Preview: Watch_Dogs

Watch Dogs could be the dawn of the new generation that many of us are waiting for. Ubisoft’s upcoming hacking-based title has enjoyed a well-documented build up, with trailers, screenshots and early information spreading back into the previous generation’s heyday and giving gamers an edge of excitement about something which could be carrying that extra special edge that we’ve been missing so far.

The key should be in Watch Dogs’ mix of simplicity and depth. With the city of Chicago opening up in front of you as you start to use your cell phone to hack into nearby cameras, security systems and various other technologies, you won’t be finding awkward mini-games which demand half a minute of mundane 80s arcade garbage before you can find someone’s ATM detail. Nor will you need to join up any jumbled up wires before taking control of a police barrier to stop that bad guy getting away. Single button presses mean the focus isn’t on the hacking itself, but the reasons and benefits of doing so.

And yet despite this simple way to control things, the reasons for these hacks seem to be numerous and expansive. Want to steal a certain pedestrian’s car? Hack into their phone and you might get lucky and find the number plate. Want to move a security camera to take the emphasis away from what you’re doing? Go nuts. Don’t assume it’s all wide open from the start though – it’s been made pretty clear that you need to enable each area of the city to allow you to access the technology that exists within.

There are, it would seem, a fair few similarities to other open world type games – you can steal cars, pull guns on people to intimidate them, clear out gang hideouts and enjoy games of cards with people. The story won’t be the whole game, although how important these distractions are to the grand scheme of things remains to be seen, but there’s certainly going to be plenty of ways to distract yourself from the main storyline.

Much was said early on about Microsoft’s Cloud system with the Xbox One, and how it might make the city more dynamic. That seems to have gone quiet with little word from Ubisoft themselves, although early reports do suggest the city is far more populated on the newer consoles (as you’d expect) which gives a far more real and life-like experience. Is this a sign of things to come, with developers leaving the cloud system alone to maintain parity between versions? That’s something else that will only become clear in a few years.

Many doubters have already dubbed Watch Dogs as just another Assassin’s Creed game, and while things I’ve heard point towards a fairly Assassin’s Creed style control system, you won’t be free running or leaping off 100m high ledges – this is a very real and down to earth game mechanic, so there’s no worry here about being too much cross-over. There is, however, a strong focus on stealth when it comes to combat. It’ll be entirely possible to grab a machine gun and paint a building a lovely shade of red, but when there’s the opportunity to sneak in and steal something from right under the noses of the guys who are looking for you… that’s got to be the more satisfying option, surely.

A few RPG type elements will help a lot of people with the replayability too, with a skill tree in place to allow your character to develop exactly as you want to. It’s easy to assume this is where the side-tasks come into play as a way of earning extra points to “spend” on your character, but with zero playing time on this so far that’s exactly what it is: an assumption.

So with Watch Dogs only a few weeks from release, we could be about to finally see what the new generation of consoles is all about. Whether it lives up to all the promise remains to be seen, but from everything we’ve seen, and all the things we’ve been told, it’s very hard to image this being anything less than incredible.

Start saving: Watch Dogs is released on May 27th 2014 on the PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and WiiU.


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