The vibrant city of San Francisco, last seen in Driver’s latest instalment serves as the gorgeous backdrop in what will no doubt be a far, far superior experience to 2014’s Watch Dogs, if our brief yet satisfying session with the sequel provides.
It seems Ubisoft have a soft spot for The Golden Gate City, and there’s no doubt that great care and time has been taken to recreate San Francisco; from Oakland to Silicon Valley and beyond, with a playground that’s roughly 3 times as big as Chicago. While it remains to be seen if the side content will have much depth, it’s clear that a tonne of time has been invested into recreating the most accurate representation of San Francisco, geometry wise. Fingers crossed that they’ll be actual meaningful content to peruse.
With our hands on demo we perused a quick and dirty tutorial of the basic gameplay elements of Watch Dogs 2. The hacking mechanics have been redone and remain an even more central element of the gameplay. Hacking cars remotely can make them turn left, right or reverse or accelerate to cause distractions. You can hack phones to access more battery power (for hacks), receive funds to buy accessories or best of all, uploading locations of gang members for rival gangs to find and cause fights, leaving the battlefield full of bodies while keeping your hands relatively clean (other than the guilt). Also in possession are a couple of nifty drones, one for air and one for ground, used to unlock areas and gather intel.
Playing as Marcus Holloway, we spent the majority of the time going through the new mechanics and testing the parkour elements. The animations when utilizing parkour is absolutely better than the first in every way possible, and controls and feels amazing. Hopefully there will be a tonne of interesting parkour runs and architecture to explore because it feels like a waste to not fully show off the fluid motions and great animation capture that Ubisoft have utilized.
Our demo was quite linear but having a quick look at the DeadSec App (the main hub for accepting and gathering missions) shows that the rest of the game will be quite open ended. Missions can be tackled in any order you choose, as long as you gather followers in order to unlock them. This new mechanic ties directly into the story of playing as a DeadSec hacker, gathering resources and followers in order to take down the cTOS network from the first game.
Thankfully Watch Dogs 2 eschews the so-called ‘simulator’ style that they tried to emulate in the driving mechanics of the first game, and here they just feel purely arcade-like, with even an in built boost mechanic for every car. It certainly isn’t realistic, but it feels so much better than the first game that it doesn’t matter at all if it’s more arcade-like, because it just feels so much more fun.
While what we played is certainly an Alpha Build, it’s still slightly worrying that the gunplay mechanics are in fact, worse than the first game. The controller feedback wasn’t satisfying, the audio response was completely flat and the aiming mechanics felt too floaty to feel engaging.
If this was a way to encourage pure stealth mechanics, then Ubisoft did a pretty great job in that case. The stealth mechanics are way more expanded this time, with player character Marcus Holloway having a wide array of stealth utilities to engage enemies with. There’s a heavy melee attack, a longer but quieter choke out, and so many remote opportunities. One we utilized effectively was turning a generator unit into a remote explosive device, luring an enemy over then using an inbuilt proximity sensor to kill the enemy. It seems a tonne of time has been invested into remote engagement, and while it’s a damn shame that the direct gunplay is so unsatisfying, the stealth and remote mechanics are solid enough to play the entire game with just them, given that the main missions will grant you the freedom.
While the demo was rough around the edges, the audio felt jagged and the gunplay was completely unsatisfying, it’s clear that Ubisoft are trying to craft a better, more unique experience in Watch Dogs 2. Definitely one to keep an eye on, Watch Dogs 2 will release November 2016.