In 2012, Ubisoft used a large portion of its E3 presentation to reveal Watch Dogs, a game that the company’s CEO Yves Guillemot promised would innovate open world gameplay in a way that gamers hadn’t seen before. It was supposed to be Assassin’s Creed meets Grand Theft Auto, but cooler because hacking was involved. The presentation kicked off more than two years of nearly incessant hype in which Ubisoft kept putting more and more pressure on their burgeoning IP to blow the competition out of the water.
Then, Watch Dogs hit shelves. And people hated it. Oh sure, the game was reviewed well enough, earning an overall average in the high 70s on Metacritic across each of its platforms. But the user reviews tell a much different — and much more scathing — story. Critics may have liked the title, but gamers felt completely cheated, claiming that Ubisoft had all but lied to them about the game’s capabilities.
After Watch Dogs was released, it became the subject of industry ridicule like few titles before it. It hit “Worst Of 2014” Lists on every publication from Kotaku to individual blogs. The question, “What’s a bigger let down, Watch Dogs or _?” has become ubiquitous in the gamer community.
So how did this flaming disaster of a game possibly get a sequel? Nine million copies sold, that’s how. In spite of all the negative publicity surrounding Watch Dogs, it still made big money, and for good reason. The original was a rip-roaring good time that righteously distinguished itself from the pack by asking players to stop and think.
Take the Pedal Off the Metal
One of the more maligned aspects of Watch Dogs was the in-game driving. Unlike the more arcade-inspired (read: easy) driving from Grand Theft Auto V, Watch Dogs favored a more unwieldy style of driving that almost forced players to slow it down a notch. While most games are balls-to-the-wall races, Watch Dogs doesn’t ask its drivers to rely on speed to get away.
Use the city, use your phone, keep your eyes open, and keep your speed under control. Watch Dogs asked its players to keep their moves intelligent as opposed to twitchy, and provided you didn’t mind taking the time to overcome the admittedly steep learning curve, utilizing an expansive bag of tricks while you worked to lose enemies or take down targets was actually solid, explosive fun.
This time around, it seems like Ubisoft has listened to the complaints surrounding the original. In Watch Dogs 2 the biggest buzz word surrounding the driving is “accessibility”. Usually, that translates to “easier,” but in this case, it’ll also likely translate to “faster” as well. As Ubisoft’s previous game was criticized for forcing players to drive like rational people, it looks like Watch Dogs 2 will let gamers really hit the gas.
The World Through the Phone
During all of its hype, Watch Dogs’ most bragged about feature was protagonist Aidan Pierce’s ability to hack the city in which he lived (Chicago, for the record). From cell phones to security cameras to steam vents, the game did provide a pretty fun assortment of random shit around the city with which a player could fiddle.
Sure, the amount of things you could actually hack on release was definitely finite. However, the various mini games were challenging and inventive enough to be worthwhile, and hackings incorporation into both the story and the game’s multiplayer added a layer of depth and stealth not often seen in open world games. The art of virtual infiltration is still something that you can’t experience in any other title.
In the sequel, the number of items you’ll be able to hack and the number of things you can do with them has been amped up to an impressive degree. Public monitors, remote-controlled cars, drones, and even vehicles can be manipulated with your phone in ways the previous never even hinted at. If Ubisoft manages to maintain the same level of creative interplay between these new additions, gamers could be in for some nice, wholesome experimentation.
Lighting Up the Enemies
Where GTA typically hands players a machine gun or a rocket and asks them to amp up the carnage, Aidan Pierce relied on stealth to get the job done. Sure, you could take out lots of people as you progressed, you were just supposed to do it quietly. Make your targets afraid, make them careless, use the environment against them.
As with its driving, Watch Dogs combat placed a much higher emphasis on strategy over speed or endurance. Players were required (not recommended, required) to make use of their bag of tricks, everything from mines to grenades to hackable environments to fend off encroaching foes. Like the extremely popular Hitman series, though, a semi-talented twitch gamer could put the game’s expansive arsenal of weapons to good use. Not that you needed to. if you were the patient type.
Judging from the initial footage, Watch Dogs 2 looks to have maintained the original’s influence on planing and digital trickery, only with an expanded bag of tricks. This time around, the developers have promised that the game will accommodate any kind of player, even those who aren’t interested in hacking and sneaking their way past the competition.
Take Your Time To Enjoy This One
Aside from its long-vanquished launch bugs, it seems that in the end, the most unforgivable sin that Watch Dogs committed was asking players to slow down. This wasn’t Far Cry or Assassin’s Creed, so the expectation from gamers is that Watch Dogs would be fast. By and large, it isn’t. It’s a slow burn game with a lot of moving parts that you might just gloss over if you speed by.
Therein lies the difference between the two titles. With it’s slower-paced predecessor out of the way, Watch Dogs 2 is going to really pick up the pace with faster driving, faster hacking, and faster movement in general. While the developers have promised to preserve the ability to play the game in the stealthy style preferred by the original, they’ve also promised a big, new playground that’ll do more than enough to keep the attention of people more inclined to the fast-paced action of other sandbox action game.
Ultimately, even if you weren’t a fan of the original, the sequel to Watch Dogs may still be worth your time. The developers are promising a game that won’t hamper your preferred play style while still adding a healthy dollop of the stuff that made the original game great. When it drops in November, Watch Dogs 2 may just be the grand title that was promised to us all the way back in 2012.