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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review: 'Watch_Dogs' - *insert dog pooping gif*

Hello. My name is Anthony Accinelli and I've just completed Watch_Dogs. These past twelve to fifteen hours have been an absolute chore, and if I didn't have to review the game I would have stopped within the first four.

However, because I love you all so very much, I suffered through not only the campaign but the majority of the side missions as well.

Now hold on tight because I'm about to absolutely destroy this game.

If you're new to the story of Watch_Dogs, let me catch you up quickly. You play as Aiden Pearce, a stereotypical dark-haired, white male with a smartphone. With this phone you can hack into every camera, security database, and traffic light in the city of Chicago. Rather than use this for good however, you use it to avenge the death of your daughter, brought on by a hit placed on you that went horribly south.

Your goal is simple: find the person behind her death and avenge her, no matter how many innocent people you kill in the process.

Typical review format tends to be several paragraphs explaining the pros and cons of a particular game with a somewhat arbitrary score at the end. This score is naturally subjective, though a majority of readers take it objectively, causing either great comments or nasty ones asking that I light myself or fire or substitute writing reviews for some sort of suicide.

This time I'm going to do things a bit different. I'm going to start the review score at 100/100 and for every issue I have with the game I'm going to knock points off. So let's this started, shall we?

95/100 - Poor driving physics. Every vehicle in the game slides around the roads as if they were constantly rain-soaked. If all you want to do is drift around Chicago then you might enjoy this. If you instead want tight controls and actual driving physics, then you're going to be seriously disappointed.

90/100 - You aren't able to fire any weapon while driving. At least not from what I could tell. You are able to select a weapon while driving and an aiming reticule shows up randomly, but as for the act of shooting your weapon - that's apparently missing. This wouldn't be such an issue if every single mission didn't end with you chasing someone in a vehicle with the sole purpose of eliminating them.

80/100 - Missions are incredibly repetitive. You drive to a certain location, are asked to hack into some cameras until you find a code off of a guard, hack into the database, and then either escape from the scene or chase someone down. If you've played any of the Assassin's Creed games you'll be very familiar with this mission type and will most likely grow tired of it quickly.

There is simply no originality in the missions. Which, to be brutally honest, is supremely lazy considering the whole "hacking into everything" premise allows for a whole new playlist of possibilities.

75/100 - Player movement is ridiculously limited. For starters there is no jump button. There's also no parkour other than vaulting over small fences and climbing small objects. This isn't consistent either as some obstacles are easily hurdled while others will leave you standing there clueless.

70/100 - Each vehicle you drive is either a tank in disguise or taken straight from the president's garage. You are indestructible, literally launching other cars out of your way despite their size in relation to yours. This goes for world objects as well. Telephone polls, fences, traffic lights, and even trees are throw aside as you tear through the streets. There were multiple times when I would take out firetrucks in a hatchback and wouldn't even have a dent.

In a "next-gen" title, this is completely unacceptable. Yes there is car damage, but it's pathetic. Mind-numbingly poor.

60/100 - The story is disjointed and convoluted. Your introduced to numerous characters and are asked to care for others with no real back story as to why. One moment you'll be face to face with a mob boss and the next you're taking shots with a steampunk Rastafarian. Throw in some robots, a douche with a soul patch, some of the worst voice acting to date, and a taste for revenge that even after the end credits is never quenched, and you have the entire Watch_Dogs storyline.

I was really hoping that the conclusion would leave me satisfied with the severe destruction of not only all of Chicago, but of my family as well. This wasn't the case. At all.

55/100 - No car customization at all. You can't paint your cars, upgrade them, or even repair them if they are destroyed. Even after you purchase that amazing red lambo you've always wanted and have it delivered, it just may show up in white. Don't want to drive a white lambo? Too bad! There is nothing that can be done! Again, this is a "next-gen" title and should absolutely have this as an option.

50/100 - Aiden himself is a terrible main character. There's no back story. No real motive for his severe destruction. I understand that his daughter was killed in a horrible accident, but to blaze a path of destruction on literally everything in your path? That seems a bit... psychotic. A longer prologue and perhaps the inability to kill innocents would have made this a much better story. Throw in a variety of missions and some antagonists with a personality and Watch_Dogs would have had a fantastic plot.

It doesn't do anything of those things however, and is uninspired at best.

45/100 - This version of Chicago is horrible. Even the "Cloud Gate", aka the "Bean" isn't modeled appropriately. Then there's the fact that Aiden himself refers to Chicago as an island, which last time I checked, Chicago certainly isn't. From northernmost point to southernmost the map is no larger than two-thousand meters, which is only a fraction of Chicago's 234 total square miles.

Don't advertise a product if you're not going to produce. I have several close friends that actually live in Chicago and they were floored at how poorly it's represented. This is Ubisoft after all, the same team who recreated the Tuscan countryside in Assassin's Creed 2 with such detail that I recognized specific alleyways. It's not like they haven't done this before. Again, it's just them being lazy.

40/100 - You can evade the police by simply jumping into the water and swimming away. There are no police boats so you'll escape every high speed chase in seconds. This is something that could (and should) be fixed in an upcoming patch. Until then however, it's a broken element to the game and I simply can't act like it doesn't detract from the gameplay.

So there you have it. The final score. The remaining forty points are allocated to the things done well. Hacking into the lives of random civilians, each with their own story is a great way to spend a few hours in Chicago. Finding and assassinating a registered sex offender or someone who films child pornography is always great fun. Certainly not an actual part of the game, but one that I found myself doing more often than playing the game itself.

Having vehicles delivered to your via your online personal garage is also a nice touch. No need to drive to your garage or be limited to what you can drive. By either stealing, purchasing, or hacking civilians you unlock new vehicles that can be driven at the press of a button. There's also the plethora of side missions, including the unlimited crimes that you can solve. If you were to stay away from everything mentioned previously, and only focus on the random crimes, Watch_Dogs would be quite a bit of fun.

Hacking into traffic lights, street blockers, steam pipes, and spike strips is a ton of fun. Changing traffic lights and watching every ignorant civilian crash into each other is hilarious. Every single time. Does it work with the theme of the plot? No. Not at all. Again, Aiden shouldn't be an evil sonofabitch, smashing innocent civilians for no apparent reason. But like I mentioned before, if you remove yourself from the game's storyline, you can actually have some fun playing.

Sound and graphics are also very well done. Sunrise to sunset, the city of Chicago is teeming with life. Never before has a city seemed so alive. Vehicle and gun sounds are top notch, with each separate entity sounding different than the one before it. The soundtrack is one of the best I've heard in a while, right there with Saint's Row IV and Grand Theft Auto V. There were some seriously epic soundtracks played during key moments of the game. More developers need to look at what Watch_Dogs did with music and emulate.

With the amount of grievances I had with Watch_Dogs and the apparent lack of effort that was put into simple mechanics, I can't recommend picking this one up. With a story that lasts roughly twelve hours, you can easily Redbox it over the weekend and see everything that needs be seen. If you're bored of the Assassin's Creed games (which Watch_Dogs is a simple skin of), or don't like Grand Theft Auto V, then go ahead and play this. If you don't fall in that category, don't fall for the hype.

Watch_Dogs is not a good game. At all.

All scores are out of 100. This review is based off a complete playthrough of the story and sixty-five percent total completion. Over forty hours have been put into the game.

Multiplayer will be reviewed shortly, as a completely different writeup. 

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