The hype machine for Watch Dogs was an unstoppable force, the game would be the future of open world games, mindbendingly good in both gameplay and looks. Even the several month long delay couldn't kill the hype and the game sold like hot cakes upon release and is still selling well now. Unsurprisingly though, the hype train for this game was way off track. Watch Dogs is not the next-gen open world game Ubisoft hyped it up to be. Watch Dogs is derivative from start to finish. Some people can't cope with this and hate it because of it, but I can see beyond this and see how fun the game is despite it's lack of originality.
The game puts you in the shoes of Aiden Pearce, a stereotypical gruff voiced hero who straddles the line between right and wrong on a quest to avenge his fallen niece. Along the way you'll learn how the city of Chicago is run by an system called CTOS and will be asked to question whether this is good or bad. It's supposed to provide a gripping social commentary inspired by our technology based world but ultimately it just provides you with a load of waffle that fails to mask the fact that the OS is just there to give you fun ways to antagonise your foes.
You can change traffic lights, raise bridges and blow up pipes under the road to throw off pursuers. You can detonate explosives people are carrying and hack into ATMs and security cameras. All of these things are fun and all of them are done via a simple press of the square button, you just need enough battery in your phone, which of course recharges automatically. All of this is ultimately little more than a gimmick but it makes car chases and shoot outs a little more fun than they might otherwise have been.
Outside of this the gameplay is your typical GTA style third person shooting and driving. The mechanics are spot on and both driving and shooting feel great. Outside of the main missions there's plenty to be done. Gang Hideouts involve knocking out key gang members, Fixer Contracts offer driving based challenges and Criminal Convoys require you take out a convoy. There are also CTOS centres for you to hack in to in order to be able to hack things in your district. The OS centres and gang hideouts can be tackled in a variety of ways and are actually the most enjoyable part of the game. Just like how the outposts in Far Cry 3 were the best bit in that game. The contracts and convoys are a bit less enjoyable but are worth the XP.
Speaking of XP the game features a progression wheel allowing you to add to the things you can hack, craft things like IEDs, drive better and reload faster. It's a nifty way of making the side missions seem worthwhile and it allows you to turn Aiden into quite a badass.
The last notable gameplay element is the multiplayer. Your world can be invaded by someone who will try to hack your phone, you must find and stop them or they can take things like your money. Honestly? It's little more than an irritating distraction. But hey ho, they're trying.
Graphically the game is good but it does suffer from having been made for both last gen and current gen systems. It never looks ugly but there are rarely moments where'll you stop to gawp at how good something looks. Fortunately though on the framerate side things are more or less perfect, I have yet to notice a single stutter, even with masses of explosions, shooting and driving. It may not be the visual smorgasbord we were shown nearer the game's announcement but it still holds up pretty well.
Ultimately what you'll get out of Watch Dogs depends on what you're looking for. If you're looking for an innovative open world game that can show the way for open world games on current gen systems then don't bother. Watch Dogs is not that. However if, like me, you like Ubisoft's style of games and are just looking for a fun open world game that borrows from all of your favourite Ubisoft games then this is perfect for you. Watch Dogs is incredibly fun and the fun lasts for a long time but it's derivative nature may leave many people wanting more.