Saving San Francisco – Watch Dogs 2

Approximately 20 hours, and I’ve played through the main campaign of Watch Dogs 2.

What a great time I’ve had! Starting out strong, and keeping a pretty decent pace, I’ve enjoyed playing as Marcus or “retr0” all the way through. Joining the Dedsec crew and taking down the big boys of corporate America.

I wrote a bit when I started playing, covering most of the basic aspects of the game, so I’m not going to re-hash all of it. This is more of a summary and a “final thoughts” on the great time I’ve had with Watch Dogs 2.

The good

Watch Dogs 2 has a lot of good things going for it.

Built-up from what I thought was a great opening entry in the series, this follow-up to the original has taken everything great, and ran with it further down the track.

Removing the often over-serious tone, and making the world a lot brighter and, well, fun.

The variety of missions and ways to tackle them is great. You never have to do the same thing over and over. I realise that missions tend to be the same (go here, hack this, get out), but there’s never one set way to do it.

Honestly, by the time I’d gotten into the final couple of missions in Watch Dogs 2, I felt like a badass hacker. Sitting in my car, controlling my drone or jumper. Taking over camera systems and calling in fake police reports or gang hits.

I cleared out whole bases of enemies without getting out of my car. That might sound dull, but it’s empowering as hell! Watch Dogs 2 is the ultimate tech power trip.

I don’t mind stealthing into a base and doing the work manually, but why bother? Earn those upgrades early on, then reap the benefits. To me, it’s as fun, and removes the hassle of having to fight your way out of an area!

The story is fun for the most part, the tone is just right. Serious concerns about corporations using our personal data for their gain, but light-hearted protagonists tackling it “for the people”.

One special mention needs to be to the car radio system. Seriously, the button use here is inspired. You never have to move away from the core driving controls, which as daft as it sounds, is a big deal. In fact, hacking as you drive, and changing songs etc, is so easy and intuitive, there’s been some real thought put into this.

App time

Being a game based on using mobile technologies, it’s no surprise that there are in-game apps to help Marcus along the way, or to add some fun side activities.

Watch Dogs 2 doesn’t ever really force you to do side stuff, but gives you plenty to go at if you so choose.

From using the Shazam-style app to add songs to your playlists, or the ScoutX app to take photos of city hotspots, you can have a bit of fun and earn rewards as you go.

I really enjoyed the Uber driving app “Driver SF”, too. Where you can get fares and drive people around the city.

Having a camera makes for some nice snaps, and having an app to get one of your cars instantly delivered, so you’re never stranded, is excellent. It takes a bit of the realism away, but reality is sometimes a bit of a drag, and we’re here for a bit of escapism, right?

If you want a little light relief from the core story of Watch Dogs 2, you need look no further than your phone. Mark a place on your Map app, and then you have instant navigation to wherever you’re going.

So quick and easy, and it all just fits so naturally in the modern world. Subtle, but substantial in all that you can do. Everything here just works.

The not-so-good

Watch Dogs 2 isn’t a perfect game. It’s excellent fun, and there’s loads to do in a really nicely realised world. It does have missteps, though.

The biggest misstep to me came in about a third of the way through the story.

You’re building momentum, and of course there needs to be some kind of Act 1 drama (otherwise how do you rally the troops in Act 2 and save the day in Act 3?), but it was just so jarring.

The “pivotal” moment was just a bit out of step with the rest of the game and really killed the flow of the game. It was pretty uneccessary, especially seeing as though you already had a downfall and “rise-up again” moment not too shortly before.

Getting involved with the gangs really felt tacked-on and broke momentum for no real reason. I never really felt emotionally invested in the characters, so it didn’t hit like I expect it was meant to?

A shame, yes. But a significant impact that ruined the game? No, not at all.

Combat wasn’t something I engaged in very often, and I rarely used guns (the on time I did, was by accident). Always using a taser, stealth and hacking to get the job done. Gun-play was a bit “off” though.

Where movement felt quite good, it was killed by struggling to cover and fire. It wasn’t a substantial issue because it isn’t how I play. But it might be rough to get used to, for those that like to shoot-through everything.

Finishing off

Befcause the cast of characters were caricatures of millenial cliche’s, I never felt emotionally invested at all. Making the aforementioned story beat even less impactful. I did find Marcus very likeable, though.

But Watch Dogs 2 isn’t about that.

Chaotic fun, with modern-day problems and the dark undercurrent of our data-hungry corporate “friends” (alternative Google, Twitter etc). The world here is a mirror of our world today, with a glossy sheen added to remove some of the grim reality.

The alternative Scientology “New Dawn” was a nice touch, especially with how it tied-in with the Cyber Driver missions etc. Really helped set the tone and the direction that Ubisoft were taking here.

It was disappointing, when I realised I’d have to go out of my way to get a lot of the skill upgrades. Despite having more than enough research points at the end. There was nothing for me to spend them on, because I hadn’t picked things up in certain places.

Of course I could find a guide, or go explore, but with all of those earned points it seemed a bit harsh for them to go to waste.

You can still upgrade things. I still felt like I was on a power trip at the end.

Use that drone and jumper!

Watch Dogs 2

Hack the world

Watch Dogs 2 delivered a lot of memorable, borderline-daft moments in the story and missions (hacking satellites, and using them to hack the world!). Always irreverent, always fun and almost always going forwards at a good pace.

I’ve had a wonderful time here and I couldn’t recommend Watch Dogs 2, enough.

Not perfect, but honestly, it’s really very very good. I’m reluctant to give it the highest award of “Exceptional”, but when I’ve had so much fun and have such fun memories, what else can I do?

Another Ubisoft game in the bag. I have no idea where this run of Ubisoft games has come from, but I’m now knee-deep in The Division 2, so I guess it’s going to continue?

If you enjoyed the original Watch Dogs, then Watch Dogs 2 is going to be for you. If you didn’t like the first one, but loved the concept. Everything is better realised here.

Get out there and hack a crane, or call the police on an innocent bystander just to watch them get arrested.

You’ll be pleased you did, I promise.

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