Personally, I wasn’t always the biggest fan of the first Watch Dogs, but now, 2 years later, my first hands-on experience with Watch Dogs 2 may have turned me around when it comes to one of Ubisoft’s potential new flagship franchises.
From the start of our session we were met with the fact that Watch Dogs 2 shares a lot of the DNA of its predecessor, but like what Assassin’s Creed II was to the first game, Watch Dogs 2 seems like a product that has learned a lot from the missteps of the first game and takes a great attempt at providing a user experience that is much closer to the expectations that players had of the original game.Exchanging the setting of Chicago for the much sunnier and colorful San Francisco, Watch Dogs 2 introduces us to an entirely different style of protagonist, who has a completely new set of toys to play with as we cause mayhem throughout the city as a member of DedSec. Starting off with a portion of the singleplayer we were given the option to play either of the three styles, which were; trickster, stealth, and guns blazing, of which we chose the first to start off our experience.
Using wits and tricks, the array of tools to hack the world and take out enemies has heavily expanded and this time round you can do it all without a single fatality. Using a mix and mash of techniques and gadgets we were met with the task of retrieving multiple items of interest from two enemies situated in a hostile area, though, I didn’t need to go in alone. Accompanied by a second player from the team at Ubisoft, who joined our session seamlessly just a few moments earlier, we set out to infiltrate the facility and get the job done.Now, things sometimes may not go as planned, but what would a real player be if they couldn’t improvise? Despite my original decision to take the trickster route, my attempts to go in using purely gadgets didn’t exactly go as smooth as we planned, so we decided to take the stealthy approach and move throughout the area without causing any fatalities, though arguably I’m not quite sure what happened to the guy I tased that fell over a railing early on in our attempt… Collateral damage aside, we soon made our way to the objective as the game really showcased the variety in gameplay as I realised I could’ve probably finished the job in a few minutes tops, but what fun would it be if I was constantly seen? After all, stealth is incredibly satisfying if well done and despite some minor inconsistencies and bugs, Watch Dogs 2 did seem to get it right to a certain extent.
The game gives you a much wider sense of freedom when it comes to hacking and other core gameplay features, but a small gripe would be the fact that the control scheme sometimes feels slightly confusing feature-wise, as the game does exchange some of its simplicity for features.
After this we were put into a multiplayer session with 3 other members of the press, where we would be shown the ins and outs of the game’s new Bounty mode, which puts the mark on one or multiple players as the remaining players and the police collaborate on taking down these wanted individuals on the streets of San Francisco, where driving would be a major factor. The driving mechanics of the first game was arguably one of its greatest weaknesses, though whilst this game makes some improvements to the foundations that were there, it’s not quite the driving experience we (and arguably a lot of others) were looking for. With this, driving has moved on from being a grade-A issue to being a minor gripe, which still isn’t ideal, but I didn’t find myself in as much of a frustrating situation as I often did myself with the first.This isn’t to note that Bounty mode is based on vehicles, as it really isn’t, but in situations where you’re either wanted or searching it’s probably the most like route a player will take in their evasion of the cops and other players. The great thing about Bounty, which also applies to many of the other multiplayer modes is that the game’s multiplayer like the co-op modes are completely seamless, creating a wonderful experience that allows the player to rapidly switch their gameplay experiences around on the move.
Graphically Watch Dogs 2 seemed like a big improvement over the first, but this is mostly due to the environmental switch for the setting that does the engine and lighting systems a lot more favor, creating a much visually appealing and varied environment that ranges from good looking to great in certain locations and time of days.
Watch Dogs 2 wasn’t the ultimate improvement I had hoped for so far, but it does have a lot of qualities that always seemed to be missing from the first, which really made it clear that Ubisoft has gone to great lengths in order to create an experience that has learned from the mistakes of the past, which already goes a long way by itself.