Welcome to San Francisco!
We arrive at the first sequel to Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs franchise. After a rocky start with the first game, Watch Dogs 2 introduces a new protagonist and new city to play in. The first received mixed feelings from fans and players especially when it came to the tone of the game. What about this new sequel? Does it fix past problems? Do we finally have the Watch Dogs game we deserve?
Watch Dogs 2 is set after the events of the original game, but in a very different setting. This time, players take the role of Marcus, a young hacker with a strong desire to protect people’s privacy and ultimately, their freedom. The game starts out with Marcus’ test mission totest his hacking skills. Should he succeed, he will be able to join the underground hacking network and freedom fighters: DedSec.
Their mission is to stop the high and mighty corporate Blume company from continuing to spy and collect the crazy amount of data it has on the civilians of San Francisco. Anyone who is anyone is registered in their giant database. This is very relatable to today’s reality.
In Watch Dogs 2, the approach taken to present the issue with the data collecting is a lot clearer and even reaches us as regular civilians. In a world where all things are virtual and recorded, it is easy to see how important privacy becomes.
Gone is the gloomy style of the first game. Watch Dogs 2 takes a more vivid and colorful approach this time around. In the beautiful city of San Francisco, the city has been properly cloned into the game world and presented with the same lush environment that make the city feel alive. It was a good pick to contrast the city of Chicago which was the setting of the original game.
The music and tone has taken a more satire feel and keeps a light feel on the seriousness. This does create a bit of a contradiction in terms of the direction. The reality of the problems at hand are serious and urgent. However, where the original game made itself feel too serious and dark, Watch Dogs 2 may sometimes bring it to the other extreme at times.
The game features many in-game radio stations and music to enjoy. Multiple styles have been put in and one can enjoy his cruise round San Francisco in whatever style he/she chooses. Of course, this is a must in any sandbox action game, but Wtch Dogs 2 does it well and you can even customize your playlist in any you like and add on songs you have listened to randomly on the radio. All of this using a UI that anyone with a smartphone is familiar with.
As aforementioned, Watch Dogs 2 is a lot more satire when it comes to its plot. The DeadSec presented in this game seems much more present since we see the main protagonist join a group of hackers to fight the major corporation. Speaking of characters, each member is unique and charming in their own way. They are memorable and will no doubt strike chord with the player.
The main character, Marcus, is an easy-going and friendly dude who has a passion in protecting the people’s privacy and showing off his hacking capabilities. His choice of weapon, a ball and stretching chain and stun gun, serve to disable foes and to resolve his tasks without casualties. This fits his personality perfectly, but it does feel odd when the player makes blow things up or kill with a real gun. Nevertheless, Marcus is much more memorable and relatable when pinned against Watch Dogs’ Aiden Pierce.
The hacking is a lot more developed this time around. When targeting an object of some sort, players will have multiple choices to do with it most of the time. In general, you can make the object do what it is intended to do; a door opens. You can also shut down the object temporarily. It is also possible to create a stun field around the object by overheating it. All this and more can be done through hacking, giving more options to the player. This resembles the role of a hacker a lot more.
The combat is also brutal this time around. Marcus isn’t as violent as Aiden, but it is also the AI that have become fierce. It is a lot more realistic when facing the security guards whenever you slip up. Being a hacker means being effective and resourceful and Watch Dogs 2 embodies that well since it is very hard to simply go in guns blazing. Careful planning and flawless execution are essential for a successful hacker.
The driving has seen an upgrade since the original game. However, it has yet to reach the comfortable level, especially when it comes to the responsiveness of the turns. This is especially noticed when being chased down by the police and worse, other players.
Speaking of other players, it took a bit of time, but the seamless multiplayer element is available in Watch Dogs 2. Building on the original’s concept, Watch Dogs 2 allows players to play competitively or cooperatively. Bounty Hunts are contracts players can undertake to hack away on some other player without their knowledge of your coming. You can also team up with another player to tag team on special missions together or to simply roam around freely around San Francisco.
I played a fair amount of Watch Dogs and Watch Dogs 2 and it is refreshing to see the series growing in the right direction. This sequel is definitely an upgrade on the original game. There is a lot more flavor to the city, the cast and the adventure. It is a lot less repetitive this time around since there are so many options to undertake a mission. Hacking is more useful now and is not limited to one ‘Do-it-all’ button.
Of course, the theme behind the game is always good to help the players question the way we all live our lives online. Although the strong violence in the game doesn’t quite match his style, Marcus is a great role to play and he has definitely hacked his way into the memorable column.