It’s My World And I’ll Hack If I Want To
When compared to its predecessor, Watch Dogs 2 is a step forward for the franchise. Just like the improvements done from Assassins Creed to Assassins Creed 2, Watch Dogs 2 corrects past mistakes while trying to find its own identity.
In Watch Dogs 2 you take on the role of Markus Holloway, a twenty-four year old hacker who becomes punished by the new ctOS (central Operating System) 2.0 which connects everyone and everything around the city. In his quest to clean his name from the upgraded ctOS, Markus seeks out the help of a local hacker group known as Dedsec in order to stop the upgraded system, as well as the company behind it: Blume.
One of the major draws Watch Dogs 2 had on me is its satirical take on the tech industry. There are numerous times where the lampooning nature of the game made me genuinely laugh. Some missions take place in a satirical version of Silicon Valley; these missions show the tonal change Watch Dogs 2 is capable of. In fact, the entire San Francisco Bay area feel’s like a parody in some regard, including Markus himself.
As a protagonist, Markus Holloway is a breath of fresh air when compared to previous protagonist Aiden Pierce. While Aiden was designed to be cold, dour and humorless due to the nature of his story; Markus is the complete opposite. He’s much more colorful in both personality and appearance. Despite this change in character, it becomes increasingly difficult to buy into some of his actions. The game starts off showing just how different Markus is compared to Aiden; by different he’s likable to the point where his actions are jarring.
To its credit Watch Dogs 2 doesn’t have to always be guns blazing, but when Markus starts becoming an one-man army it begins to feel disjointed. Especially going from combat to using the in-game camera to take a selfie while chaos is erupting in the background. Despite this disconnect, Markus is a fun protagonist to play as. Between Markus and his fellow Dedsec members they provide a camaraderie that at times can be annoying but overall pay’s off.
Hacking Doesn’t Have To Be Loud
One of the aspects that bode well for me playing through Watch Dogs 2 was the freedom of choice. Markus and his arsenal of gadgets (guns included) can be used to the players discretion. Most of the missions are fairly straight forward; drive to a location, hack a terminal, rinse and repeat. It’s in the characters and gameplay that the somewhat mundane mission structure can be overlooked. The variety of gadgets and abilities Markus has at his disposal lead to experimentation. The addition of the remote-controlled jumper and drone make tackling some missions easier than others.
When confronted with a new mission, my self-motivated approach was to complete each objective without killing. However, on more than a few occasions the cow manure hit the fan, leaving the only option being guns-blazing. Since there are so many different upgrades for Markus, experimentation is almost a necessity. I found myself using different abilities that normally wouldn’t fit my playstyle on more than a few occasions.
One ability in particular allowed me to either call in a rival gang or law enforcement on a target of my choosing. Leading to some funny confrontations between the npc’s. Moments like these give an extra incentive to keep playing missions. Once missions are completed, Deadsec earns followers-which are essentially experience points-that once leveled up earns skill points for Markus to use.
San Francisco Fun
Between all the firefights and hacking, sometimes you just want to unwind. Watch Dogs 2’s version of San Francisco is a vibrant and fun place to explore. There is a sense of culture in every facet of the map. From the Golden Gate Bridge to the steep hills of the city itself, there’s an abundance of things to discover and activities to partake in; though not all of them are fun.
San Francisco’s bay area harbors different sites to see and upgrades to collect. There are also the occasional vehicular races to take part in if you so choose. Vehicles such as sailboats, go-carts (titled eKarts), Motocross, and the most questionable of them all: drones can all be used to take part in races. Though each of these activities seem like a nice respite from the usual action; the fun doesn’t last. Each of these minigames lacked enough staying power to keep me playing, mostly because it seemed like each activity was there for the sake of being there.
One activity that did keep me thoroughly entertained was called: Driver SF Clients. A unique activity whose title is borrowed from a past game called: Driver: San Francisco. This minigame isn’t really a race, instead Markus acts as a Taxi-or Uber driver-dropping clients off at their requested destination. Some of the conversations between Markus and his clients make for some genuine laughs that are otherwise well-hidden in a vast game such as this. Acting as further evidence that Ubisoft is improving upon the tone.
Even the seamless multiplayer is improving upon. Invasions return, this time hacking a target becomes more challenging due to the integrated drone and remote-controlled jumper. Since both players have these abilities it could go either way, it all depends on whether or not the hacking player is well-hidden. This creates surprisingly tense moments from a relatively simple idea, and if successful…satisfying.
Tense moments can also be found in the new Bounty Hunt mode. Bounty Hunter is a neat cat and mouse mode where one player becomes a target-if they cause enough mayhem-while fellow players can choose to invade the bounty’s game and take them out. Working side by side with fellow players to take out a target can be a fun, and somewhat chaotic experience. The only downside to playing this mode is its one life system. If the targeted player kills you, then it’s essentially game over; dropping you back into the main campaign.
And if you can’t beat them, join them. Watch Dogs 2 also features an online co-op mode in which you and a fellow player can partake in operations scattered throughout the map. Most of these missions range in difficulty and use similar locations found throughout the main story. The concept of using teamwork makes some of these missions fun, but like the single player the same gameplay loop gets tiresome after a while.
Watch Dogs 2 succeeds in fixing some of the mistakes that hindered its predecessor. San Francisco provides a more vibrant backdrop for Markus on his quest to take down Blume. While the multiplayer is limited-yet fun-when it works.