Watch Dogs 2 Review
Watch Dogs 2 Review – Hack The Planet
Watch Dogs 2 feels like the game the original should have been back in 2014. The sequel to the hacking inspired action-adventure game isn’t bogged down by a dull setting and protagonist but rather embraces the fun and chaotic nature of being part of the hacktivist group, DedSec. This time around you are equipped with more gadgets and the scope of what you can do with those tools has been enhanced too. Overall, the game is a big improvement over Watch Dogs even if it isn’t the giant stride forward Assassin’s Creed 2 was for its own series.
One of the first things players will notice about Watch Dogs 2 is the vibrant setting of San Francisco. Ubisoft Montreal clearly heard the feedback about the very grey and neutral Chicago and thankfully decided to change gears. The city by the bay is full of bright colours, diverse people and things to do. Players can customise the protagonist Marcus with all manner of clothing options that both celebrate and poke fun at the young, sometimes hipster culture found in that part of the world. Collecting money bags to outfit Marcus in different clothing, buy better cars and just look stylish or silly while taking the fight to Blume (the company behind the big brother operating system CTOS) is one of the most endearing aspects of the game, one of many examples of how Watch Dogs 2 has improved over its predecessor.
Perhaps the biggest improvement in Watch Dogs 2 is the story, characters and plot of the game. Marcus is smart, witty, enthusiastic and plays well off the core group of DedSec members you work alongside who all have more personality and seem much more realistic than Aiden Pearce. They all have their role to play, Sitara handles all the art and the brand of their DedSec group, Wrench is an anarchist who likes to take things apart and blow things up, Josh is the stereotypical socially awkward tech guy and Horatio is the normal guy helping coordinate the group’s efforts. Although I was worried that the game would be too jokey and light hearted throughout, the third act does take a more serious and darker tone but without going overboard. There’s a neat progression of the story too as the group works their way up from stopping small-scale corruption to exposing senators and CEO’s. The game does have some ties to the original with Raymond Kenney aka T-Bone who fits in well joining the fight part way through the game and a rather unnecessary cameo by Aiden Pearce.
Ubisoft’s games work best when the gameplay meshes well with the story and progression. There aren’t many meaningless collectibles in Watch Dogs 2. Money bags allow you to buy clothes, cars and weapons. Paint jobs add further customisation to your cars, jumper and quadcopter drones, the ScoutX app which involves Marcus taking selfies near landmarks and other places of interest in San Francisco, give you experience toward leveling up and the Driver: SF app (a nod to an old Ubisoft series) is an Uber-like driving activity. The gameplay plays into the aesthetic and tone of the game well, Marcus levels up by gaining followers which are obtained by completing various activities and your actions across missions will be heard on news broadcasts.
Watch Dogs 2 builds upon many of the hacking principles introduced in the original game. You can still hack cameras to scope out an area and utilise lethal and non-lethal means of taking down your enemies from range or up close. Although you could easily purchase a bunch of military grade guns and kill many NPC’s it doesn’t really fit with Marcus as a character or DedSec given their desire to stick up for the little guy. Nevertheless, you may find some areas very challenging if you play all non-lethally as I did. The addition of a quadcopter drone to fly around areas and spot all the enemies is very useful and upgrades to allow the drone to drop off electro-shock mines or explosives improves it further. The jumper RC car is even better though, it was pretty vital in unlocking security systems and doors making the game far less frustrating than had it not been there. These gadgets are needed to collect research points and cash too with many of these collectibles forming mini-puzzles of their own as you figure out how to reach a rooftop or hard to reach area.
All things considered, Watch Dogs 2 is a much-needed improvement on the first game. If this title had been the one released in 2014, the series would be on much safer ground. Watch Dogs 2 has better designed gameplay, a more thoughtful and entertaining approach to the story and most importantly is just fun. It will be interesting to see how Ubisoft approaches a third entry in the series particularly given this entry’s poor launch sales. However for now, Watch Dogs 2 lives up to the promise of giving you real freedom as a hacker not looking for revenge but to expose corruption, ultimately making for a much more interesting game.
What did you think of Watch Dogs 2? What would you like to see in a sequel?
Let me know by commenting below.
You can see my thoughts on the original Watch Dogs here.