We hack us through the San Francisco Bay Area in Ubisoft’s latest open-world sandbox. But can Watch_Dogs 2 deliver on the promise that the first installment left unfulfilled?
When Ubisoft’s CEO Yves Guillemot stepped on stage at E3 2012 to introduce to the world the „first true next-gen game“, the company delivered a truly impressive presentation. Two years later the anticipation tipped over to frustration as the game, centered around the revenge story of Aiden Pearce, didn’t deliver on the promise of graphics and gameplay shown in the E3 demo. But Ubisoft quickly announced their commitment to this new franchise and in June of this year, Watch_Dogs 2 was announced. This time set in and around San Francisco, the game is centered around a group of young hackers lead by the charismatic Marcus Holloway, that try to bring down a new city-wide surveillance program. A program that flagged Marcus with a crime he didn’t commit. By exposing corporations and politicians that abuse this system, the hackers convince the population to enter their cloud-computing network to ultimately start a huge cyber-attack on ctOS 2.0.
Sometimes it’s hard to pull yourself back from the hype, the excitement that a new trailer or demo can put you in, whether for a new game or movie. Watch_Dogs 2 didn’t have that. But that was not surprising. The reactions to its reveal, earlier this year, were cautious at best. And who would blame gamers and press alike, after all the misleading advertisement of the first game and the general disappointment that it turned out to be. The surprise, was that Watch_Dogs 2 actually turned out pretty good. Not just in comparison to its predecessor. Actually good. Out is the unlikable protagonist, the uninspired game-world and the standard gameplay. Out with the old, in with the new. Marcus Holloway is the protagonist that a game about hackers needs, young but someone who actually cares about politics and the people around him. As someone who’s a lot more relatable than the miserable and self-righteous dick that Aiden Pearce was in the first game, Marcus starts to have fun with his crazy hacking abilities at the same time the player does. Backed up by a fun team of very distinct young hackers, the game brings across a personality that the last game lacked.
Part of this personality is the city of San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area. Players can pursue a number of optional side-activities that range from standard races (by car, bike or even drone and e-car), taking a tour around the city by taking selfies with famous landmarks, to an „Uber“ style driving app for you to mess around with. As said, these are optional activities, but more than anything you could do in Mafia 3, they add personality to the world you’re currently playing in. Some of the things you run into might be funny, tragic or outright crazy, which manages to put the game on the same shelf as GTA V for example. Especially in the early game, Watch_Dogs 2 is a satire, taking stabs at political players, pop culture tropes and hacking culture in itself.
Unfortunately, the game starts to take itself so goddamn seriously after a while. Sure, a little struggle and adversity is good. But within its theme, this is a game that should be, above all else, fun. The game forgets that for a while but gladly remembers, right before the end of the game. And saying that a game should be fun, doesn’t mean it can’t be challenging. Taking down the ctOS in the game’s final story-mission requires every skill Marcus acquired.
And the game gives us a lot of those. Opening up the mission structure requires for new and creative ways to approach them. The introduction of a jumper (a little two-wheeled robot) and a quadcopter drone enable the player to stealth and hack their way through enemy turf, without ever stepping into hostile territory. Aided by a huge number of crazy hacking skills, causing chaos and confusion among the gangs and police of San Francisco can be crazy fun. And that surprised me. Because Ubisofts last few sandboxes have just been an exercise in boredom and frustration (I’m looking at you The Division).
But Watch_Dogs 2 is fun. From its characters through a beautiful world to a fun story, the game has everything going for it. And even a frustrating third act in which the game seems to lose its way, doesn’t keep it from being one the better games of this year.
Beitragsbild: Kevin Wendlandt