The original Watchdogs game was received with mixed reviews, with many considering the game to be, simply put, boring and dry, while some considered the expansive open-world gameplay to be great, with the main character’s lack of depth being the only downside. Creating a sequel to the game had put Ubisoft in a tricky position, trying to create a game that has a predecessor submerged in polarized opinion. Interestingly, WatchDogs 2 fixes a lot of what was wrong with the previous game, while retaining the stronger points, and yet, opinion will be divided on whether Ubisoft struck gold with this game or not.
The Colourful Characters
WatchDogs 2 sees the resurrection of Central Operating System, the singular OS that controls all of San Francisco’s infrastructure, smart-tech and IoT devices. The operating system was created by Blume Technologies that has become the Little Brother to the Big Brother. Data is being collected and misused for all types of ill-gains, and that’s when a group of hackers step in to do something about the situation
The game opens with the new protagonist Marcus Holloway breaking in to a Blume Server farm at the behest of DedSec, an elite hacking group. He’s been asked to break in and delete his digital profile. The process makes the group realize just how much data is being collected by Blume and the group sets out to expose the corporate’s ill deeds.
The group comprises of four other hackers and it becomes clear rather quickly that Marcus is the unofficial leader and face of the group. While each of the characters have a trait that defines who they are, Marcus’s happens to be the fact that he isn’t just some coding nerd. The guy can hack for sure, but he is also adept with weapons.
A Standard, but Endless Story
The primary goal is of course to take down Blume and ctOS, however, the game offers a ton of side-missions along with plenty of online campaigns. If you choose to stick to only the primary campaign, you should be able to finish the game in 14-18 hours, however, engage in some side-missions and it would take you only slightly longer. If you truly want to experience the expansive open world San Francisco, be prepared to devote a significant number of days to the game.
While the story is linear and predictable, the execution of the missions are the real variable. You could choose to go in stealthy and complete a task or go all guns blazing. Prior to playing WatchDogs 2, I was shuttling between Dishonored 2 and Forza Horizon 3. Therefore out of habit, my gameplay ended up being mostly stealthy, with a ton of reckless driving. Interestingly, it is entirely possible to get through the whole game without firing a weapon in more than a handful of occasions. What was confusing, however, was that regardless of where and how you steal a car (a parked car vs. carjacking), the cops never really chase you. Same for reckless driving. NPCs are quick to over-react to your fast, but orderly driving, however, drive onto the curb or even through a building, the cops don’t follow. However, once the cops do start to follow you, giving them the slip is not easy.
It was a little disappointing to note that despite being part of a crew, you cannot play as any other character but Marcus. This seems to allude to the fact that Marcus is the brains and the muscle given that each of the characters in your crew prefer to just hang around the base doing back-end work. Regardless, it is nice to be at the helms of a character as versatile as Marcus, who is athletic, well versed with weapons and clearly super adept at hacking. What does feel out of place is the fact that if Marcus is such a great hacker, who’s managed to do something that DedSec never could, why is he giving a test to be initiated into the group?
Besides your laptop, you also get access to drones and rovers that do scouting and hacking for you in places that you either can’t go into, or are too dangerous to step inside of. All your inventory can be created using a custom 3D printer which is already setup in your base of operations, but for some odd reason, everything is obscenely expensive. A sniper rifle costs north of $100K, however, to earn that much money, you’d probably have to rob every single police outpost. It’s annoying that you can’t rob a bank to fund your weapons of justice.
WatchDogs 2 feels like a fairly futuristic game with a whole lot of the 80’s thrown into it. The artwork screams “80’s hacker movie” with a lot of references to movies related to the topic from the era. There’s also plenty of pot-shots taken at the modern-day scenarios such as the Facebook fake news debacle, Pharma-Bro Martin Shkrelli trying to buy Kanye’s album so that no one else can, just to name a few. The game is full of Easter eggs and anyone immersed in nerdy pop-culture would be able to notice them.
WatchDogs 2 offers a healthy mix of side missions mixed with the primary objective. Side missions offer a great distraction, besides offering a deeper consider what it must be like to live in a city that is run by a surveillance system. It offers an insight into a life where technology has permeated into every facet of our lives and just how invasion of privacy is just the tip of the ice-berg. If you’re not into that sort of thing, you could just keep car-jacking people and driving around the city maniacally in cars that very closely resemble the modern-day Camaros and Ferraris and what not. The Toyota Prius is also present in the game to aide in your rampage around the Bay-area, however, none of the vehicles are branded with their real-life names. If you don’t fancy car rides, there’s also plenty of bikes and fast boats for you to commandeer.
WatchDogs 2 is the game the series should have started with. It is a witty, fresh, and punk-rock reimagining of the movie Hackers. The game is reminiscent of Sunset Overdrive with a very strong after-taste of Grand Theft Auto. The hacking sequences look silly, which adds to the character of the game. The game is engrossing and while the story is predictable, it does throw one or two curveballs. The game’s mechanics and controls take a little getting used to, which does tend to take a while. The other thing that takes a long while is raking up enough money to purchase practically anything in the game, which is kind of weird given that you never really have a need for high powered rifles or custom pain-jobs on your taser. The only essential item you would need to purchase is the drone, so better start robbing the cops (and maybe even the people passing you by).
All in all, WatchDogs 2 is intensely engaging, offering enough variety of activity to fight off any boredom that could set in. WatchDogs 2 retails for Rs. 3499 for the PS4 and Xbox One version, with the PC version being a little cheaper at Rs. 2999.