After a rather lacklustre original release, Ubisoft took Watch Dogs back to workshop for a makeover, three years later and Watch Dogs 2 feels like the rebel twin brother who prefers to live life on the wild side, ruin people’s lives, get up to no good. Watch Dogs 2 goes in a much lighter direction, and it almost feels like a whole new series on its own, if it was not for the relation to the past game in some parts of the game. The cast are lovable, the hacking feels like a super power, and the world of San Francisco is vibrant and full of exciting things to do. Watch Dogs 2 take everything we love and hate about the world today like Google, Instagram, pop-culture love, and technology, and merges it into a well-formed, and unforgettable campaign.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Reviewed On: PS4 Pro
Distributor: Megarom Interactive
Release Date: 15 October 2016
Watch Dogs 2 follows the story of Marcus, a member of Dedsec, an elite hacking group who use their power for the better of civilization. Dedsec is the heart of the game, and the character you meet are all great to be around. Sitara is a rebel girl with a great sense of fashion, and Wrench is a social delinquent who wears a digital mask and expressed himself with icons on the eyes of the mask. The world is controlled by technology, and multi-billion dollar companies benefit from stealing personal data from people, and utilize it for their own will. Insurance companies secretly monitor your lifestyle and put premiums on things you that should be a secret. !Nvite, a Facebook clone, monitors your actions online, and sells your preferences to the highest bidder. It is world where your personal data is worth more than anything. Dedsec’s main goal is to change this by revealing all the illegal and social injustices that come to play, and their main goal is to bring down Blume, a company that makes use of CTOS 2.0 for their evil bidding of controlling humanity. CTOS 2.0 plays a major role in the game as it runs through everything you do, and is the mainframe behind the technology that runs the city.
After tapping into CTOS 2.0, Marcus gains access to a wide variety of hacking abilities in the game. He can control a car with a press of a button from a distance, cause grenades to explode on an enemy, forge fake evidence that causes the police to hunt down a gang member, and much more. If anything, the original game’s biggest hacking ability was to open and close a bridge, in Watch Dogs 2, you can take down an entire city and everyone’s cellphones with a press of a button. The hacking has become the focus of the game, and throughout the game, you will be chaining together awesome hacks while infiltrating a gang hideout, or sneaking into a robot factory, to plant an EMP bomb. All the hacks make the experience worthwhile, as the game’s progression, and difficulty curve, goes hand in hand with the new abilities you gain while levelling up each skills tree. Marcus’ drone and RC car are also vital to getting in and out without being seen, and we abused these gadgets as we flew around tagging guards so we knew where they were while we made our move into the building. Sure, Marcus has some guns that we could have printed using the 3D printer back at the HQ, but who needs guns when you can cause a blackout and then blow up a few gas pipes with your smartphone?
All the hacking would be useless without cool scenarios to play them in, and Watch Dogs 2 has some of the most exciting missions we have played in a game in ages. Sneaking into a satellite facility to plant a chip onto a rocket going into space, then hacking our way through all the Blume HQs throughout the world. Heading to a penthouse to plant evidence that could in turn change an election, and then driving off the building in a Ferrari clone. The missions were mostly all just a bag of fun to playthrough, and the hacking abilities made them worthwhile, as if we failed, we just took another route and tried using another method, and it worked. Not all missions were that fun though, as a few of them were extremely boring, and were way too sandbox for their own good. One forced us to paint various walls and landmarks in the city, we first had to find our way up to the building by using a crane or a ladder, and when we got there we just pressed triangle and it painted the wall. Try do that twenty times and not be bored to death. Still, the better missions overshadowed the borings ones, and the mission layout let us take a step of one mission, and then do the beginning of another, so we could chop and change throughout.
The most ideal way to get through a mission would be to use every hacking ability and gadget to get in and out as silently as possible, like Batman with a smartphone. Unfortunately, most of the time this is impossible as the guard would see us, we would have no other way but to be seen to get through a door, or Marcus would take his jolly time tinkering with an object so a guard would see us. In this sense, yes, the game’s stealth mechanic is broken, as we would never finish a mission without being caught, it would just be impossible. We do wish this was not the case, as Marcus cannot defend himself as well as we thought. A few shots and he is dead, and before death, we would try our hardest to kill the constant flow of enemies that come due to one guard calling for reinforcements. The best way to get a mission done, would be to hurry in, tinker, or plant whatever we needed to plant, and find a way out of the area as fast as possible even if it meant jumping in the ocean.
While not on missions, the world is filled with exciting things to do that make you love living in today’s world. Taking selfies at landmarks and posting them social media for “fans”, being a part-time Uber driver, picking people up and dropping them off for extra cash, or just search the city and its outskirts for research points needed to upgrade your abilities. There is always something to see and something to do, even the people around the city behave in interesting ways. We crashed out car and some lady wanted to take a selfie with it. We drove like a maniac, and a lady got upset with us, pulled us out of our car and started beating us. People are chatting about games and famous actors, and what filter to use on their photos. It is a lovely take on the world of today, and every time we looked, there was some sort of reference to the time we live in. Watch Dogs 2 also takes a stab at the Internet of Things, and how we all might be led blindly by it one day, it is an exaggeration, but a concerning one that made us question our online safety and security.
The game has a vibe to it, and even the soundtrack is superb in a way that it fits into the themes present in the game. It was pretty cool to load up a tune and let it play while on a mission, or while just racing one of the dozen motocross races across the game. The fast travel also makes it much easier to get around, and is a saving grace most of the time, especially when you hit those tedious graffiti missions. The game also has an interesting take on multiplayer, as it is seamless. While we were exploring the city, other players would attempt to invade out world and hack us, we would have to track them down and kill them before they successfully got away with it. There are also cool co-op missions to complete that rely on team work and hacking together to complete it. One play would have my back and make sure I was safe while entering a hot zone. He would be able to hack into cameras and distract enemies while I did my thing. It is a cool way to do things, and if the hacking was not cool enough with one person, it is much better with a second.
Watch Dogs 2 is everything we could ask for in a sequel. Its great cast, spectacular missions, and great interpretation of San Francisco and the type of world we live in, all makes for a game that is worth the hours. Watch Dogs 2 is the redeeming factor in the series, and if you were let down by the original, rest assured that this one is beyond great.