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Watch Dogs (PC) artwork

Watch Dogs (PC) review


"Such hacking. Very Wow."


Watch_Dogs is a mixed bag of a game. There's a lot of unnecessary junk that doesn't need to be in the game, but it's in there because Ubisoft! But Watch_Dogs is really a decent example as to the problematic and disorganized development house that is Triple AAA gaming. You'll see why.

Watch_Dogs faces a huge identity crisis. It legit doesnít know what it wants to be. A Deus-Ex clone in a open-world game? GTA with bad driving? A Ubisoft Sandbox game? The game feels so incoherent because of how poorly structured all of its game mechanics are. When it wants to play like a cool Deus-Ex game, the useless upgrades and level design make it seem otherwise. When it wants to be a open-world driving game like GTA? The driving is incredibly poor and the world itself is monotonous to go through.
What basically comes out of this huge identity crisis is that Watch_Dogs tries to be just OK at everything, and not great at anything. Its RPG Mechanics are half-baked and donít do anything, its gunplay feels insanely average and has zero punch to it, its random side-activities are not really fun (but theyíre functional). I can go on and on, but I think youíve already gotten the point.

It doesnít help that the game seems to be way too easy. The silenced weapons donít have any limit, meaning you can just silently kill guards with a single headshot. It really made a lot of the supposed stealth sections easy, but thatís not to say I had to stealth them either. Protagonist Aidan feels like he has way too little HP, yet is somehow still indestructible due to it being really easy to gun down everyone with ridiculously powerful weapons. The game really could had worked out fine if it encouraged stealth, but itís a lot more reliable (yet a lot less fun) to just shoot everyone with your massive 5-star weapons.

Watch Dogs (PC) image


The big mechanic of the game, which is the (dank) hacking seems to heavily rely on whatever hackable objects and items are placed by the level designers. Itís cool, but it feels so underutilized because the level designers didnít build a lot of the levels to encourage playing around with the hackables. Sometimes, you can remotely open doors and find passcodes by just remotely hacking. Other times, you have no room to work around with and have to solely rely on your OP weapons to get through the job.

The game has a lot of side crap to do. Whether or not itís engaging is really up to the player, but it felt like unnecessary filler to me. There are stupidly easy and boring minigames to play, uninteresting courier/car stealth missions, and the typical checklist of Ubisoft Viewpoints, Towers, and etc. Itís ultimately not worth going for the 100%, as it becomes absolutely boring and monotonous.

Its story clearly takes a huge dive half way through as well. The story starts off surprisingly fine, with a interesting vigilante plot that actively poked fun at Aidan Pierce for being a hypocritical sociopath (and thereís an absolutely despicable villain thatís really well done at that point), but at the half-way mark, it trades all of that for stupid hacking hijinks and poorly timed betrayals and twists.

Watch Dogs (PC) image


Its soundtrack is surprisingly decent, but its radio soundtrack is god awful. Unlike GTA, I found myself constantly trying to shut the radio off. Voice actors come off as either sounding dull or completely asleep, and the sound design is a absolute mixed bag.

The gameís visuals are honestly fine. It isnít as visually amazing as the E3 demo but I didnít expect it to be as such. The only thing that was really throwing me off were the character models, but otherwise, the textures and objects (especially when itís raining) looks nice.

The PCís optimization is certainly better than at launch, but itís far from the best. The game would constantly stutter or eat up my CPU cores (I have a quad-core CPU and it only distributes most of its power to one of them, stressing out the entire computer). Performance is far from reliable, and when I was playing I noticed a lot of dips in framerate, which was annoying. Despite finishing it on PC, I later got myself a Xbox 360 copy of the game, because I really didnít want to deal with the computer performance at that point.

Watch Dogs (PC) image


I want to stress that Watch_Dogs is not a bad game. Itís just not an interesting game. Watch_Dogs is a game that tries to be fine for just about everybody, but in doing so makes for one of the most mediocre games I have ever played. The game is poorly designed and cluttered, has no idea what to do with its story and characters, and compromises so much of it's potential just so it can appeal to as many people as possible. Itís certainly not bad, but the gameís overall design just feels so... not there.


Pros:

  • The first half of the game has a surprisingly decent story that's interesting. The villain is actually pretty damn unlikeable, and because of the things he does, the tension really ramps up.

  • When the level design wants to permit it, hacking can really be strategic and make the game much more dynamic.

  • Chicago looks pretty nice and somewhat realistic.

  • For what it is, it's a fun timewaster to drive and screw around.



  • Nitpicks:

  • There's a lot of side-content, which is nice, but a lot of it is basically deadpan filler.

  • Radio soundtrack is absolutely garbage, but the in-game soundtrack is decent.

  • The leveling system is completely unnecessary.

  • The UI is slow and drab. The Smartphone menu is too slow to feel intuitive.



  • Cons:

  • The second-half of the story gets really stupid, swapping out the interesting "vigilante" story for stupid hacking heists and uninteresting plot points.

