When playing Watch Dogs, you wonder why the writers make you sit through dialogue about how Aiden is such a pacifist…

Let me say at the outset that Watch Dogs is a darn fun game. It’s got all the hallmarks of a great open world game, with a lovely map, brilliant graphics and smart design. I just wish there was some level of sanity and consistency in the storyline.

We begin with Aiden Pearce, grey hat hacker and all-round gravelly voiced guy, out for revenge after a hit on him was ordered as a result of a heist gone bad. During this hit, his six year old niece is inadvertently killed, hence the unquenchable thirst for revenge. He spends a year uncovering the layers that protect the people who harmed his family, while dealing with the guilt and his little sister’s insistence that all was forgiven and that he really should just move on.

Unfortunately, Aiden is very stubborn and can’t let go of his insatiable need for justice and knowing. By pursuing this path, and uncovering all the layers protecting huge secrets, leading him on a journey in which he meets and travels through some of Chicago’s worst. However, he does take out a mob boss, disbands a bunch of gangs and generally exposes a hot mess of corruption and crime.

You can be judge, jury and quite literally, executioner for a simple pickpocketing.

The biggest issue I take with the game, is the way the game plays out completely against the dialogue and script written for it. Aiden has some opportune monologues, where he bangs on about justice and not wanting to bring other people into his dark world of violence and revenge. Yet, at the same time, the game gives you no tangible rewards for being sneaky, rather than straight out murdery. Sure, if you’re willing to take out criminals on the streets, the citizens like you more and you also get the benefit of less police attention, but the game doesn’t mind how you take out the perps. You can be judge, jury and quite literally, executioner for a simple pickpocketing.

On the other hand, when it’s time to take out the criminals, there’s not actually a reward for doing things the quiet, sneaky way. In fact, the game rewards you for simply packing a silenced weapon and mowing down the enemies. This is because the AI is, quite frankly, unabashedly stupid. There is literally no consequence for shooting a guy dead right next to his buddy because he will rarely even look in the right place for you. You can get through most of the storyline and side missions in this fashion. Hide, shoot with silenced weapon, repeat. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with a game that allows you to go all out with violence as the primary solution. Games like Saints Row revel in the level of over the top, gratuitous violence players can dish out against digital citizens and ties it in brilliantly with tongue-in-cheek humour. Unfortunately, Watch Dogs takes its narrative a little too seriously, and that’s what sticks out like a sore thumb.

The flawed campaign aside, there are lots of things to do in digital Chicago.

However, the rest of it, is brilliant. Well, apart from the way cars handle, but it shares this issue with the Grand Theft Auto series. The cars in this game will either handle like an aircraft carrier or a nimble show dog. There’s not much in between. That aside, Ubisoft have built a lovely rendition of Chicago, though it’s not as enormous as the world in Far Cry 3, nor as varied, but it’s still a decent size. Graphically,the game is pretty good, but not as good as originally promised, however it gives players weather, depth of field and great lighting. The traps littered around the place that Aiden has at his disposal when chasing or being chased by his enemies are useful and the limitation on how many and often he can set off in a short period forces you to think strategically about how you’re going to lose that Chicago PD helicopter and his buddies.

The flawed campaign aside, there are lots of things to do in digital Chicago, with Ubisoft setting up various diversions like Augmented Reality games, solving a case involving a serial killer and even initiating a member into the in-game hacker group, Dedsec. These are actually great fun, but some of the missions that conclude the various miniplots are a little bit underwhelming to say the least. You can even choose to play against other people in races or hacking challenges. However, I found these to be pretty lame and after a few goes of it, decided to just turn off the feature.

Ultimately, Watch Dogs is a fun, but flawed game. Ubisoft’s Chicago has many distractions, the storyline is decent and challenging, but contradictory in its execution. Still, in spite of its flaws, it’s well worth the money to actually buy and play the game and Ubisoft has promised some DLC along the way, which does look interesting. If you’re like me and you’re itching for the release of Grand Theft Auto 5 on PC, but can’t wait to get into an open world shooter, then Watch Dogs will give you that much needed distraction and take the edge off your cravings.

Rating

A good to great game that’s let down by some design decisions and silly plot execution

Should I play this?

If you like open world shooters with a bit of sneaking around, then Watch Dogs satifies reasonably well. It’s not as good as a Grand Theft Auto instalment, but then, they’re quite hard to beat.

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