07 June, 2014

Review - Watch Dogs: Biggest let down in 2014?

Assassins Creed future edition also known as Watch Dogs or Watch Doge by those clever enough to change one word in the title to make it sound like a dead meme, this is Ubisoft's latest game where the brave ethnic Assassin with the sexy accent fights the evil Templars who are out to control the world. Okay maybe not, instead you play Aiden Pearce a generic sounding American "Hacker" that changes tragic lights and raises forklifts causing chaos across the City of Chicago.

"Everything is Connected" except for uplay. That never works.

Watch Dogs

Next Generation Loading...

I bought the digital version for the Xbox one which lets you play after installing around 20% of the game which is good considering this game is over 20GB in size; must be all that great AI and content the game has! Ha! what a good joke.

While I do like the idea of games letting you play while it installs it only works if the game actually lets you play it! I got a couple of minutes into the opening mission where you have to sneak through the Stadium and evade cops and was enjoying it, only to have the game stop me and tell me that the game was still installing and kick me back to the main menu. I understand that it’s still installing the entire open world but why would it let me play that early in the first place, why not around 50% or later when I can actually play more than 5 minuets of content before watching a progress bar again. 

After it had finished installing I had strange issues where the sky would flicker as if a giant flashlight was in the sky lighting up the city of Chicago. It might help because it seems like every back ally in the entire city is lacking in lights, maybe this is why there’s so much crime. Investing in a few lights would make a lot more sense and save more money than an entire city linked with an operating system to track said crime that occurs in these dark alleys. 

Impulse Buying, Thanks YouTube! 

In some ways I wish the game had never let me leave that stadium so I wouldn't learn how boring and generally bad the game is. I never had any high expectations for the game and I wasn't even going to buy it until I saw some videos from a few YouTubers I watch... hint hint game companies, this is free advertisement you should encourage. Don't pull a Nintendo and ban all videos of your games because you think people would rather watch the videos than buy the game. So after the impulse buy and zero expectations Watch Dogs has still let me down along with many other people. I can't imagine how people who were hyped for the game feel, probably somewhere between eternal rage over uplay living up to it's name and breaking every five minuets and eternal sadness over just how lacklustre the game is.

Pretty but lacking Personality

While the game is very pretty even on the "Next Gen" consoles it's missing a lot of key features that make other games like Grand Theft Auto V so great! I'm not saying GTA V doesn't have it's own set of problems like for example being 8 months old and still no multiplayer hiests, the terrible texture pop in and constant frame rate drop... But it's the small details and features in the game that make up for it. GTA V is great because of how immersive it is, the ability to customise your clothing, vehicles and even weapons just adds so much life to the game that Watch Dogs simply doesn't have.

The view distance in the game is pretty impressive, though objects like cars and pedestrians
pop in pretty obviously which takes away from the immersion

The game allows you to buy weapons but not change how the gun handles or looks by the means of attachments or paint jobs, you can buy clothes however you can only buy pre set outfits and not mix and match different hats and trench coats to get a look that you like. There is no traces of vehicle customisation not even allowing you to store cars in a garage and change the colour which leaves the game feeling like it has no soul.

The music in the game isn't great due to it's small selection of licensed music with no radio stations which again Grand Theft Auto V really put a lot of time, effort and money into the song choices which makes the game feel so much more alive providing a variety of different genres that even if you don't like them feel like they fit within the world. In Watch Dogs you can instead edit your playlist of songs by adding and removing songs from it, I've heard on PC you can add custom songs to the game however this option is not available on the console versions.

Other key features the game is missing is simple phone abilities that would make complete sense but are left out for some unknown reason. Not being able to call people or services like the police to cause a massive fight between the criminals you're trying to sneak past and the police as a distraction to slip by unnoticed. This and the fact there is no camera on the phone to take in game pictures, which I feel like the camera was missed opportunity because they could of had uplay integration to upload your pictures there and download them on your PC for the Xbox One and older generation console players that cannot take screenshots. At least that way I might download the sodding app.

"Intuitive" Control Scheme

I have a lot of problems with the control scheme for the game. Having to press LS/L3 to reload the gun as opposed to the standard X/Square button most games use make it very difficult to use and I've found myself in the middle of a gun fight and pressing X to reload my gun only to pull out my phone and start to hack a valve on the wall. This and with the melee combat button being bound to B/O, the same button to get out of cover so when you go to melee a guard close to your cover only to jump out in front of him and take a shotgun to the face just make the game difficult to play.

Really this will take some getting used too and won't be a problem when I've put a few more hours into the game however the biggest control issue is that there is no button to shoot your gun whilst driving! Many missions in the game focus on your driving after someone and stopping them, this is a problem when you cannot simply shoot out their tires or shoot traffic nearby to cause a crash as instead you have to rely on the crappy driving physics to ram them off the road which along with little to no damage to the cars body other than maybe the windows breaking just feel poorly implemented.

Through out the game you'll meet a wide range of characters such as other hackers
to members of gangs and even the Mafia.

Floaty cars

One of the key features of the game other than the "Hacking" is driving across the city to get to your destination, much like many other open world games like Grand Theft Auto and Sleeping Dogs. This is easier said than done because it seems like Chicago have some sort of law against cars obeying the laws of physics, every car in the game feels lightweight and spins out from the slightest corner as if the entire trunk is filled with cement or maybe the dead bodies of all the stupid pedestrians you hit because of this.

