I had a Saturday with nothing particularly important to do. Usually in that situation I would just watch movies, draw, write, go for a walk, listen to music, etc. But I decided to try something different this time. I got up around 8a.m. and went straight over to RedBox and got a copy of Watch Dogs. Since RedBox only rents for 24 hours, I decided I’m going to make this the Watch-Dogginest 24 hours of my life essentially doing nothing but playing the game and getting to know it. It turns out, about 11 hours was plenty to get to know the game. I decided I had gotten all that I was going to get out of it, and I was completely satisfied with never playing it again… That doesn’t say much good for Watch Dogs.
A few posts ago (after watching some Watch Dogs trailers), I wrote about how Watch Dogs’ adept environment creation was offset by a mediocre resort to violent shooting. I thought how unfair it is that the only games that get this awesome graphic attention in modern city realms are ones about crime. Well, after my run with Watch Dogs, it turned out to be an even more embarrassing problem than I first suspected… You remember in Spider-Man 2 how you would be asked to complete those random crime-in-progress mini-missions all over the city? There was never much variety to them and the series of tasks to resolve them was just about the same every time. Or do you remember in Infamous how you would need to take over those “reaper”-controlled buildings all over the city? I wondered how this “reaper” gang would never learn. They were always on rooftops, always just waiting for you to show up… For both Infamous and Spider-Man, those parts never felt very authentic but more like a trivial aspect to let a game see more of the action that we desired so much. Also, the thugs or gang-members (or whatever) always seemed so replaceable – like there are millions of them just begging to be wiped out. It makes the whole gameplay process seem cheap. THAT’S EXACTLY HOW WATCH DOGS IS. You are sent on these errands to infiltrate a gang-base where they are just hanging out (often on rooftops) waiting for you to come by and wreck their day. Just you, by the way. No one else. The game tries to set up a basis in realism, then has you romping around killing hordes of gangsters by yourself. That’s lame. But it’s nothing compared to the ridiculous race-a-package-to-this-spot-before-the-time-runs-out missions.
The environment is impressive. The textures are fantastic, the weather effects are fantastic, and the attention to detail is fantastic. Plus, it really feels like you are wandering around Chicago because some areas are very pictorally accurate. I should clarify though, it feels authentic when you are walking around. Because as soon as you hop into a vehicle or whip our your weapon, the whole thing just becomes a cartoon. That’s this game’s biggest offense to me. Whenever there is an action moment (or you are just driving a car around), the beautiful scenery essentially disappears and the game has little more class than San Andreas. Man, they should have done something about that! It really bugs me. To be honest, the only times I actually had fun in this game were when I was walking at pedestrian-pace listening to the sounds and looking at the beautiful city pretending I was just some random Chicagoan. I would walk up the stairs to L train, get on, watch the city go by as I rode it… I know I’m silly. But that’s how I have fun. I like to use my imagination more than the average gamer, plus, the game’s amazing construction could really shine that way. But in moments of driving or shooting in this game, like I said, it was tough to see it as anything but lame action.
As for the hacking ability……. It does nothing but add to the reasons that this game is a hack job similar to Infamous where they are just trying out a new idea and giving us a GTA-inspired sandbox level to try it out in. I had zero fun with any hacking. Cept maybe with learning the annual salary of random pedestrians.
Basic breakdown: Shooting has a good feel for a third person game, but borders on feeling like Uncharted when it should feel more weighed down. Sound production is incredible – environment sounds and gun sounds are equally perfect, although the vehicles constantly sound like their engines are working harder than they should be. The plot is all but completely arbitrary – why do I have to go into a building full of thugs and wipe them out? -who gives a shit, let’s just do it. The characterization is a big WOMP – my daughter’s dead, I must exact revenge… after I kill some cops. The “customizable” outfits are worthless – why give us the option if they are all the same basic thing? It’s seriously just different colors for the same clothes. The interface is an insult – now I can publicly mess with my phone in video games too! The driving is almost okay, but ends up feeling pretty darn cartoony – not at all in-keeping with the authenticity of level design (arghhh). But the environmental creation is wonderful – I so enjoyed exploring the city, if just to look at it brilliance. Graphics are ok -nothing to complain about.
I should say one more thing about this before ending my rant: The biggest achievement of this game can be found in the most unlikely place – it’s mini-games. They are actually a huge plus to this game, and I was surprised how much work was put into them. So if you play this, remember, don’t be shy of those mini-games. They just might be the best thing this title has to offer. Especially the one called, “Alone” I thought was exciting.
My rating for this title, based on my one day with it is…