  • The entire cast of characters are either incredibly forgettable or are downright unbearable.

  • The gunplay feels boring, awful, and does not have a satisfying punch to it.

  • The stealth in the game is really good, but the game actively discourages it. Which is an absolute shame.

  • Watch_Dogs has no idea what kind of game it wants, and it's messy design shows that very clearly.

  • The game is far from a challenge, and Aidan (despite having low HP) can easily still tank down a lot of enemies in his path due to overpowered weapons and horrible enemy AI.


  • Watch_Dogs is a decent bargain-bin buy, but you could go with less average and boring choices.

    2/5

    MeltingComet's avatar
    Community review by MeltingComet (July 29, 2016)

    MeltingComet/Nikoback is a game developer, game reviewer, and speedrunner. You can find his work @ nikobackgames.weebly.com

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    board icon
    Zydrate posted July 29, 2016:

    This game shined for me during some sequences: The stealth (Which, yes, was a tad easy), gang spot takeovers, and convoys. The problem is, you have access to all of those just a few hours into the game. Clean all that up and you're left with some very bad driving and annoying movement controls.

    I want to like the game so much but I never got around to beating it. Beyond a couple of bad points, the game is fairly solid but it doesn't hold me at all.
    I actually want to get back around to it some day.

    Edit: In fact, I remember getting it to scratch the GTAV itch. W_D was on sale and gTAV was still 60$+the mandatory shark cards. I got GTAV several weeks later and W_D didn't scratch the itch anymore, not with a proper GTA available.
    board icon
    Nightfire posted July 29, 2016:

    This is a pretty accurate account of what the game is about. I was going to get around to reviewing this game at some point, but I think now you've pretty much covered everything I would say.

    I think people are a little hard on this game though; there is an overall consensus that it's a fun game (even if it is uninspired), and that's what games are for, so Ubisoft managed a victory on that front.

    The only thing the really stuck out and bothered me about this game (aside from technical issues, like the awful driving) was how Aidan Pierce was a highly unbelievable character. You touched on that in your review a little bit; he is kind of a disturbed hypocrite at the core, and that's a weak place for the primary protagonist to be in; but further, the player can make Aiden stomp around Chicago with a grenade launcher and kill random people for fun if they want to, yet the story will still pigeon-hole you into this idea that Aidan is a noble vigilante even if he's a bit troubled.

    He's also a bit larger-than-life. Hackers typically tend to be nerdy, sedentary shut-ins who would rather be behind a keyboard than go outside, and yet Aidan has the constitution of a pro athelete, he's a master of parkour, he's an expert at hand-to-hand combat, has the skills of a race car driver, and apparently is skilled with military-grade weaponry. Who the hell has time to be all of these things at once?
    board icon
    Zydrate posted July 29, 2016:

    I really, really did not like Aidan. I got the game near release and was one of the first people to meme him out the gate, editing an image macro of him on his phone that said something akin to "Noble Vigilante - Steals 3,000 dollars from a kidney donor" considering you can siphon money from EVERYONE.
    board icon
    Nightfire posted July 29, 2016:

    LOL... No kidding.
    board icon
    honestgamer posted July 30, 2016:

    I wrote a guide for the game, available right here on this site, and enjoyed it immensely. Yes, even the driving. I liked it more than just about anybody, I think, even after playing through a bunch of extra content that most people didn't touch.

    I'm definitely psyched for the upcoming sequel, but I can admit that Watch_Dogs wasn't perfect by any stretch. I just feel like it became popular to hate the game and that made people dig deep to find things to hate about it, or to exaggerate how offensive some of its weaknesses were.

    To be absolutely clear, I'm NOT saying this review or anyone in the feedback topic here is guilty of that (actually, the discussion here has been terrific), but I definitely did see it happening around the Internet at large, close to the game's release. Sometimes, I wonder why a lot of people can't just have fun with games anymore.

    Side note: when I played Watch_Dogs, I had previously played Sleeping Dogs, and to me the two games had a lot of similarities, more than the similarities between Watch_Dogs and Grand Theft Auto V. And wouldn't you know it? I also liked Sleeping Dogs quite a lot. Amazingly, I'm not even all that big on open world games. I guess the genre just really worked for me around that time. I even made GTA V the first in the franchise that I bothered to finish. How did I have so much time?
    board icon
    Nightfire posted July 30, 2016:

    I agree with you, Jason. The mob mentality surrounding video games is getting a bit ridiculous. It's the reason I don't post reviews on Steam much anymore; the amount of negativity I get every time I hold a contrary opinion is hardly worth it.
    board icon
    JoeTheDestroyer posted July 30, 2016:

    I definitely agree with that. Then again, I've noticed an inability to accept that others have contrary opinions almost anywhere on the internet. Even here. (It's just too bad we don't still have the Disqus comments. Those were hilarious in a soul-blackening kind of way.)

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