Ubisoft took a new approach to open world games in 2014 and introduced us to a brand new IP called Watch Dogs. While the game wasn’t all that well received due to several controversies, it definitely brought something new to the table by giving us the concept of hacking in video games. Watch Dogs had some great ideas, but the game felt short of its ambition and felt quite incomplete. With that scope of improvement, Ubisoft after more than 2 years has given us Watch Dogs 2, set in a new city with new characters and a whole new plot. But does the sequel improve upon its predecessor or does it just serve as just another game added to the franchise?
Watch Dogs 2 is set in the fictional depiction of the San Francisco Bay Area and introduces us to a new protagonist – Marcus Holloway. After being falsely accused of crimes, Marcus decides to hack into the system to clear his name, while also proving to DedSec his worth. Upon his success, Marcus joins the team of DedSec and finds out that the newly implemented CTOS 2.0, which serves as an improvement to the original version implemented in Chicago, is nothing but a hoax and is robbing people of their privacy. The DedSec crew from there on decides to shut down the organization Blume responsible for all this, and all other companies that are a part of this corrupt system.
When compared to its prequel, Watch Dogs 2 has a much lighter tone when it comes to the story, and instead of being the standard revenge plot, is more about bringing justice to the people. But despite all this, the story of Watch Dogs 2 is very weak and throughout the game, is very poorly paced. There are plenty of plot holes that are either not explained or just don’t add up to make sense. Moreover, the voice acting of almost all the characters is quite mediocre which obviously makes the story all that less interesting. Furthermore, the antagonist of the game a.k.a the CTO of Blume, Dusan Nemec, is very bland as a character and is barely even seen throughout the game. The entire set up of taking down a guy who is barely visible in the game makes no sense and even when you do see him, he adds nothing to the story whatsoever and rather just extends it further for no logical reason. It’s quite difficult to understand whether or not Ubisoft wants us to take the game seriously, as neither the DedSec crew nor Dusan Nemec seem to be so. In a desperate attempt to abandon the serious tone of Watch Dogs which wasn’t well appreciated, it seems as though Ubisoft lost the entire concept of good storytelling.
Despite its flaws in storytelling, Ubisoft drastically improved the gameplay for Watch Dogs 2, which makes the game quite fun to play. The game introduces us to a whole new level of hacking, and you can now hack into cars, various security systems, and every person living in San Francisco in various ways. You can distract an NPC by making their phone ring, making their phone heat up or call the cops on them. You can even tap into their phone calls, get a sneak of their messages or steal their money. All these options add a whole new layer of immersion to hacking, which makes playing the game quite enjoyable. The mini-game from Watch Dogs also returns where you must solve a network grid via a mini game puzzle to get access to locked areas. Thankfully, this time around, the mini-game isn’t as frustrating and is evenly placed throughout the game. Apart from all the hacking, Marcus also has two amazing gadgets at his disposal, the RC car and the Quadcopter. These gadgets can help you sneak into areas before you decide to enter them yourself, which can help prepare you for a particular mission. Some missions can also be completed via just using these gadgets and hacking, and figuring the way out to do so is quite satisfying.
Watch Dogs 2 even brings an improvement to traversal by making changes to the playable character and vehicles. Marcus is much more agile than Aiden Pierce and can even perform parkour. Mix this with the hacking tools Marcus has at his disposal, and you can pretty much get to wherever you want, quickly and with ease. As far as vehicles are concerned, there is some improvement to the driving, however it still feels very arcadey and weird. There’s a sense of realism to the world of Watch Dogs 2, with NPCs always doing something that help keep the world alive, and the arcade style driving feels very contrasting to the tone that the game tries to achieve. While vehicles get improved handling, they still aren’t all that fun to be in, whether it be cars, boats or bikes and so I found myself either running or using fast travel to get around the map. There’s also an improvement to character customization, and you can now dress up Marcus with different tops, bottoms, hats, shoes and bags. While there’s a ton of clothing options to be found across different shops in San Francisco, I never really found myself using that option more than once or twice.
When it comes to the main missions, the game has around 15 of them which revolve around the DedSec crew shutting down every small organization like Nudle, !Nvite and Galilei, which aid in providing personal information of the residents of San Francisco to Blume. While most of the missions revolve around hacking into these companies’ offices and extracting information to reveal the truth to the public, none of them feel repetitive at all, as each of them deliver a different challenge in a different environment. The main story can take between 15 to 20 hours to beat, which in my opinion is quite good for a game like Watch Dogs 2. Furthermore, there are tons of side quests, races and driving missions which serve as a good distraction throughout the game. All these missions award you with followers, and gathering enough of them levels you up to reward you with research points. Research points are used to unlock more hacking tools, just like Watch Dogs 1, which leaves the option to the player to decide their own path of progression.
