When Watch Dogs first released it was among one of the most anticipated games, not only for me, but for many gamers. Ubisoft sold me on a world where you could hack anything, which sounded like a fun and badass time. When the game finally launched and received mediocre scores from both critics and consumers, I was disappointed. Watch dogs 2 had a lot riding on it. It had to be what Assassin’s Creed 2 was to Assassin’s Creed. The sequel had to take everything that worked from the first game, while also improving and fixing everything that was wrong. When the reveal came, it looked to have the potential to do just that, but I was still staying cautiously optimistic about Watch Dogs 2. After all, I had been burned before.
When I finally got my hands on Watch Dogs 2, I immediately saw that they fixed one of the biggest problems with the previous game; Aiden Pierce. Aiden was a terrible protagonist from start to finish in the original Watch Dogs, so it was nice to see that Watch Dogs 2 had a new, and what seemed like a very charismatic, protagonist in Marcus Holloway. Marcus’ story starts with him breaking into the Bluth’s servers to erase his file from their database. This was all a test from the Hacker group DedSec. After completing the mission, Marcus celebrates with a great party on the beach with drinks and girls. He wakes up the next day in just underwear and a tank top. From that moment on, the world is open to you. It takes approximately one hour to complete this intro mission, and then San Fransisco is yours to explore. I really appreciated this approach because I was able to tackle side missions right away, or just enjoy a drive around the beautiful city of San Fransisco.
The story in Watch Dogs 2 does a good job with poking fun at itself, and just having fun with the characters. It never takes itself too seriously, which is a major plus especially with how fun the characters are presented. It does have some serious moments, but they only add to the character development and never take too much away from the sheer silliness that is Watch Dogs 2. One of the big complaints I heard before the game released, was how people couldn’t stand the “hipster” look to the characters, so I got a good laugh when Marcus was called a hipster by one of his hacker buddies and denies it, only to agree seconds later. It’s minor details like this, that help to keep not only the lighter tone, but to keep the story interesting and fun. I won’t go much more into the story, to avoid spoilers, but I will say I was pleasantly surprised by how it kept me coming back to find out how everything came together.
One problem I always have with open world games, is that the main story usually has a sense of urgency to it which contrasts the nature of the open world. Fallout 4 is a great example of this, where the main plot point is to save your son. So, when the game has you running around saving settlements or building yet another base, that urgency gets lost in the shuffle. This hurts the main story’s progression, or at the very least, it hurts how you feel about tackling the side missions or side content. Watch Dog 2 takes a much different approach as one of the main goals is to get followers, which you not only acquire by doing main missions, but literally any other side activity in the game. Want to go around taking selfies at cool landmarks around San Fran? No problem! Each selfie nets you a certain amount of followers. This approach really gives you the feeling that you are contributing to the main story, when you’re really just fooling around in San Francisco.
Chicago was fun to explore in Watch Dogs, but it doesn’t hold a candle to what San Francisco offers you. Chicago was dark and gloomy and had mostly brown and gray landscapes. San Fran, on the other hand, is bright, colorful and overflowing with personality. From the extremely entertaining pedestrians walking around, or the diverse and interesting landmarks, there was always something to keep me interested in what was happening. If I got bored of just driving around, there was always missions to do or mayhem to create. Mayhem in Watch Dogs 2 can be super entertaining in many ways. Once you unlock the ability to call in gang wars and cops, by fabricating hits on people or planting evidence on a poor soul, it can get quite fun to sit back and use your new tool, the Quadcopter, to watch the mayhem unfold.
The Quadcopter is one of my favorite additions in Watch Dogs 2. I used it in every mission, whether it was for reconnaissance, or taking out enemies, it was always a go-to in my arsenal. This was the same with the little RC Jumper. This helpful device made it possible for me to go into buildings to download some personal info, and get out, without needing to even step foot into the building. The variety on how to tackle missions was perfectly executed. Ubisoft did an amazing job with the level design and giving Marcus the tools he needed to tackle missions however the player wants to. Yes, there are a few missions that require Marcus to be at a certain spot, but those are so few and far between that it was refreshing when it forced me to play that way. I had so much fun hacking and using gadgets that I forgot I could use parkour and stealth too. Hacking has been completely revamped with more things to hack and more ways to hack them. Each hackable item this time around, has four different hacks which differ depending on what you are hacking. You can use hacking to lure, kill, knock out, or even recharge your hacking ability. The amount of hacking starts off a little overwhelming but after the first few missions you get your rhythm down, and then you’re hacking like a champ.
Unfortunately, while playing through the main campaign, I wasn’t able to really test out how well the “Seamless Multiplayer” worked, as it was taken offline due to technical problems at launch. It was patched right as I finished the main campaign, so I never got to experience walking around and seeing another player in my world, or just inviting them to my game to cause mayhem. I did, however, try out the different modes. Invasions are still as much fun as they were in the last game. Using the new gadgets to mess with or lead the other player away from a hiding spot is great fun, and there is no other feeling better than having them run by your parked car 20 times trying to find you only to taunt them with it after the hack is completed. Bounty Hunt is the new mode added and while matchmaking was very spotty with connecting me to a hunt (sometimes taking me 10 or more minutes to find a match) once it did connect, it was a hell of a good time. Bounty Hunt puts two players against each other, basically like cops and robbers. One player is getting hunted by other players and cops, and the other is running like hell trying to escape. It adds a great sense of excitement and adrenaline being on either side of the chase, which is made easier by the revamp that was done to driving. Driving this time around feels a hell of a lot better. Watch Dogs 2 gave me way more control over the car, and driving was actually fun and didn’t feel like a chore. It still has its problems, but cars drive more like Grand Theft Auto V.
Watch Dogs 2, very much like Assassin’s Creed 2, took what worked from their previous games, tweaked what needed to be tweaked, and learned from their mistakes to make one hell of a fun sequel. Hacking anything and everything in a beautiful open world really made Watch Dogs 2 shine. It also didn’t hurt that the characters were not uninteresting wet blankets, like Aiden Pierce and company. I had so much fun with Watch Dogs 2 and I can’t wait to see where this franchise goes next.