STAFF REVIEW of Watch Dogs 2 (Xbox One)

Friday, November 25, 2016.
by Brent Roberts

Watch Dogs 2 Box art I'll say it, I loved the original Watch Dogs game. I know that this may start throwing some of you into an internet rage, but tough, it is what it is. Now Ubisoft has come out with its sequel, Watch Dogs 2, and not only has the location switched up, but so has the main character along with almost everything else. Now how can you change almost everything and expect to produce something of quality again? Does this new sequel pull off the "lulz" or should this be one to avoid?

As I just mentioned, I liked the original Watch Dogs game. I thought the story that was played out had merits of meaning and substance and centralized around a plot that had a beginning, middle, and end. In Watch Dogs 2 I don't get that same feeling. Gone are the meaningful nuances throughout the plot and instead replaced with a generic "I'm angry at the world" style hacktivism. Instead of something that would be fit for an intellectual audience it feels more like a student protest group gone wrong than a dedicated character trying to advance a goal through his objectives. This detachment from what we've expected from the original is light-hearted in tone, which is actually quite depressing considering the magnitude of the results your character tries to achieve.

Basically in a nut shell the ctOS 2.0 system is up and running and San Francisco is the next breeding ground for data mining citizens to influence their lives. We've seen similar actions just during this past election with Google and Facebook and their users. Google, at one point, completely omitted a candidate from a search and when you look at their parent company Alphabet, as their CEO wanted to be a big player in a major political campaign. You can easily see how Watch Dogs 2 takes cues from events that are occurring in real life, which does make for a fantastic pool of inspiration to draw from, but I never once got the sensation that I was in perilous danger. This is in part because no longer are you working as a lone entity, but you’re now part of a group. Now, you're a part of DedSec.

This is what took me a long time to try and adjust to. When you begin you bear witness to your group, or "crew", of fellow hacktivists, these dainty snowflakes are your typical cliché of upset, emotionally charged, young adolescents that would rather protest the destruction of a type of flower than get a meaningful education. This really set me back because I thought Aiden from the original Watch Dogs was a character of meaning and substance, and I didn't get that feeling of Marcus Holloway (your new main character). I don't think it was his light-hearted attitude that did it, but the fact that your group spends more time trying to offer ways of causing civil disruption and disobedience than actually trying to solve a problem. Let me give you an example.

Watch Dogs 2 would have you believe that exposing the personal files of a bank's CEO would be a justified action given what they saw as the exploitation of the bank's customer base through fees and rates. Of course it's their opinion. However, while everyone has a laugh and thinks everything is great now that these infants exposed a CEO, there's nothing, and I mean NOTHING, in terms of offering up a solution to what now becomes a massive problem for its citizens. This is when it dawned on me that this group is only a messenger. A group that is designed to deliver information to the masses that they may or may not be privy to. This is good, however, for a system like this to be effective at all there needs to be a contingency plan in place to take effect if and when it needs to be put into motion. I think little things like this tend to take away from Watch Dogs 2 and really does the game a great injustice.

The gameplay mechanics have been revamped and feel a bit more complex, which tends to make things a bit tricky when trying to maneuver through a crowded metropolitan city like San Francisco to just trying to find someone to hack. The cover system remains; however, the computer AI still feels as dumb as a rock. There were times when I would knock out an enemy and his fellow guard (standing about 15 feet away) wouldn't see anything. There is one new aspect though that stands out though, and that is your skill trees. This new leveling system is based on followers, because apparently gaining followers (for whatever reason) is one of the most important things in the game. Gaining followers will allow you to gain skill points and allow you to outfit Marcus with new gear and better abilities such as calling off a police helicopter or setting a rival gang out to help you clear a building to (my personal favorite), and even upgrading both your remote controlled drones. In order to gain followers and acquire the skill points you have to complete main and side missions which are found all throughout the streets of San Francisco.

This is a good thing because Watch Dogs 2 is a very pretty game. Such things as running a speed boat at full throttle under the Golden Gate Bridge while the sun was setting and casting a nice warm glow off the water demonstrates how Watch Dogs 2 is an impressive looking sandbox to play in. I wish though I could say the same for the soundtrack though. There are a lot of games that I've had the pleasure of listening to, however Watch Dogs 2 isn't one of them. In fact, I found the music so obnoxious that I actually turned the music volume down and I found myself enjoying the game more that way. These depressions though keep stacking up and that's when we come to one of the biggest setbacks of the game itself. There's currently no working multiplayer.

Yes, I know you thought there would be and you thought you and your friends could just jump into San Francisco and take over, but you're wrong. Ubisoft has decided to pull the plug on the whole multiplayer aspect for now due to the immense amount of problems and issues that arose from it at launch. I'm sorry but that takes away from a majority of the value. There's even an update that is supposed to take place 2016/11/19 and it offers a few fixes, namely the glitch where you would be able to see a female NPC's genitals, but no mention at all about restoring online play. As of 2016/11/22 Ubisoft says they are rolling out partial multiplayer (e.g. in-game Multiplayer App to join and hack into other players worlds), but as of the time of this writing we have not seen this implemented yet.

I was hopeful for Watch Dogs 2, and I know a lot of you will enjoy it tremendously; however, to this reviewer it feels like a cheap GTA knock off that adds in some juvenile characters with little to no emotional value and no multiplayer (as of yet). That doesn't mean that what is there is isn't somewhat enjoyable, because it is. While the game controls are a bit more complex, they still feel responsive, and while the plot and missions are almost meaningless, the fact that they take you through a beautiful city is worth every minute spent. Despite this mixed bag I can say that I foresee many, many hours trying to unlock everything Watch Dogs 2 is hiding behind its digital firewall because that is what you will want to do to get the most out of the game.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.9 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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