Do you wanna make a meme? Because we got plenty spare.
History does not favour Watch Dogs. I’ve played through it twice, first on PS4 and then on PC and I did not have a bad experience either time. What went wrong was it was not the game sold to people. I remember seeing the original demo with such cinematic style and finesse and feeling somewhat disappointed when it didn’t hit that mark. Its mechanics were skin deep and unrefined, its protagonist was cold and lifeless and Chicago was a grey bland world with no reactivity.
Watch Dogs 2 is a huge departure from the original, and exactly what Watch Dogs should have been. It’s a colourful, nerd-fuelled romp through its crazy premise and takes no shame in going far over the top at any point. Gone is the dark vigilante revenge story of the first and in comes the meme-filled lunacy we all wanted.
You want to have your own robot? Check.
You want to create a remote control car and drive it round the city ‘for the lulz?’ Check.
You wanna hack the planet?! Yeah that’s in there too.
The first change you will notice is our new protagonist Marcus Holloway, who makes Aiden Pierce look like a corpse in the depth of his personality. He’s a nerd, far too cocky for his own good, overly idealistic and capable of hacking anything. He is the exact kind of protagonist required for this kind of game.
His story is not revenge-free though, as he is a victim of predictive policing and charged with a crime he did not commit and joining DeadSEC to bring down this system which accused him. How so? Getting followers on social media of course and getting them to download the DeadSEC app, with the final aim of bringing down the digital crown sitting atop every device, building and vehicle in San Francisco: CTOS.
Our entire modern pop culture, as well as that of hacking culture has been spoofed for the game. The plot can get somewhat cringe-inducing, drowning as it is in movie references, comical plot arcs and discourse between the characters makes for an amusing game at least even if it can get crazy. Notable examples include a hacker enemy mid-game, who is a fat, sports a UV face tattoo of a skull and vapes heavily.
In comparison to Chicago, San Francisco is very much more alive and full of things to do with missions and limited time events appearing around the side missions and collectibles across the map. There is even an Uber knockoff called ‘Driver SF’ and a Shazam knockoff called ‘SongSneak.’ Add on this the online elements and it is very easy to feel like the city is too full of things to do.
Much of the base gameplay has been retained from the original and refined down. Missions usually involve sneaking or shooting your way into a base and hacking the data out. The missions are far more saturated with hackable objects to help your playstyle, whichever it may be as stealth is now a completely viable option thanks to the stun gun and RC vehicles. I do recommend playing with stealth non-lethally. It works better with the characters and you are far too squishy for full-frontal combat. Much of my favourite moments in the game were using the two RC vehicles and completing a whole mission without setting foot anywhere in the zone; it feels truly badass.
Now you may have been wondering what took so long in the writing of this review. Well, the hope was to review the PC version over the consoles, however, we were limited to having either the PS4 (version chosen) or the XBO. Which is a shame, because the PC version is by a mile the superior version to play. With a sufficiently strong graphics card you can push this game hard and make San Francisco come to life. While the PC is not perfect and suffers from some glitches and tears, the consoles suffer the same issue with far more frequency, and quick reactions required for some of the games actions go out the window when the framerate tanks.
The online element of this game can be considered ‘annoying’ at least and ‘fun’ at best. Co-op play is available for some missions so the entire experience is not competitive but you will still get annoyed when you try to begin a mission and you are pushed into an online battle just to remind you it is still there. You gain experience for doing online missions, so there is some reasoning to do them and you can at least turn them off if they annoy you.
Think of Watch Dogs 2 versus Watch Dogs the same way you think of Assassins Creed 2 versus Assassins Creed. The core gameplay has been expanded upon in scope yet optimised in use. The world is a much more tempting and colourful place to explore than Chicago; and the characters and story blend seriousness and silliness in the right amount to make a game very much worth playing. I don’t want this to become a tradition of a trash game preceding a wonderful sequel, and this game gets a solid 9 and my hope of this being the last time this occurs.
Did I mention you get to drive the Knightrider car while listening to Turbolover? I did didn’t I. This game is awesome.