The original Watch Dogs was one of those games that over-promised and under-delivered. The result was still a solid open-world romp, but nowhere near the genre-defying romp that player were hoping for. The ambitions — and expectations — are vastly diminished for the sequel, which acts like a burned-out grad student and moves from Chicago to San Francisco, with the hopes of getting a fresh start in new surroundings and hope for the best. This time out, fun is the priority, and that’s what Watch Dogs 2 excels at.
Game: Watch Dogs 2
Consoles: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: November 15
From the outset, Watch Dogs 2 shows you that the over-serious vibe from the original is gone. The opening mission is a tryout for an elite hacker group. After you cut through hapless guards in a tower by pointing your magical insta-hack cell phone at people, cameras and even seemingly disconnected objects in order to bend them to your will, you get a sense of the staggering sense of power developers have given you to play around with in the world they’ve crafted. As soon as you gain acceptance, you’re free to romp through the hills, skyscrapers and alleys at will, whether you feel like plugging away at story missions, checking out side quests or just messing with NPCs.
Based on the alarmingly rapid development of the concept of The Internet of Things — a future in which every object is connected to the online information grid — you find yourself in a grim near-future in which consumer profiles and tendencies are tracked, bought and sold, rendering the populace as unaware sheep. You and your crew are out to expose the manipulators, who they label as overbearing Big Brother and stalk-and-tattle-prone Little Brothers, in order to tear apart the system and restore freedom to the masses. You do this by executing a missions that range from cheeky social disobedience to massive-scale destruction that borders on terrorism. Heavy stuff, sure, but you spend much of your time pointing your phone at circuit breakers to explode them in the faces of stiff guards.
Multiplayer was the high point of the original Watch Dogs, and the developers went all-in to amp up the mayhem you can get into with friends and strangers online. There is a full slate of co-op missions available, as well as the everpresent ability to hack into the games of others who are willing to face down some good-natured griefing. You may find yourself strolling down the street, when suddenly you’re locked in a game of cat and mouse with some random, each of you laying waste to a good portion of the city as you grapple for superiority. Every corner of the city is crammed with connected objects you can weaponize or use to trap real-life and NPC opponents or bystanders. The general feel is way more Saints Row than Grand Theft Auto, with laughs far more prevalent than tension.
Watch Dogs 2 may not be anyone’s idea of a game of the year contender, but you will probably be surprised just how much time passes whenever you plug in for a session. The game has a way of sinking its hooks into you deeper than you realize, with story missions dovetailing into sidequests that turn into impromptu stretches of aimless wandering. Hammer through the story without taking time to appreciate the small details and you’ll find the game as one-dimensional and drab as the original. But take the time to look around and you will see there is a heck of a lot going on here. This is a hacker’s playground, and the amount of enjoyment you’ll find is only limited by your imagination.
Watch Dogs 2 Reviews Around The Web:
“I’m convinced they’ve gone about it the right way.” –PC Games N
“It’s an awe-inspiring locale that perfectly compliments the intricacies of the title’s newest upgrades, and it’s something that existing fans and newcomers alike are sure to enjoy.” –GameRant
“I’m now far more interested in it than I was before.” –VG24/7
Watch Dogs 2 Screenshots
The publisher provided a review copy.
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