It's so easy to spin out and wipe out a few mindless civilians on the pavements you wonder why the game even has a Morality system... You can stop a crime in progress and be called a hero only to mow down several civilians when trying to flee from the scene. Not that the Morality system seems to do anything, maybe it plays into the overall ending of the game however at the time of writing this I'm only a few hours in and it seems pointless.

Driving becomes even more impossible when you're being chased by the police as it seemingly spawn out of nowhere and constantly ram you off the road, though it is cool to heat the radio chatter between the chasing police officers and they plan to spin you out and block roads. The police Helicopters are impossible to escape in the early game without sheer luck that they fly into a building which based on the AI of the game that's a possibility. Later on in the game you can get a "Hacking" upgrade that disables helicopters but until then if you get a Helicopter after you you may as well turn yourself in or kill yourself unless you want a 30 minuet chase.

Terrible AI 

I talked about how stupid the AI were but until you experience the game for yourself it doesn't sound true. To begin with there's a massive difference between the average stupid pedestrian that walk into walls and get stuck into the geometry of the world and the police that seem to have a suicidal tendencies as they speed down the road and crash into everything in sight, including said pedestrians. The AI problems don't stop there as silly things like the Trains that run through the city break in a split second if you get close to them not allowing cool crashes which feels like a let down and on more than one occasion I've seen people walking down the street and phase into the walls never to be seen again. I knew these peoples' names, their jobs and how much money they earned, I felt like I knew these people and we could have been friends only to watch them be absorbed by the wall in front of my very eyes. You'd think with all the cameras around the city they would catch the mysterious creature that lives inside the walls and devours innocent people.

I've been playing through the game and writing about it for a few days now and I experienced a game breaking bug in the AI that almost made me loose my entire progress. In one mission you have to chase after a train whilst taking out a few criminal vehicles that are also chasing after the train. I made it to the train and killed all the cars I could see along the way only for the game to tell me that there was sill a car left, it displayed a "1/2 cars destroyed" message as I drove across the entire map trying to back peddle only to find an enemy car wedged inside a wall and the criminal screaming in pain. I quickly killed him and rushed back to the train to finish the mission where I got a cutscene and a mission complete message.

However the message "1/2 cars destroyed" stayed on my screen along with the waypoint for that mission, I could not start a new mission or remove the waypoint and was forever stuck in a state of limbo where the game thought I was still in the mission despite me beating it. Oh I see game you don't like the way I beat your mission so you're going to break until I can do it your way, like a child who's mother won't let him buy a toy in the shop so you throw a temper tantrum until you get your own way? Needless to say I turned the game off in rage hoping that my save file was not damaged an I'd have to play through the hours of torturous gameplay again.

"Some things are connected"

The big thing about Watch Dogs is the ability to "hack" into the city and bring vigilante justice to those that litter the streets with their criminal filth. You may have noticed I've been trying to avoid talking about it however it's a key part of the game play and one of the biggest selling points for the game so here we go...

The hacking is very disappointing, this is because you don't really "Hack" anything in the game, instead you can press X/Square on a valve or maybe some traffic lights and activate them. Sure it's funny to cause a traffic jam the first couple of times as you sit back and watch the stupid AI repeatedly slam into each other or open a garage door from a distance but after an hour of game play it become boring and you find yourself never using it at all other than for missions where it is most integrated but even then because it's so bad you never use it when free roaming other than to maybe stop a train so you can get in and fast travel to avoid the terrible driving.

The ability to profile any NPC to find details about their lives is really cool, some can even
have shocking hobbies...

The missions make use of the hacking in a way that's pretty cool as you can access cameras to scout out locations you have to gain entry too, getting information about the guards and watching their patrol routes. You can even cause distractions like tripping car alarms or setting off the ring tones of phones and sneak past when they're checking out the sound. The only time I use the hacking is during these missions because it's the only time that feels like it's built around the idea, not that it's easy to use as the game insists in your blowing up a electronic box on the wall instead of hacking the camera slightly above it which causes every guard in the area to instantly know where you are and kill you.

Pretty but no soul

I don't like to compare games to each other but I feel that in this case it's important to show the similarity and differences between the game and those that it's trying to imitate. Assassins Creed is a logical game to compare it to as it's developed and published by Ubisoft too however other than recycling the running animation and a few cheap references to Abstergo it doesn't really feel like Assassins Creed.

Almost all the characters in the game have a very "Ubisoft" feel about them

GTA V is the nearest and best comparison to Watch Dogs and if you consider GTA V to be like a coach, a nice looking and impressive thing that's full of luxuries and features like nice seats and working heating that make the journey enjoyable, even though you know if you peeled back the floor you would see that the wires are held together with sticky tape and it's missing a wheel. Compared to this Watch Dogs would be a bendy bus. Something that's trying to be unique and innovative and although it's got a few good points it's pointless due to the amount of features it's missing and will be scrapped and forgotten a few months later.

I did enjoy my time with Watch Dogs and even managed to beat the main campaign over the course of a few days. Despite the story it all over the place and the ending is clearly a set up for a squeal they can pump out in a year's time with the promise to fix all the problems the first one had it is a fun game, there's plenty of stuff to do from the many various side missions to the mini games like playing chess and poker.

Overall it's not an experience some may have hoped it would be back in 2012 when it was revealed however as someone who had no hype for it and didn't really care about it I had fun and in the end games are meant to be fun. 

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