The original Watch Dogs was seen as the poster child for the PS4 and Xbox One upon release. For many years until release, with each passing trailer, our hopes and dreams for the original sky-rocketed. Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent at release, was a shell of what we expected, with many people including myself let down with the lack of hacking options and variety in gameplay. Fast forward three years, Watch Dogs 2 writes all these wrongs, providing extremely well-balanced gameplay, which oozes personality from the get-go.
Straight off the bat, Watch Dogs 2 provides players with a cast of characters that young gamers can relate to. It begins with Marcus Holloway (the main character), joining the legendary fictional hacking group, Deadsec. The main cast of four including Marcus, Wrench, Sitara and Josh are all relatable and interesting characters, are all incredibly unique and hilarious in their own way.
Overall, the tone and some of the angles that Watch Dogs 2 tackles are quite frankly some controversial topics that I’ve not seen covered in gaming. Without spoiling too much, missions have you going from tackling Scientology head on, to a home technology company which is selling your data to life insurance agencies. The way that Deadsec delivers their blasts in Anonymous style videos are an absolute joy to watch, and kept me captivated from start to finish.
The story, characters and tone feels incredibly hip and modern. Whilst other games try and tackle stories from the past, Watch Dogs 2 feels incredibly on the head with modern society and where we’re heading in the coming years. Literally down to the fact that you 3D print your weapons.
Similarly, the soundtrack right from the first mission, all the way to the catalogue of songs within the radio stations are really well thought out and I very rarely found myself turning the game down or skipping songs.
San Francisco, is the next city to install the CTos (Central Operating System.) For those that didn’t play the first game, CTOS connects everyone with everything around them, merging technology with personal life events. And San Francisco is the perfect area for Watch Dogs 2, as it houses the technology hub of the world in Silicon Valley. True to the real-life counterpart, it has an incredibly hipster and futuristic vibe which makes it an absolute enjoy to explore and hack.
Honestly, I probably spent way too much time exploring the city which was scarily similar to the real-life San Francisco. Alcatraz was just as eery as the real thing, and accurate. Every single cell block that is present in Alcatraz was here for exploring. Similarly, the Golden Gate Bridge, Fishermans Wharf and Lombard Street are all present and manage to perfectly capture the vibe of San Fran. It’s just as well one of the main side-missions in the game is taking photos of key locations, because you’ll want to stop often and check out the sights.
Watch Dogs 2 was the first game that I played from start to finish on the PlayStation 4 Pro, and I can honestly say that it greatly improved the experience. I played Watch Dogs 2 for probably 4-5 hours pre-release on the regular PlayStation 4 and it’d regularly drop frames (not to the point of dampening the overall experience), but on the PlayStation 4 Pro, gameplay was incredibly smooth and the increased resolution was luscious.
One of the main criticisms in the first game was the lack of hacking abilities and the clunky system that just wasn’t present in vision prior to the games’ launch. With Watch Dogs 2, this is a thing of the past. Honestly, for the amount of actions possible in the game, Ubisoft has done a great job in working out a seamless control scheme that just works. Whether you’re going in all guns blazing, or taking your time to methodically stealth kill your way through an area, you always feel in control and it’s largely thanks to the control scheme. Traversal is also wildly improved. Similar to Assassin’s Creed, you have a button which allows you to quick climb around your area.
The one area of Watch Dogs 2 that still leaves a little bit to be desired is the gunplay. It feels a little clunky and feels like it needs to be tighter in such tense scenarios. There weren’t too many times that I died because of it, but it did feel like an area that could have been improved on. It’s stuck somewhere between arcadey, casual shooting mechanics and realistic, grounded gunplay which requires thought and skill, and it t feels like the developers should have just gone in one direction or the other and owned it.
Hacking has now been taken to the next level too. The biggest chance is the ability to literally drive cars without getting in them. Using the hacking wheel, you’re able to make a car steer left or right, go forwards or backwards, which makes bringing a car to you or sending a car crashing into a building an absolute joy. It never gets old.
Speaking of vehicles, driving in Watch Dogs 2 has been wildly improved. It’s not perfect, but with the added turbo hack that you can unlock early on, means driving from one side of the map to the other is a genuine joy. The game also introduces sailing, including wind mechanics which was a genuine surprise and a nice pace change from full speed ahead with almost every other vehicle. For those that don’t enjoy the between mission antics, you’re able to fast-travel to any major location throughout the entire map from the start of the game.
Watch Dogs 2 also marks the introduction of online missions which can be tackled either by yourself, or with a friend online. They’re just an epic as the single-player missions in the main campaign and are a great addition to the game. As we mentioned earlier, seamless multiplayer functionality is currently limited in-game, but for the most part, some of my most memorable moments in-game came when others would randomly join my world and start hacking me, in which I was forced to identify them and kill them before time ran out.
Outside of this, the city of San Francisco never lacks activity. You’re able to take a time out driving residents around in a series of crazy missions, participate in drone, kart or bike races and many more events and side distractions. I can’t recall playing a game outside of Grand Theft Auto that has had so much stuff to do, all of which is genuinely fun.
Watch Dogs 2 is the jump forward in the series that the game needed to succeed. Comparatively, it’s what Assassin’s Creed 2 was to the first Assassin’s Creed if not even better. Watch Dogs 2 is definitely one of the sleeper hits of the year. I was expecting to have fun with it, but I wasn’t expecting to become absolutely transfixed with the incredible style, characters and storyline. It’s a must-play game and for those that own a PlayStation 4 Pro, you should definitely pick it up just for the visual feast alone.
The PS4 version of this game was primarily tested on a PlayStation 4 Pro.