Game Review: Watch Dogs 2 (Xbox One)

Watch Dogs 2 is an action-adventure video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It is the sequel to 2014’s Watch Dogs and was released worldwide for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows in November 2016.

Set within a fictionalized version of the San Francisco Bay Area, the game is played from a third-person perspective and its open world is navigated on-foot or by vehicle. Players control Marcus Holloway, a hacker who works with the hacking group DedSec to take down the city’s advanced surveillance system known as ctOS. There are multiple ways to complete missions, and each successful assignment increases the follower count of DedSec.

Following the events of Chicago, San Francisco becomes the next city to install the ctOS (central Operating System), which connects everyone with everything. Hacker Marcus Holloway (Ruffin Prentiss) is punished for a crime he did not commit by the upgraded ctOS – ctOS 2.0. Which categorizes him as the suspect. Realizing the system covertly brings harm to the innocent citizens of San Francisco, he decides to work with the hacking group DedSec. They work together take down the ctOS 2.0, and Blume, the company behind it. Marcus joins DedSec and works with fellow hackers Sitara (Tasya Teles), Wrench (Shawn Baichoo), Horatio (Michael Xavier) and Josh (Jonathan Dubsky). They begin using their skills to expose corrupt organizations and corporations that are secretly using stolen personal ctOS data for their own ends.

Similar to its predecessor, Watch Dogs 2 is an action-adventure game with stealth elements. Played from a third-person perspective as protagonist Marcus Holloway, a young hacker. The game features an open world environment set in a fictionalized version of the San Francisco Bay Area. The area more than twice as large as the Chicago setting from Watch Dogs. Players can navigate the game’s world on-foot or by the various vehicles featured in the game. Such as cars, trucks, buses, boats, motorcycles. The driving mechanic was overhauled and designed to be more accessible. Marcus also has improved acrobatic skills, and the ability to parkour around the city.

Players can use different methods to approach the game’s missions, choosing between the aggressive or stealthy approach. You can defeat enemies with guns which are made with a 3D printer. Or use Marcus’ own melee weapon, a billiard ball attached to a bungee cord. Alternatively, you can evade enemies or paralyze them temporarily with Marcus’ taser. When players commit too many crimes, the police officers will become alerted and will attempt to arrest the player. And yes, this time you can’t simply evade them by getting on a boat.

There are a lot more hacking abilities available this time around. Marcus can modify personal information of NPC’s and have them arrested, or send a local gang after them. You can manipulate traffic lights and shut down entire security systems. Additionally you can gain direct control over any vehicle, making it crash or simply just change direction. Unlike Aiden, the protagonist of the first game, Marcus has an arsenal of advanced equipment, including a quadcopter and a remote-controlled car. Both of which can be used for remote hacking and scouting. Marcus’ apparel can be customized with over 700 articles of clothing. Which are available for purchase in stores that maintain fashion styles unique to each area.

Watch Dogs 2 is greatly improved in some areas but not so much in others. In the first Watch Dogs, you understood Aiden’s motivations: a simple revenge tale. But, in Watch Dogs 2 although it’s definitely for a good cause and Marcus is targeted unprovoked. It feels as if DedSec are more in it just for fun. As satisfying as it is taking down evil corporations one by one. It’s hard to emotionally invest in such silly characters. No doubt the characters are more exciting than Aiden Pearce and his gang (with the return of the most interesting one of the bunch, Raymond Kenney). But that isn’t exactly a difficult feat.

It feels very similar to Grand Theft Auto V in a lot of ways. With the locations, taking selfies and punching people out. But unlike the characters in that game, these characters are trying so hard to be cool. Out there somewhere a middle-aged executive desperately wants me to find these hipster, hacker kids so hip and relateable. But I don’t. Most of the cut scenes and interactions with DedSec are downright cringey. I respect that they decided to go for a more fun experience after the depressing and wooden opening to the franchise. But I feel like they went into overkill and didn’t find the right balance at all.

Personally, I think they dropped the ball on just making Marcus a completely customizable character. He had no back story at all. With the effort they put into the many different outfits, they should have just gone one step further. A lot of this sounds negative but it’s definitely worth a playthrough as its enjoyable nonetheless.

Overall, Watch Dogs 2 is an experience to say the least. You’ll cringe, you’ll laugh at that Knight Rider rip off mission and you’ll enjoy knocking people out. But this time instead of passersby ignoring you murdering someone in the street. They’ll actually react to your actions and call the police on you!

Watch Dogs 2
  • 7/10
    The Final Score - 7/10
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