoft created a scenario where the game really had a lot to live up to. Amidst complaints about graphical downgrades between builds, the game has also suffered very heavily form criticism in retain to its core mechanics. Watchdogs has frequently been described by reviewers as generic, a game that generally brings very little to the table that is the sandbox third person shooter.
To some proportion these criticisms are indeed valid, Watchdogs failed to live up to expectations and like a bad movie trailer, the gameplay demonstrations we saw at E3 2013 were really the best the game has to offer. However many providing their opinion on the title have failed to highlight is what Watch Dogs does right, and in general it’s a disservice to the game to omit these features as, irrespective of its flaws it’s clear that Watch Dogs wasn’t a hack-job — no pun intended. The games production values are through the roof, and nothing in the game feels as if it was cut short due to time or budgetary constraints, Watch Dogs feels like the experience Ubisoft intended it to be and its great to see a launch window title that feels like a polished experience.
Rockstar and their Grand Theft Auto franchise are effectively the industry leaders of this form of sandbox experience, so its only natural that comparisons between the two are frequent and it’s promptly evident where Watch Dogs falls short. However at the same time Watch Dogs has many strengths of its own, and its these that are often neglected. It’s very easy to focus on negative attributes, even more so when consumer expectations have became very high, this article intends to spotlight some of the games highlights, and perhaps illustrate why Watch Dogs was given less credit than it was due.
Meticulously crafted Chicago
Taking place in Chicago, Ubisoft have created an authentic, believable experience. Whilst the city is not directly replicated from its real world counterpart, Ubisoft Montreal have done a fantastic job captivating the cities atmosphere. Not only that but the game is remarkably detailed, each of the cities back allies feels like a hand crafted environment, and this is true for the games interiors too. Of the interiors which are explorable, these feature remarkable detail. When a mission tasks you to enter a building you’re rarely presented with bland corridors and environments, each feels unique and hand crafted for the experience, and that’s great.
Not only that but your ability to profile individuals on the street genially adds something to the experience, games like GTA have pedestrians offering passing dialogue, but it’s usually with humorous intent rather than that to create the impression that they’re believable entities within a living, breathing environment. Watch Dogs manages this, profiling individuals in the street provides players with insight into their profession, salary, and exposition into their personal lives via hacked phone calls and text conversations. It made me feel as if each individual had a existence beyond simply being another rag doll on the bonnet of my car, and ultimately that resulted in much more consideration to how my actions effect civilians in the game.
Despite complaints about the games vehicle physics, one thing Watch_Dogs does better than the Grand Theft Auto franchise is its controls, in our opinion controls and their responsiveness are one of the cornerstones of a good game and Watch Dogs gets this right. Watch Dogs gunplay mechanics are great and the game is responsive and smooth to control without the implementation of considerable assists. This contrasts GTAV whose dominant control scheme features auto-aiming, and ‘free aim’ has often seen complaints from fans for a lack of responsiveness.
This was something Watch Dogs really dabbled with as opposed to fully embraced, but none-the-less Watch Dogs offered a level of freedom in regards to your approach to the games missions that surpasses that of games like Grand Theft Auto. Perhaps most prominently featuring in the games gang-hideout and convoy missions Watch Dogs offered a very wide range of gameplay styles that could be applied to each scenarios. These approaches could perhaps be broken down into three core gameplay styles, hacker, stealth and gun’s blazing. This is made possible because Watch Dogs has a fully integrated set of stealth based mechanics, including appropriate AI. These stealth mechanics have come a long way from the early Splinter Cell games too, no longer is there a simple black and white detection where enemies have either seen you, or they’re all alerted to you and will gun you down with pinpoint precision. Even during combat sequences enemies can be alerted but unaware of your location, instead enemies are aware of the location they last saw you in, and will investigate this respective area. If you manage to disappear they retain their high alert status, but don’t follow you as if they’re instructed of your location by some omnipotent hive mind.
A Fresh Experience
Perhaps of the greatest significance is that Watch_Dogs attempted to try something new. From its core mechanics seen in the form of its ‘hacking’ based gameplay, to the Dark Souls inspired multiplayer modes Watch_Dogs and Ubisoft montreal made an effort to be different, and that’s not something that’s seen too frequently within the video game industry. Too many games cling to video game tropes that are perceived as popular from other, already popular franchises and the end result is that we get a large number of video games that are all very similar because they’ve all borrowed from the same game. That isn’t to say everything Watch Dogs offers is of its own invention, it lends a lot from both the Grand Theft Auto and Assassins Creed franchises, but what it does borrow it does so intent to create something new within Watch_Dogs, and includes many of its own ideas to produce an experience that you won’t feel you’ve played before.
Overall whilst Watch Dogs has a myriad of flaws, the same can be said for every game when it’s taken relative to impeccably high standards. Watch Dogs has its flaws just as every game tends to, but it’s only liable to disappoint those going in expecting the perfect game. Those that can perceive the game for what it is, not relative to their own predefined high standards should find enjoyment, and there’s plenty that Watch Dogs does well and even in some regards make Watch Dogs a better experience than its competition.