Just like Watch Dogs, the sequel also has various weapons, which this time can be 3D printed at the DedSec’s HQ. To print these weapons, you must spend money, which sadly are very expensive. While money isn’t a scarce resource in the game, and can be easily acquired via races, driving missions, and by hacking people’s account, it does become a little bit of a grind to unlock all of the weapons. Furthermore, these weapons just don’t feel all that good to use, except for the grenade launcher, and so I found myself sticking to the Stun Gun. Watch Dogs 2 introduces the option to play the game non-lethally, and so you’re provided with a stun gun right from the start of the game which has unlimited ammo. I love playing games in stealth, and using the stun gun to take enemies out silently and non-lethally is something I really enjoyed.
Apart from weapons, money is also used to buy cars, which I didn’t find myself doing at all. Just like the weapons, some of the cars are really expensive, and at no stage did I want to go about grinding for money just to acquire them all. You can have any car delivered to you instantly once you acquire them, but with the sheer amount of vehicles available to steal on the roads of San Francisco, I never really felt the need. Another reason why I probably didn’t do so is because of the lack of vehicle customization. The only options you get while purchasing a vehicle is to change it’s paint job, and that wasn’t enough to keep me interested. Watch Dogs 2 picked up a lot of inspiration from Grand Theft Auto V like taking selfies, and it would have been nice to see Ubisoft implement that level of vehicle customization as well.
Multiplayer also returns to Watch Dogs 2, and apart from the standard invasion mode, also brings in seamless multiplayer. This means that you can easily join your friend’s game and go on to complete various co-op missions, or simply free roam the city of San Francisco. Another mode that is added to this seamless multiplayer is Bounty Hunter mode. You can either start the hunt manually and chase help police chase down targets causing high chaos in their own world or even be the target yourself by causing high chaos. While all these three modes are quite fun and help in gaining followers easily, they tire quite quickly, especially when it comes to the co-op missions, which makes multiplayer just another added feature. There’s nothing special about multiplayer that feels added to the world of Watch Dogs 2, and quite honestly, I could have done without it. I’m not denying that hacking into your friend’s game isn’t fun, but maybe Ubisoft could have spent all that time and resources into more side activities for the game’s single player or perhaps the game’s writing.
The AR games and other side activities like the drinking game all have been left behind, and we see no such implementation of them in Watch Dogs 2. And while there are tons of things to do in the world of Watch Dogs 2 apart from just the story, I still felt as though Ubisoft could have gone the extra mile to give us some extra content. Their depiction of San Francisco is absolutely gorgeous to look at, especially when you’re just walking down a busy street or are roaming near a famous landmark, and maybe just by adding more activities that could have involved us, the player, would have helped make the world come more to life. But even then, there’s an amazing level of detail that Ubisoft has put into their depiction of San Francisco and even though the game might not look as good as the first Watch Dogs that was shown at E3, it still looks like a current generation game.
Ubisoft decided to delay Watch Dogs 2 for PC just to optimize it better and for the most part Watch Dogs 2 plays very well. Running the game on a high-end PC, I found the game to be very stable, with no crashes or soft locks whatsoever. Even when it came to the frame rate, Watch Dogs 2 performed quite well at all times, except for when driving. The game always struggled to render frames quickly when driving at high speeds and so I always found the frame rate dropping when doing so. I really didn’t mind it all that much, considering that I avoided using vehicles as a means of traversal and stuck to either foot or fast travel for most of the times, but for those who might actually enjoy driving around the city in Watch Dogs 2, I really hope that Ubisoft fixes this issue soon.
Watch Dogs 2 is a game which at times delivers some amazing references to TV series like Star Trek and Game of Thrones, and at times may sound really cheesy. The story is really mediocre, and the antagonist is probably the weakest seen in any video game in a really long time. That said, the game is really fun to play, and introduces us to a whole lot of new gameplay elements that you won’t find in any other open world game. Just be prepared to feel incomplete after beating the game, as Watch Dogs 2 feels like it could have been much more improved that it has been. There’s still scope of improvement to the series, and I hope that the next installment learns to take itself a little more seriously.
New and Improved Hacking Elements
RC car and Quadcopter
Variety in Main Story Missions
Lots of Side Activities
Watch Dogs 2 Looks Beautiful And Feels Alive
Option to play the game non-lethally
Multiplayer modes tire quickly
Frame drops during driving sequences
Improvement to driving still needed
- Ubisoft Montreal