Preview: Watch Dogs

July 15, 2013

Rocket Chainsaw recently had the chance to take an early look at Ubisoft’s promising new action-adventure game, Watch Dogs. Rather than showing off the game’s main missions, Ubisoft’s demo focused on the side activities that are available to the game’s protagonist, Aiden Pearce. We started out with Aiden walking around the poorer streets of Chiago, which were filled with pedestrians going about their daily business. Their mobile phones are hackable, but a lot of the time you’ll see phone icons with red Xs over them. These Xs mean that you can’t hack them until you take over a local ‘CtOS’ (Central Operating System) station, and its server room in particular.

Watch Dogs gives you a few different options for taking over these stations. You can approach them with brute force, stealth, or a combination of both, as Aiden is able to use his hacking skills to open gates, operate forklifts, etc. The forklifts in particular can be used to create distractions, which allow Aiden to slip by guards unnoticed. Aiden is a mobile hacker, of course, and he’s always on the move. You can follow citizens around to see if they are potential victims. Not victims for Aiden to take advantage of, but rather people who looks as though they’re about to come under attack. In the demo, Aiden found a woman being beaten. He’s able to chase her attacker and hopefully take him down. By using Aiden’s hacking, you can try to stop him. After a brief car chase with the attacker, Aiden is eventually able to activate road blocking columns, right as the attacker’s car passes over them. The columns spring up and smash into the bottom of the attacker’s vehicle, he’s not going anywhere. You’ll need to drive carefully though, since injuring pedestrians will negatively affect your in-game reputation. Aiden’s reputation affects how people react to him, and performing positive actions will offer rewards. No matter how good you are, though, the police will come after Aiden regardless. He’s an illegal vigilante, and a hacker to boot, after all.

Aiden is hardly invincible when it comes to hacking, however. Other people can hack him. If that happens, you’re alerted, and an icon comes up on your map. The icon’s position gives you a rough idea of where the person that is hacking you is. You have to reach that location quickly, and try to find your hacker. After tracking the hacker down, he turns out to be another player who has seamlessly joined the game to initiate a multiplayer challenge. You can return the favour and join their game, so that you can try to hack them and steal their cash. There are limits on this system, of course, but it offers an interesting way for players to interact with each other.

That’s about all we had time for, but the game is certainly shaping up nicely. There are many ways for Aiden to interact with the world around him, both through hacking and physical actions, and it’ll be up to players to decide whether they want to be society’s saviour or a public menace. Watch Dogs is set to be released for PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U on the 21st of November, with a PS4 and Xbox One release coming a little later on.