So I spent the last few days at E3 thanks to the team at Now Loading, and I’ve got to say that as I walked into the convention center I was immediately overwhelmed: I could feel the goosebumps across my arms, it was incredible to simply be surrounded by my people: gamers and developers, journalists and fans. We were all there for one reason – gaming!
I started writing this down only a couple hours into the start of the day, because I had to get my thoughts down while they were still fresh. I did a quick run through of the main halls and there were games from edge to edge, everything you could imagine:
- Square Enix wowed with Final Fantasy XV
- WB built worlds with Lego
- 2K shined with Mafia III
- Bethesda showed off Dishonored 2
- Nintendo brought Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Naughty America had VR movies (yes, that really was at E3).
Yet, I found myself drawn to the Ubisoft booth, as I knew that I would be. I walked in and found myself surrounded with all their upcoming releases: Steep, For Honor, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, South Park: The Fractured But Whole and of course Watchdogs 2.
I immediately jumped into the queue line for Watchdogs 2 and waited anxiously, hoping that my anticipation wouldn’t go unfounded, And I’m willing to put this on record right now that Watchdogs 2 is my most anticipated game of the convention, and should be a surprise hit this holiday season. Without a doubt it is the game that I am the most excited for. Anyways, I found my seat next to one of the developers for the game and he could tell that I was excited: leaning forward with wide eyes and a giant smile on my face. We started up a short conversation before they began the live demo, and I could tell that I had wandered into something magical.
So here’s the scoop: WatchDogs 2 is the game we should have gotten from the beginning of the birth of the franchise. It’s fluid, it’s smart and it takes into account just about every flaw and disappointment that I had with the first game, hopefully it will do the same for you. If you take anything away from this article, it’s this: WatchDogs 2 IS a game that you need to play this year - period.
You may be thinking, as I’m sure many other gamers who didn’t see the live demo that I was a part of are thinking as well, why did Ubisoft go with a sequel to WatchDogs? – And this was a question that I asked while I was at the Ubisoft booth, and the answer that I gathered was that through all the issues with the original game, Ubisoft believed that they had found another IP that could follow in the footsteps of their other mammoth titles such as Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry and all the Tom Clancy games. The development team at Ubisoft has a lot of faith in WatchDogs 2, and so do I – here’s why:
Now, most people wouldn’t consider Chicago small by any standard, but when compared to the new playground of San Francisco in the sequel, the first game will feel miniscule when you make you way from the Golden Gate to Bay City. The devs paid a lot of attention to what we the gamers had to say about the original game. And one of those aspects that just didn’t meet our expectations was the map itself. Even though WatchDogs was an open-world game that explored Chicago, it felt as though it was all the same scenery and there was no real definition to where we were exploring. By moving the setting to San Francisco we now have a vast and diverse landscape to explore: by foot, by car or by other means still to be uncovered.
Now, driving sucked in WatchDogs and the Dev Team knows it; so they completely rebuilt the driving mechanics from the ground up. Each vehicle now responds differently and is hackable in different ways depending on what type of vehicle it is. This is a fairly awesome improvement, considering that I know I tried to avoid the driving missions in the first game like it was the plague. With a revitalized and true driving experience, navigating the much larger map of the San Francisco bay will give you a new way of experiencing the game.
Hacking feels ‘real’
Watchdogs is nothing without being a game about city-hacking. The various facets of hacking increased and expanded upon in WatchDogs 2. As far as the latter goes, hacking has been nearly completely remodeled. And by that I mean that rather than being forced to have line of sight on a hackable item, there is now a hacking-sight (similar to Eagle Vision in the Assassin’s Creed series) that allows you to ‘see’ how a network is connected. Now just because you can see how and what is connected, doesn’t mean that you can immediately hack into anything at any time. It still requires the same attention to detail and skill to hack into and through objectives.
Outside of hacking the environment like we could do in the original game, now there are enhanced abilities and skills that allow for a much more varied gameplay. For much of the first game, the hacking elements seemed only half developed, as if we were in stranded with only the bare essentials in a city that had so much potential. WatchDogs 2 looked to correct that problem by truly delving into the plausible and highly potent world of networks and technology.
You are DedSec
This is probably one of the areas that I’m the most excited for, just from a pure: this isn’t about finding out why you were almost killed (sorry, if that was a spoiler). The main playable character, Marcus Holloway, is introduced as one of the most skilled young hackers in DedSec, an organization dedicated to overthrowing the political clout and power that uses social media and technology to twist the truth. This is the sort of story that we should have had in the first game, as it changes the story into one of radical idealism spurned by a young man who was framed by the same surveillance system, ctOS 2.0, that he is hacking to uncover the truth.
As a part of DedSec, you gain power by becoming more infamous and becoming connected through the actual systems that DedSec wants to overthrow: Insight. Gaining power can be done through certain social aspects of the game. You can gain followers by using your phone to take selfies at various landmarks (similar to the check-in feature of the original game). Followers are how DedSec is able to spread truth and reach a larger audience because once you’re connected, DedSec then has access to your network and your devices.
In the original game, regardless of how talented of a hacker you were, you could really only interact very minimally with the non-playable characters in game. WatchDogs 2 expands the abilities and interaction that you have with nearly every NPC (non-playable character). Instead of simply having access to hearing some conversations, read a few texts and scam money from them; now Marcus can actually affect how the NPC’s mood and actions progress. By hacking these characters, you can change their moods and in doing so, you can possibly change how any given situation plays out.
Along with the NPC interaction comes enhancements in meeting up with other hackers in San Francisco. Now rather than just meeting other hackers who want to hack you, you can meet up with other hackers and partner up to accomplish various goals. This is the newly revamped co-op gameplay that has been whispered about.
Customization and Personalization
Originally WatchDogs had a phone that you could use for fairly simple processes. Your phone in the fist game allowed you to hack and interact with various things in world, but now it actually feels like it would be something that a skilled hacker would actually use. The new phone is just like what we all probably have in our pockets, it’s a device that allows us all to personalize: and that’s what you can do in game now. There are a variety of apps to be downloaded that can both help you through the game as well as just waste some time.
Along with personalizing your mobile phone, now you can truly customize the looks of your character. There are countless combinations of clothes that you can purchase in stores and (I believe) earn throughout San Francisco. More than just changing the colors of outfits, the dev team has given you the ability to truly create a character that you want to develop into the greatest hacker on the planet. Considering that you can now parkour in lime green crocs, I’d call that a pretty significant upgrade.