(PC, PS3, PS4, WiiU, Xbone, Xbox 360, Ubisoft, 2014)
When first unveiled at E3 2012, Ubisoft’s Watch_Dogs was speedily declared the game of the new generation by rabid fans, who continued to stoke the hype train's engine to full throttle, through its delay, until its eventual release in 2014.
By this point, the intriguing looking sandbox adventure had, through word of frothing mouths, been spun into this magical game that could build you a mansion, help you achieve immortality and, less realistically, kill your buyer's remorse over having purchased a next-gen console in launch year.
Set in a bleak near-future Chicago, Dogs sees the player step into the trenchcoat of nihilistic hax0r Aiden Pearce, a supposed "vigilante" who likes to jack cars, run down pedestrians and steal from civilians. After a botched heist leads to vehicular tragedy, Pearce' sets his narrowing eyes and iconic baseball cap on a mission of personal vengeance, aided by his sociopathic partner Jordi Chin and a poundshop version of Lisbeth Salander.
|The Girl With The Dreadful Tattoo|
Tucked away behind this unique and admittedly interesting curtain is the actuality of what Watch_Dogs really is, a standard GTA clone which utilises QTEs to turn the floaty driving sequences and cover-based shoot-outs in Pearce’ favour, raising road blockades to dodge high-speed pursuers for example, or hitting the lights to turn a frantic gun battle into a flailing game of blind man’s death.
|Not pictured: an abundance of generic shooting|
Once this realisation dawns and the mask is stripped away, Dogs becomes little more than just another "Watch the cutscene, Drive to the icon, Shoot the guys and Repeat" gaming experience, littered with shallow Easter egg hunts and plotless sidequests.
Watch_Dogs' fills its visually attractive city with an over-abundance of things to do, a common problem in modern sandbox games, where developers cannot grasp that just having "tons of shit going on" does not equal a fun gaming experience. In fact, it makes a game flabby and directionless, taking the attention away from any narrative urgency and filling the HUD with an explosion of pointless thumbnails.
There is nothing wrong with adding sidequests to support a story, or to reward you with additional characters or items, but just saying "Collect these 100 arbitrary items" or "visit all these locations" isn't adding longevity, it's just needlessly distracting filler.
Less really is more.
|"But first, lemme take a #Selfie"|
But, behind the hype and bravado, it offers nothing at a base level that we haven't seen in a hundred other games since the early 2000's, and a tired sense of deja-vu sets in after only a couple of hours play. Add to this the recent controversies over the abhorrent uPlay system, the suspiciously crippled PC version and the FIVE different collectors editions, and the negatives heavily outweigh the positives.
|What could have been..|
Anyone tired of crime-sims may want to drop this particular call.