Watch Dogs 2 Review

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Watch Dogs 2 takes the action from Chicago to the Bay Area and introduces a new protagonist. Will this game succeed where the first failed? Find out inside!

Release Date November 15, 2016
Genre Third-Person Action/Adventure
Platforms PS4/PC/Xbox One
Developer Ubisoft Montreal
Price $59.99 US
Players 1-4 Players
ESRB Rating Mature

 

I remember being incredibly excited when Watch Dogs was announced by Ubisoft. This was before either of the new consoles had come out and it was the first new IP that Ubisoft had come up with in quite a while. The prospects of the game seemed so broad and it really seemed like you would be able to do whatever your heart desired. When the game actually came out after delays, it was a shell of what was promised and didn’t live up to the hype. It wasn’t a bad game, but much like many first games in a series, the developers were creating the basis for future games.

It wasn’t that Watch Dogs was necessarily bad, it just wasn’t all that revolutionary and the main character, Aiden Pearce, wasn’t all that easy to relate to or to like. He was hacking to save his family and the whole story felt too dark. Ubisoft must have felt the same way because they took the series in a completely different direction with a brand new protagonist and a brand new setting.

Watch Dogs 2 Review
The Golden Gate Bridge is a prominent spot in Watch Dogs 2.

Watch Dogs 2 is set in a fictional recreation of the Bay Area of San Francisco. The map is huge and there’s a lot to see in it. This version of San Francisco is a very condensed version yet they still managed to get all the important things in like Stanford University, The Palace of Fine Arts, and so much more. It’s such a fun and diverse setting with lost of waterways and different areas to lose the cops. I really like this choice for the setting of a hacker game, it’s perfect on every level.

The main character in Watch Dogs 2, Marcus Holloway, is pretty much the opposite type of character that Aiden Pearce was in the original game. He and his group of preppy hackers, Deadsec are the main protagonists of the game and are a lot more relatable. Marcus is a pretty happy and good-natured person who seems to be all about doing what’s best for society. That’s where the disconnect comes in.

Watch Dogs 2 isn’t so much about what’s right and wrong as much as it is about freedom and not being restricted by Big Brother. Marcus crusades against this cause and doesn’t seem to be at all the lethal type of person. This changes rather quickly when he begins to shoot a bunch of security guards and police to get to his objective. It’s a strange flip from the comedic personality that you see in the cutscenes. 

Watch Dogs 2 Review
That’s a random person crawling in the sky which only happened this one time. It also gives a glimpse as to how beautiful the scenery is.

I do find it weird that there is no extra incentive to being stealthy throughout an entire mission versus going in there and killing everyone in sight. Being stealthy is a lot more difficult and definitely more rewarding for me personally, but the in-game reward is the same. I can only guess that’s because there are some missions that probably can’t be completed without using lethal force.

I tried to go through most of the game without using any lethal weapons, but you’re severely out matched when you’re face with 7-12 enemies in single area. That means you’re forced to take out some of your actual weapons. Even when using lethal weapons, Marcus isn’t the most durable character and doesn’t fare very well in shootouts. The enemy AI characters are actually very good at closing in on your position and boxing you in uncomfortably. Add in the possibility of a grenade coming your way and you need something else to even the odds. That’s where hacking comes in.

Hacking has seen a significant improvement in Watch Dogs 2. There are now more options per each device to hack. You can for ,example, make a box spark to make an enemy walk over to it and then you can hack it again to blow it up and get rid of the enemy. You can still detonate bombs for enemies that carry them and overload headsets, but there are some fun new options that open the game up even more. One of the best new hacking options is to plant evidence on an enemy so the police come in to take them away. You can keep doing this when your Botnet meter recharges until all the enemies have been taken away. It has backfired on me when the police just stand there with the enemy without taking them away, though. It’s still a hilarious way to get to your objective, or just to screw around with. I had the donut mascot arrested.

Watch Dogs 2 Review
The aftermath of me planting evidence on the Donut Mascot.

Driving still feels a bit too loose for me in Watch Dogs 2. It’s seen a bit of an improvement since the first game, but it’s still a bit finicky. This game doesn’t have nearly as many missions that rely on cars as before and for the ones that do, there are far more options to do some damage. The biggest addition has been the ability to hack other vehicles to burst in a certain direction. It’s especially helpful when you have a car coming up beside you, you can easily direct it into a wall to disable it. There are still the hacks make the light green in all directions and the street explosions as well, but the car hacking gives you yet another very useful tool.

The thing I found very refreshing about this games is that the missions are not linear. You can go about a mission however you would like for the most part. You can use your drone, try to go in yourself, kill everyone, try not to be seen. Everything is up to you and how you want to use the tools available to you. Unfortunately, there’s no way to replay in earlier mission without starting a new game for those that do like to try things a few different ways.

Upgrade points for different skills tend to be hidden in high up places which require some environmental puzzle solving. Some of these are solve by using your drone, some require some platforming skills, some require you to connect the power grid. I really enjoyed these little diversions from the main game. Some of these really made me think about what I had to do to solve the puzzle and none of them were too mind-bending to become frustrating. There are other side-missions like Driver SF which is the equivalent of being an Uber driver as well as activities like go-kart and motocross races. There’s no shortage of activities to keep you busy.

Watch Dogs 2 Review
The members of DedSec hanging out after re-aligning a satellite dish.

The multiplayer modes are something I didn’t do too much with, but I did try a little bit of everything. The hacking mode that happens spontaneously if you’re not in a mission taks one player with hacking data from another player. Since every player happens to have a flying drone that identifies everyone now, it makes it very hard for the attacking player to be successful. I did manage it one time with someone who didn’t have a drone. I also ran into a player who was invincible. I tried to run him over and shoot him and nothing happened. He kept trolling me until I ran away. I don’t know how rampant that is, but it did concern me.

The other two modes are co-op which are decent, but still don’t work quite as well as I’d like. I’d love it if you could play a game like this with another player all the way through. Saints Row did it, so it’s certainly possible. The other main multiplayer mode is Bounty Hunt which is a pretty cool idea. Basically, if you max out your wanted meter, the police call in others players to try and kill you. This mode is a pretty fun mode and I really wish they would have expanded it to teams of hackers vs other teams of hackers. With so many tools at your disposal, there are a million different outcomes.

Watch Dogs 2 is the game that Watch Dogs should have been. Let’s be honest, the second game is almost always the one that pulls everything together after getting the core mechanics set in the first game. This game surpasses the first in almost every way. The missions can be a little bit repetitive at times, but the characters, side-missions, and all kinds of different diversions definitely keep the action alive. Make sure to check this game out, it’s one of the best open-world games of 2016.

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