Xbox One, PS4, PC
November 15, 2016
Watch Dogs, despite personally enjoying it a lot; stumbled out the gate as a release of a new franchise and now we have Watch Dogs 2! New setting, new characters, new protagonist, new villain, new ctOS, new everything! But is it enough to revitalise the public’s interest in the series? Have Ubisoft managed to redeem themselves with this new look into the world of surveillance and privacy invasion we live in?
Watch Dogs 2 Brings us back to the a lot same ideas as the first one, but from a whole new direction. We still have a centralised theme of hacking and surveillance but where the first game went for, or I guess, “attempted to go for” a dark and gritty plot narrative and theme,. Watch Dogs 2 on the other hand takes itself far less seriously and is first and foremost about having fun.
All basics from the first game still exist: the driving, hacking, stealth/combat systems; are all there and all still perfectly adequate. Personally I found myself completely forgetting that firearms were an option most of the time; the feeling of Watch Dogs 2 and it’s greater levity over its predecessor made me feel as though running and gunning was somehow a failure state for not stealthing it well enough. It just felt so much more natural to me to stealth and treat my objectives as a puzzle that needs solving.
Watch Dogs 2 brings us a bunch of brand new gameplay features though and these all surround just having more fun! You can now control vehicles remotely using them as distractions or to take out enemies, the ability to call in gangs and cops to take out random people in the street has also been added as an excellent distraction and I mustn’t forget one of my favourite additions; Drones! Everyone loves drones!
Where the characters in the first game felt quite bland and stereotypy, Watch Dogs 2 has really stepped in up in the character design and narrative delivery, whilst there is still the annoying video game trope of “YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN STOP THEM”, but that can be overlooked for the most part. The game has a diverse team the player is working with who have their own fleshed out backstories, character arcs and motivations. With explorations of race, gender and sexual diversity at play, Watch Dogs 2 brightens up with its cast from the essentially monochromatic array of characters from the first game.
Through exploration of character back stories and other narrative devices, Watch Dogs 2 critiques not only the surveillance based world we currently occupy, but the companies that exist within it and profit from humanity’s continual neglect of privacy in our day to day lives. Google is critiqued and explored, as is Nudle, Facebook and !nvite and so on. The exploration here of silicon valley business was quite unexpected, but more so the depth and areas they explored too. Not only was the continual erosion of privacy explored here but the racial politics in play that is very real in Silicon Valley & Tech companies in general. But I can’t help but overlook the irony of this being presented in a game that certainly has data gathering analytics in the back end, is online and connects to a variety of different services to provide the experience it’s offering. Watch Dogs 2’s critique of modern technology companies is apt, but the delivery is definitely questionable considering its own format, perhaps this was intentional? I’m unsure, but this is a review and not an academic analysis so I digress.
“Ubisoft has found what was unique and enjoyable about Watch Dogs and those features are now centre stage in Watch Dogs 2…”
And after that serious tone, let’s get into the fun stuff! After the gritty and serious tones of the first game left everyone a bit luke-warm to the new franchise, Ubisoft has taken a completely new direction with the series adding some colour and life and what better place to do that than San Francisco! Bright skies, colourful streets, colourful people. Think of a picture-esque image of San Francisco and this is what Watch Dogs 2 has based itself on. The harsh whites and blacks of the first game have all been replaced with vivid colourful imagery.
Weapon play, as I mentioned earlier has been downplayed in favour of more creative and genuinely fun puzzle and distraction mechanic and Drones have now been introduced as a great, modern, fun new way to explorer situations and plan what you’re doing. Being able to use a flying drone to survey the entire area in order to plan your ingress before you start is completely invaluable and something I hope more games bring to the table. This takes away a lot of the blind, trial and error that you may experience in similar sandbox titles where you simply don’t know what’s waiting for you around the corner. It adds a far more genuine feel to planning out how you wish to proceed making it feel less like a game that you can just re-try if everything goes pear shaped.
Cars and other vehicles are still present as they were in the original Watch Dogs, however with the ability to fast travel from the get go, I found myself not driving nearly as much as I did in the first game. Ubisoft has found what was unique and enjoyable about Watch Dogs and those features are now centre stage in Watch Dogs 2, driving and shooting? Bah! Everyone has that. Hacking puzzles, in-depth character analysis, fun and vibrant world? These are fresh things and these are what the fans really enjoyed about the first game and I am so glad to see that Ubi was able to identify that these aspects are what needed to be fleshed out more and let the things that made the game just like every other take a back seat.
- Bright, fun & enjoyable
- Refined and expanded from the first
- Excellent cast of characters
- Suspension of disbelief a bit patchy at times
- Plot not as deep as it wants to be
Watch Dogs 2 is exactly what I want to see in a sequel, I mean I’m personally a fan of games that are bright, fun and don’t take themselves too seriously; but managing to give that feeling whilst exploring very true and real issues what our society is currently facing should be applauded. Ubisoft has brought us more of what made Watch Dogs 2 fun, more of what made it unique and worth buying. Watch Dogs 2 takes the new and fresh ideas that the series brought to the table, trimmed the fat, expanded on exactly what it needed to and the result is exactly what I wanted. It has turned Watchdogs from the let-down the original was to a series I am genuinely happy to see again.