When the original Watch Dogs released back in 2014, it was met with a mixed reception from the gaming community. Thankfully, Watch Dogs 2 took most of those comments to heart and worked on improving many of the shortcomings the first game suffered from.

Here’s a few of the big improvements you’ll find in Watch Dogs 2

Core Gameplay Isn’t Focused on Weapons

The main gameplay loop behind Watch Dogs 2 isn’t much different than its predecessor. You pick an objective on the map, you head there and scout out the location to find the best route to your target, and then you move into the area to complete your objective. But this time around, you often don’t feel pressured to shoot your way through the guards, gang members, or whoever else may be standing in your way.

Unlike Aiden Pearce, Marcus Holloway is more of a hacker than a vigilante. As such, it feels out of character to simply run into a building with a 3D printed rifle and start taking down guards left and right just to steal a small chip you’ll used to hack a server later. Right from the beginning, Watch Dogs 2 instills this subtle change by putting a stun gun in your hand and encouraging you to use it. If you continue to stick to the non-lethal approach throughout the campaign, you’ll find it a much more challenging and enjoyable experience compared to shooting your way through danger, an option Watch Dogs didnt really cater to.

Character Design

If there’s one thing Watch Dogs 2 absolutely nails, it’s the individuals who you’ll be working with over the course of the entire game. Unlike Claire Lille and T-Bone from the original game, the main group of DedSec operators who accompany Marcus in Watch Dogs 2 feel a little more in-tune with the world around them, and the hacking culture they’ve become a part of.

From the moment Sitara, Josh, Wrench, and Horatio are introduced at the beginning of the game, you’ll see them dropping witty one-liners and having in-depth conversations about who’s the best character in Star Wars. Each of them has their own backstory, personality, and favorite cultural icons you’ll have a chance to learn about through some excellent dialogue, which never gets old if you’re a fan of the internet today.

Drones

Say what you will about the camera hacking in Watch Dogs, but there’s no denying the simple gameplay used for scouting an area by using a chain of cameras wasn’t the most compelling mechanic in the gaming industry. This consistent jumping in and out of limited points of view didn’t allow you to completely scout areas or feel like a true, prepared hacker with many of the tools currently at our disposal in the real world.

Watch Dogs 2 remedies that with the Jumper and Quadcopter, both of which Marcus has access to relatively early in the game. These drones allow you to scout out entire areas and hack into closed circuits without putting Marcus closer to the danger than he needs to be, opening a much more refreshing approach to sneaking through entire facilities and obtaining mission objectives. Plus, you’re able to obtain a few upgrades for both drones too, allowing you to use them in combat if things seem a little too turned against you.

Easter Eggs

If there was a video game award for the most in-game references or Easter eggs, I’m certain that Watch Dogs 2 would take it home without any competition due to the sheer amount of cultural references they’ve managed to pack into the various characters, conversations, and discoveries you’ll encounter.

During your time with Watch Dogs 2, you’ll leak a video game trailer for Ubisoft’s next project, steal a talking car from a terrible Hollywood action movie, discuss Magic: The Gathering deck compositions, and even crack down on a Twitch streamer who threatens to Swat people who talk back to him. Each of these Easter eggs are handled quite well and never overstay their welcome, which makes for an enjoyable few minutes of gameplay that you can tie back to concepts from the real world.

The Open World

Watch Dogs 2 features a massive open world like the original, but this time around the development team has really worked hard to make it feel more alive and interesting compared to the static one you walked through in Watch Dogs. There’s tons of activities to participate in that all feel different and unique to some degree, plus NPCs who actually interact with you based on what you’re doing.

The open world is where Watch Dogs 2 is at its best, just because of all the fantastic tools the game gives you to play with. You can take selfies and be photobombed by the NPCs walking around you, build up a large wardrobe of clothing to be prepared for any social situation, pet every dog in San Francisco, and make a playlist to jam to while you work through it all. These little moments of gameplay are one of the things Watch Dogs was truly missing, and they’re truly worth experiencing if you’re a fan of open world content.

Photos via Nicholas Bashore

Nicholas is a writer and content creator in Knoxville. He frequently covers video games and other consumer electronics. When he's not writing for Inverse, you can usually find him tweeting about Star Wars or streaming on Twitch.