Hackers were all the rage in the early and mid-2010s with technology becoming more and more part of human life as each month went by. In 2014, Ubisoft Montreal developed while Ubisoft published Watch Dogs for the PlayStation 3, 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Wii U. The game promised users that they’d be able to hack just about anything in the game from ATMs, computers, cell-phones, traffic lights, and more. Did the game come through or did Watch Dogs leave gamers with broken promises?
You are Aiden Pearce, a hotshot hacker who robs banks and companies electronically with your partner Damien Brenks. One electronic bank heist goes wrong and Aiden fears for the life of him and his loved ones. He quickly whisks them away to the country where a hitman crashes into his car killing Pearce’s niece. Now set on revenge, Pearce searches high and low throughout Chicago to find the killers of his niece.
Pearce finds the hitman and squeezes out any info on who he was working for before leaving him with another partner of his, Jordi Chin. Brenks comes back into the picture with a request for Pearce to find info on another hacker from the failed bank job. With Pearce having his hands full already trying to track down the men responsible for his niece’s death, he refuses which makes Brenks kidnap Pearce’s sister and hold her hostage until he completes the quest.
This sends Pearce on a journey completing numerous tasks in exchange for info and introductions to other powerful hackers throughout Chicago. Pearce discovers that the other hacker from the bank job is a man named Wade and raids his compound of cryptic info before killing him. Before the info is used, another hacker steals the info back and deletes it from Pearce’s servers. This leads to numerous hackers betraying each other including Brenks giving Pearce’s identity to the police.
As the game wraps up a ton of crazy things are happening. Pearce confronts “Lucky” a boss in the Irish Mob who played a role in the hit put on Pearce and kills him by hacking his pacemaker. He then learns that Lucky was actually working for the Mayor who thought he was being blackmailed by Pearce after accidentally killing his secretary. Pearce uploads the video evidence of the Mayor across the city which leads to the Mayor committing suicide. An angry Pearce finally finds Brenks and kills him before the player decides the fate of the original hitman that killed Pearce’s niece.
Watch Dogs plays very similarly to a Grand Theft Auto clone but with an emphasis on hacking and technology. You’ll be able to drive around Chicago in any car you see fit and cause as much chaos as you want when you aren’t doing missions. This is always a ton of fun and helps relieve any stress from particularly difficult missions. Driving however can be a bit touchy and it took me some time before getting the controls down for cars.
Now let’s get down to the criticism of the game from the majority of players. They wanted to hack anything at any time! A lot of the marketing for this game was presented in that direction so when it was released and players could hack only a handful of things I think they were disappointed. The way you hack is also on the easier side. I don’t know how to hack things but if it’s anything like it is in Watch Dogs, I’d be a pretty good hacker. Some things like cameras and gates you’ll just hit the square button to hack them while other more complicated systems like security systems in buildings require a bit more work. My favorite thing to “hack” was steam pipes under the roads that caused massive damage to any cars that were chasing me. There’s plenty of hacking in Watch Dogs at least for me. Any hardcore nerds or hackers out there might disagree but I liked what I saw from Watch Dogs.
Combat is tons of fun and there are many ways you can kill an enemy. Aside from the typical putting a bullet in their head, you can hack their own weapons. If someone is carrying a grenade, why not hack it to set it to explode? It’s great fun and always amusing on the various ways you can kill people in Watch Dogs. You’ll also have a skill tree that you can expand your hacking or various skills through. Stopping crimes earn you a good reputation with the citizens while committing crimes makes them fearful of you.
I think Watch Dogs came with a lot of promises and some serious bugs that turned people off but once it got patched up Watch Dogs became a very solid game that offers a unique version of “Grand Theft Auto”.
I didn’t play Watch Dogs for a few years after it was out. I know a lot of people ripped it for not being what they thought it was so I had little expectations for playing the game. I’m glad I gave it a shot because I thought it was a solid experience. I remember the action was tons of fun with the gunfights and car explosions. It was the first game that I saved a clip of me playing it because I felt like such an unstoppable killing machine during a sequence that saw me hunting down some people. The minigames within Watch Dogs are worthy of your time too. You can play as a giant mechanical spider that causes massive damage in the city and I had fun running through the streets in that a few times.
Games that are released incomplete or broken like Borderlands 3 cause instant buyer’s remorse. Luckily for me, I rarely play games when they are released instead opting to play them 2-3 years down the line when the developers have released enough patches to fix them. Watch Dogs worked great for me and I enjoyed my time with it. Now…Watch Dogs 2 is a different story, but I’ll save that for another review.
With Watch Dogs being patched up, it’s a solid game that offers fun missions, unique hacking opportunities, and tons of vehicles to drive throughout Chicago. The story is solid and there are creative and fun bonus games to play within the story. Give Watch Dogs a go purely for the fun you can cause while hacking other NPCs.
Watch Dogs scores an 8.1 out of 10.
Do you remember when Watch Dogs first came out? Did you play it on the first day of its release and were disappointed or did you wait as I did? What was your favorite technology to hack? What did you think of the story? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments!
If you’d like to own a copy of Watch Dogs, you can purchase a used copy of it for PS4 from eBay for around $10.