ByTim Horton, writer at
Business Development Manager at Universally Speaking. @TimHortonGame | Email: [email protected]
Tim Horton

The rise of the geek comes into true fruition with Ubisofts brand new title release Watch Dogs.

In [Watch Dogs](movie:1000357), players enter the dangerous world of Aiden Pearce. A new class of antihero whose ability to hack into any connected system could be his most powerful weapon. Whether it’s triggering a 30-car pileup by manipulating traffic-lights to trap an enemy during a downtown shootout or tapping into the city’s omnipresent security cameras to access anyone’s personal information, Pearce is capable of coercing and controlling almost every element of the world around him.

Watch Dogs attempts to go beyond the limits of today’s current open-world titles, like GTA and [Assassin's Creed](movie:437814), by giving the player the ability to control and fundamentally influence their entire environment via a hacking ability in an effort to always stay one step ahead of the enemy. This open world design lets players freely roam Chicago, which includes the urban city, open countryside, and slums.

Let me explain:

Just like the talented team at Sucker Punch Productions who recently recreated Seattle for the game inFamous: Second Son, the guys over at Ubisoft Montreal deserve kudos for creating an amazing living breathing representation of Chicago; inclusive of landmarks like Millennium Park, Willis Tower, and even the Tribune Tower. Entire sections of neighbourhood were genuinely mapped and brought to life for gamers to manipulate and control.

In Watch Dogs there is a system called ctOS which is basically a computer system that in essence controls the city of Chicago’s operating systems and infrastructure. A smart city if you will.

In effect anything that is connected to the city’s Central Operating System becomes a weapon or aid to the player.

The hacking mechanic in the game is performed directly from Aiden's in-game smartphone, which is equipped with multiple applications, namely the "profiler" and the "crime prevention system". The former allows the player to access information on any citizen in the city, while the latter notifies the player when a crime is likely to occur in the vicinity. The phone is also equipped with applications that interact directly with the environment around the player; for example, players can hack into NPC's phones to retrieve bank data and steal funds as well as unlock new cars, weapons, and in-game music, or they can hack into traffic lights to cause collisions.

A concept that I found most useful and entertaining was the ability to recon an area or building by means of switching from one CCTV camera to the next. This allows you to basically venture undetected through any number of enemy strongholds via their own security systems. Aiden can hack and spy on whomever he may choose within the city as long as they are using an electronic device. Now that’s cool!

Player progression:

Grow and adapt, be one step ahead at every turn by upgrading. There is a progression wheel that the player has access to which allows for upgrades of ability and new feature unlocks.

The player can improve Aiden's skills either by expending skill points or earning skills and perks by completing side missions and collecting various items from the in game world, such as finding QRS codes on the sides of buildings or finding ctOS servers collecting information on the citizens of Chicago.

Within this progression wheel you have access to a quad-tiered skill tree that consists of Hacking, Combat, Crafted Items and Driving all with sub categories to basically earn points to unlock.

To make the most of Watch Dogs and to truly separate it from its rivals a combination of hacking, combat and crafting is guaranteed take you down a truly unique path of gaming, one which you will have never experienced before.

The plot:

The storyline that supports this aesthetically brilliant world is one mainly of vengeance and retribution, the classic antihero role. Eleven months after a failed robbery at the Merlaut Hotel that led to the unintentional murder of his niece instead of him; Aiden is seeking revenge on those responsible. Using a backdoor into Chicago's central operating system, Aiden is able to hack into the electrical infrastructure in the city.This allows him to discover information about its citizens using his smartphone.

With great looking cinematics and superb character motion capture technology the individuals, although a little cliché, are entirely genuine and as unique as you are.

The story unfortunately is not one to rival such titles as The Last of Us or Heavy Rain but it certainly satisfies any excuse to continue through to the next mission.


The free roam ability is virtually unlimited and vast; the whole world is open to you from the moment you start the game unlike GTA and Creed. The game's combat utilises a combination of stealth components and parkour, along with the mechanics of a cover-based third-person shooter similar to that of the Metal Gear Series.

The hacking element of the game can also be used in combat situations to eliminate opponents, create diversions, or create cover. It can also be used as a stealth tool to sneak past guards.

Watch Dogs utilizes a similar ‘world waypoint’ system that Assassin's Creed uses. The player must find and scale (hack) certain marked facilities within Chicago. This brings sections of the city to life on your minimap highlighting available missions and amenities in that area.

In terms of mission dynamics it chimes a very similar tone to the predicable. With over 40 hours of gameplay for the campaign and countless side missions it is however one hell of a time consuming franchise of which I am extremely happy to be a part of.

The difficulty increases as you near the end of the story with focus given mainly to driving missions. Believe me as an experienced gamer this can get, in a publishable word, tough. So as you make your way through the game do make sure you get those skills upgraded via your progression wheel specifically your helicopter swatters, otherwise at this stage your console controller may end up outside on the street a few times or flying at high velocity through your television screen.


I love the multiplayer aspect to Watch Dogs. In multiplayer mode (of which there are a few) players from across the globe are able to hijack other players games. In the same way you can hack the AI citizens of Chicago you can from time to time find yourself the victim from other human players that have hacked into your game and are now stalking you. Moments like these are actually quite adrenaline pumping and can be difficult to spot. To worm out and eradicate a rival human fixer is what Watch Dogs is all about for me and I do oh so love this feature.

A seperate online multiplayer mode is also provided in the game, allowing up to eight players to engage in both co-operative and competitive gameplay in a recreation of the single-player setting.

A few online tips:

Run Away

If the attacker hasn’t started the hacking process yet, a player is able to run. This forces the attacker to catch the player, which automatically reveals the attacker’s location in the process. If this is executed correctly, the player should easily take advantage of the additional information and deal with the hacker.

Shoot Around

One of the best tactics for a player, when attacked, is to pull out their gun and shoot a few times. This will make the AI characters run, thus leaving the attacker exposed. This is an extremely good way to leave the hacker exposed, but may also draw unwanted attention of the police. Cameras can also be used to one’s advantage, as they manage to cover great distances without the player having to walk around physically, which takes quite a lot of time.

Interval Times

Players should always be cautious at each interval, as the area in which the hacker needs to be shrinks with the passing of each interval. The player should focus their attention on locating the target as each interval hits, as the most probable scenario is that the attacker will be moving closer toward the player at this time.

The Movement of the AI

Checking behind objects by hacking people and maneuvering them around the boxes is also a nice strategy. Cars, especially if they are near a wall, are also a common place for hackers to hide out. However, the biggest tell is that a character controlled by the player is never able to move just like the AI. Spotting irregularities in the movement of the crowd can be a nice and easy way to spot the attacker. A player should be cautious however because Watch Dogs sometimes adds a few irregularities in the movement of the AI for a better feel of the game.

The verdict:

So, Watch Dogs is most definitely a great success. I do believe that it brings to the table a little more than GTA does but also differs enough to be able to play and own both.

Not the GTA killer we were expecting but it is certainly good enough to push Rockstar into something groundbreaking next year.

Next Gen smash hit? No. We are still waiting for that ground breaking ‘next gen’ experience here at Gamertag Gaming; unfortunately Watch Dogs doesn’t quite break the mould enough. With patches and DLC’s said to be on the way we live in hope. Still our bets are still on Ubisoft to deliver this long overdue Next Gen experience with The Division releasing 2015.

Until then we can make Chicago our own, our enemies may run Chicago but we control it!

Touché Ubisoft!

9/10 – “Vast, diverse and unrivalled – A must buy”

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