Watch Dogs Review – GTA did it first: a big, open, sandbox world for the player to explore, befriend and demolish, not necessarily in that order. Others have tried mimicking it to a various degree of success and, while the Saints Row franchise takes the cake as being the most outrageous GTA clone to date, Watch Dogs definitely has its moments that make it a serious contender for the “What the …. Were They Thinking?”™ award.
It’s impossible to talk about Watch Dogs without first explaining how GTA came to be. Originally, it was conceived as a top-down multiplayer racing game under a different name, but was deemed too bland and uninspired until one playtester noticed a bug which made police cars randomly ram a player’s car. When the concept of living the life as a criminal was further expanded, the game we now know as Grand Theft Auto was born.
In all entries in the GTA series, the rules are simple: use any means necessary to achieve your objective, usually a crime of some sorts. If you play too aggressively, there is a never-ending supply of policemen to thwart you.
Watch Dogs is as cliché as it gets
Watch Dogs attempts to rise above the GTA’s inanity by surreptitiously introducing serious political commentary to the world of video games, an action that does not usually bode well for the critical and financial success of the game.
The protagonist, Aiden Pearce, is a cyber vigilante who wants to avenge the death of his family by going after the power players in the city. Storywise, Watch Dogs is as cliché as it gets and the fact that the main character is poorly defined does nothing to help the story hobble along any faster. You can build your own reputation by either helping or harming people with your hacking skills, which in theory sounds fine, but it does little to remedy the overall lack of motivation to stick to any morality. You can do whatever you please with impunity and the game can be finished with bad reputation without it having a great impact on difficulty.
Unless you plan to hold the W key for an eternity, you’ll probably be driving a vehicle of some sorts. There is a massive amount of cars, motorbikes and trucks to choose from and, while the driving experience itself is pleasurable, it’s too weighted towards the player and far too forgiving.
You will have a variety of weapons at your disposal but the game will constantly nudge you towards your main weapon – the cell phone. Everything can be hacked to your advantage, even when it makes no sense, such as remotely detonating explosives on guards or blowing up steam pipes underneath the asphalt to stop the fleeing car.
The fun part of hacking is that you can listen to the conversations between various random characters in the game. The fun quickly wears thin when you realize how many conversations are there purely for shock value, referencing some of the biggest filth on the internet.
Aiden Pearce is actually a cold, ruthless manipulator and a complete psychopath
It’s possible to argue that the setting in Watch Dogs is a clever allusion to the surveillance and privacy concerns of the last decade, but the flaw in that argument is that the only one abusing the system is the protagonist. We’re supposed to root for him because of his tragic loss, but Aiden Pearce is actually a cold, ruthless manipulator and a complete psychopath who runs around destroying people’s lives at a whim. Just a reminder, this is how the game is supposed to be played. Two wrongs don’t make a right and neither do two nonsensical design decisions make a sane one. Unless you absolutely must play all GTA clones, skip Watch Dogs. It’s worth neither your time nor your money.