After I finished the side mission where Watch Dogs 2 did its Pharmabro impression, I looked up the next main mission and realized that the game wasn't done with its not-so-subtle social commentary.
In 'Watch Dogs 2's rendition of San Francisco there's a church called "New Dawn," who's members include celebrities and other people of great influence and wealth. To advance in the church, you have to give increasingly large donations, and wear these really weird devices over your head during meetings.
Oh right, that sounds exactly like the Church of Scientology, who's status as a religious institution has been constantly called into question by governments and activists around the world.
So what did Watch Dogs 2 have in store for America's most questionable church? It was quite a trip.
'Watch Dogs 2', Like 'South Park': No Celebrity Is Safe
You start off events targeting Jimmy Siska, a washed up actor who made a bunch of classics in his earlier years, but now has seemed to lose a lot of his luster after joining the church. I couldn't honestly tell if this was more directed at Tom Cruise or John Travola, both of whom sort of fit the bill. Jimmy Siska looks sort of if you mashed John Travolta and Tom Cruise's faces together in a Face/Off sequel, so it might be fair to say no one is safe.
While your initial inclination is to embarrass Siska to cause an issue for the church, you quickly realize that Siska is actually being audited by the church (not just his money) because of potential disloyalty.
Quick on the uptake, Marcus replaces the auditor and talks to Siska himself where he learns of Siska's fear of New Dawn (who has been doing KGB-style disappearing of people), and hears about the "Red Room," where these disappeared people are supposedly disposed of.
Spooky! I wonder what happens to all of these people? The investigation continues...
In 'Watch Dogs 2' Churches Kidnap People
After talking with your friend and San Francisco councilwoman Miranda, you learn that the Red Room is a re-education center guarded by New Dawn's security detail. This is of course poking fun at the Church of Scientology's Gold Base, stationed in Riverside, California that is protected by armed guards and 24 hour surveillance.
You arrive at the Red Room re-education center and find a kidnapped Siska before rescuing him from the church and arranging to help him if he'll denounce them in public.
Redemption In The Third Act
Siska then tells you about the New Dawn headquarters where there are supposedly Sumerian Tablets in the basement that show the founding principles of the church. Yeah, it sounds absurd, but it's not that far from what the Church of Scientology actually preaches.
This was a serious "awww" moment for me. And despite the ridiculousness of the situation, it really made me nostalgic for 1990s John Travolta. What happened to that guy? Oh right... this is what happened.
From there you infiltrate the main church, find the Sumerian Tablets, and reveal them as fake to the world in a hilarious video starring Jimmy Siska himself, who finally redeems himself in the eyes of his DedSec fans.
So let's recap:
- Church of high profile celebrities and influencers
- Spying, kidnapping, and brainwashing
- Secret bases with 24 hour security
- Advancement in church tied to financial contributions
- Obscure beliefs with questionable founding
Yeah that sounds about right. This one hits pretty close to home—maybe even too close. Part of me worries for Ubisoft since followers of Scientology have been pretty outspoken about its legitimacy, despite regular teasing from comedians and satirists, and often respond to criticism.
But chances are Travolta and Cruise will never play Watch Dogs 2, and likely will never hear about this. Good thing too, I'm not sure how they'd take it. But hey, it's never too late for a come back.
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Regardless of any real world impact (cause, who cares right?), this storyline was yet another reason Watch Dogs 2 has enthralled me and why I think any child of the Internet would love to play it.