I, like many of you, waited with baited breath to see if Watch Dogs 2 was worth a shot. The trailer definitely got my hyped up for the newest release in the franchise. Ubisoft read feedback from players after their first instalment, Watch Dogs, in an effort to create a sequel that will improve on the good while getting rid of the bad. Now with Watchdogs 2 officially released, I get to see if they were paying attention.
The story follows DedSec, a hacktivist group that work together to bring down cTos, a corrupt company stealing, spying and selling private information on everyone. With the enormous challenge of “waking up the little guy”, DedSec recruit the best hackers into their fold in order to enlighten the masses to the dark deeds going on behind closed doors. Here enters our protagonist, Marcus Holloway, the newest member of the group and our protagonist. Leading the hack-attack along with Wrench, Horatio, Sitara, and Josh, we get to tear up San Francisco with our ball on a rope, laptop and a variety of 3D printed weapons.
First of all, San Francisco offers a beautiful setting, and a fun playground for you to destroy at your leisure. You can do this by yourself, hacking traffic lights for fun, or seamlessly jump online to control cars like toys, but with a friend! The vehicles also handle a lot better than the first game, making driving way more fun. Also, there are dogs that you can pet. I even got a trophy for petting dogs. In the game of course, not real life. Imagine that though. Living in a world where petting animals gets you rewards…
Sorry, I went into my own wee world for a moment. Back to it!
One of my main issues with the Watch Dogs was Aiden Pearce, who didn’t really have any strong personality features that would make him relatable or even likeable. Marcus is the total opposite and is absolutely oozing personality. For a protagonist, I found Marcus likeable. He’s laid back, has a sense of humour, geeky side and catalogue of 80’s references pouring out of him at every opportunity. He’s just a young guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and is eager to expose the corrupt, making him the all-round good guy. If Ubisoft keeps this train going on for another game, I think Marcus would survive and return.
Side quests are in abundance and are optional, despite having direct links to the main story. These each have a unique goal, and although the camera jumping, luring and exploding may be repetitive, the mission varies in every one. None of that saving citizens bullshit where you had to stalk someone, wait for them to be attacked, then run from the shadows brandishing a baton. That was dumb. Another old culprit for repetition is map expansion by hacking specified towers. Well this time around, the map upgrades with markers and other details upon you visiting that area. I don’t know what took so long but finally, no flimsy flailing around just to unlock the map this time around! Trailing around looking for them, then doing a puzzle just to get to the bloody thing, urgh! We did it, only because we had to. How else would we know where we were?
The skill tree is advanced, allowing for expansion of Marcus’s skill sets, so you can choose your upgrades to improve your own play style. If you’re all about cars, you can successfully fully upgrade that branch of the skill tree. If stealth is more your thing, level up your gadgets to make missions easier. The hacking mechanisms will look familiar if you’ve played the previous Watch Dogs, although slightly more challenging this time around. At first I hated these because I had to move Marcus around the environment to find the nodes that I needed to turn, but once I got the RC Chopper, I found it oddly satisfying when I solved them.
Ubisoft made some big changes, a lot of them are beneficial, but for me, it wasn’t enough to get me excited about the franchise again. The main story was good, but lacked any real ‘ta-dah’ moments. It felt like reading a book starting at chapter three, only to stop reading eight chapters before the end. The 80’s references came thick and fast to the point where it was trying too hard. There was even a point in the game where something happens, (no spoilers here) that warrants a reaction, but despite having long lasting consequences, it is covered over several mini missions. No lasting effects. Not spoken about again. My main issue with the game, was the lack of a satisfying ending. The main story doesn’t have a memorable conclusion, for me anyway. I didn’t feel that “fuck yeah!” moment, the moment of satisfaction that I usually get.