The first WATCH_DOGS (and, yes, I’m typing it like that instead of “Watch Dogs”, so deal) suffered a lot from the same problem No Man’s Sky has been dealing with since it released. Namely, the game was hyped up with lofty expectations – expectations it failed to meet. That aside, WATCH_DOGS was a pretty solid open-world action game. Personally, I liked the story and the main character, Aiden Pierce. Was he sort of a barely two dimensional hero? Yeah, but when I’ve got all this other shit to do, it helps that the main character has one objective he’s focusing on.
WATCH_DOGS 2 is, also, a pretty solid game. In fact, it’s nearly great. It’s definitely a better game than the first – more to do, more to see and interact with, more features, etc. Ubisoft also clearly went the extra mile to make the new hero, Marcus – aka Retr0 – more likeable (even if he has an insufferable nickname like “Retr0”). And he is. He’s funny, he’s skilled, he’s smart – which, of course, so was Aiden Pierce. But, while Pierce had a more single goal (find who killed his niece), Marcus wants to simply bring down the Blume Corporation and their Big Brother-like city wide computer system, ctOS 2.0.
The game is set in San Francisco and according to people I know who have both played the game (or watched me play it, anyway) and been to the city, WATCH_DOGS 2 does a pretty good job of recreating it. Marcus is a member of the San Fran branch of DedSec, the hacker collective featured in the first game. There’s a lot taken from the real world and turned into missions. There’s the CEO of a pharmaceutical company that has jacked up the price of a life saving drug who wants to buy the only copy of a hip-hop star’s new album. There’s a Scientology-like cult (including movie star followers) that draws the ire of our plucky young hackers – who, in turn, encourage others to protest said cult. Stuff like that.
Marcus is certainly much more of a nimble little minx compared to Pierce. He’s got that whole Parkour thing going for him, and he jumps and flips over obstacles. He also has drones and RC robots at his disposal, as well. Unlike a lot of other games that claim that players have “multiple ways to complete missions”, this game actually does. It’s like Metal Gear Solid V in that sense.
Figuring out what you need to do is not an issue. Figuring out how is. At least, it was for me. My problem may be in that there are so many games in the third-person open world action style – and so many of them use the same game mechanics. So, when a new one changes things up even a little bit, it can throw you off. It’s like when Mafia III (another great game, by the way) decided to use the (on the PS4) square button instead of the triangle button to get into cars. What? BUT THAT GOES AGAINST EVERYTHING WE’VE EVER BEEN TAUGHT! WHAT DO I DO NOW!? HALP ME JESUS!! *sticks head in a barrel of water*
Like its grandaddy, the Grand Theft Auto series, WATCH_DOGS 2 replaces the names of real companies with made up ones. I’ve read in other reviews where this makes the game seem like “GTA-lite”, I think that misses the point. Grand Theft Auto (especially the last two games) has always made an attempt to parody the real world. In GTA, if there’s a fictional version of a company, concept or person, the goal has always been to poke fun at it. Which is awesome, don’t get me wrong.
But, what WATCH_DOGS 2 seems to be doing is – albeit in a somewhat lighthearted way (at least, more lighthearted than the first game holy shit that game was kinda dark) – simply re-representing these things in a way that won’t get them into legal trouble, skirts the line of satire while, at the same time, putting players into a somewhat familiar world. It may seem silly at times but, when WATCH_DOGS 2 gets serious, you really feel it.
All in all, WATCH_DOGS 2 is a better game than its predecessor. Its San Francisco is more fun to explore than the first game’s Chicago. The characters are more fun, for sure, but more interesting? I dunno. Maybe I’m the only person in the world that finds Aiden Pierce interesting. Either way, WATCH_DOGS 2 is worth picking up.
For this review, I played WATCH_DOGS 2 on the Sony PlayStation 4. The game is also available on the Xbox One and Windows.