Howdy friends, this is Zach, with a Single Player episode in which I take you through a quick review of Ubisofts Hack-tivist Sandbox Adventure WatchDogs 2. I’ll give you my impressions of the gameplay mechanics, and story and how Marcus plus his band of digital pirates, made good on the promise of this franchise.
There is a pattern emerging in the sort of titles I have been consuming lately. I think I have an unspeakable addiction to open world exploration games. 2017 and 2018 were jam packed with adventures across sprawling spaces that imitated San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, Hyrule, and The Continent (in which Geralt of Rivia resides).
These titles share a lot of similarities. They each possess some new set of tools to try to exploit. A system of scales to balance your curiosity and aggression, with success. And Watch Dogs 2 is no exception. I would say that it actually makes good on the promise that Ubisoft made with the first Watchdogs. Great graphics, a world packed with multiple ways to solve missions, aggression or subversion, are both supported in fairly expressive ways.
Ubisoft Montreal created a version of San Francisco that is fun and expressive. Filled with graffiti, tech bros, gangs, landmarks, bad clothes, and the ability to wiretap passers by to steal money, sniff dumb chat messages, listen in on peoples gossip, and blow their cell phones up while they are in their pockets.
Not only cellphones, but it the developers have allowed you to weaponize transformers, manhole covers, cars…as if the Bay were a giant Rube Goldberg machine of destruction. Nearly every mission in the game allows you to be as aggressive or sneaky as you want to be and the game really expects the player to land somewhere in the middle.
And Marcus’ character is exactly the confident personality I love in a prota-gonist. Marcus and his band of “hacktivists,” are working to thwart a conniving egotistical tech billionaire whose master plan actually reads like the terms and conditions to a iTunes contract. The plot isn’t new or special, but the delivery seesaws between Mission Impossible and Fast n the Furious in the best possible way.
The Magical Mystery Hacking Team (deadsec), is a colorful cast of supporting characters that rally to the call of adventure. They each represent a characitured but not repulsive image of software anarchists cranked up to 11. Again, the character design and the world building that Ubisoft has for us is keeping that tension between absurdity and amusement.
ONE REMAINING THOUGHT ABOUT THE STORY
Without spoiling anything there is a character in the game who dies, which is foreshadowed, but it was used as a tool to up the stakes for Marcus and Deadsec’s resolve. I don’t really like emotional manipulation that is as subtle as an earthquake. This inflection point, however well-meaning or sincere, fell flat for me.
- Hacking and invasion, buttery smooth and full of hilarious moments of sheer delight. Shocking enemies through their phones is amazing.
- Combat difficulty was pretty on point, Marcus’ tools are occasionally over powered, and the AI is not always equipped to react to your shenanigans.
- Non-lethal weapons and evasion make you feel like a cool version of Solid Snake. Once you upgrade the taser it’s amazingly quick at sleeping people.
- Visuals are excellent and what you would expect to see from the Ubisoft team.
- Multiplayer invasions. Having random people jump into your game and mess with you adds some amazingly tense cat and mouse moments.
- Solving environment room puzzles.
What fell flat for me
- Chasing/Driving around the streets felt weak. Triggering little things like street explosions and stop light breakdowns, while fun aren’t as elegant or rewarding as the infiltration portions.
- There is a main character that joins the team about half way through the game that I found to be nearly useless and uninteresting.
Based on my notes, the game earns a solid 2 out of 3 stars. If you are looking for a fun but shallow distraction and you see it on sale, pick it up. It is easily the best action movie you will play.
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Illustration – Evan McIntyre
Music & Audio Consulting – Josh Hunt
Background Music – Artist: Hudson Mohawke