Watch who watches society in surveillance thriller
I am sort of a tech geek. While I do not have the latest gadgets in gaming or modern living, I love to have knowledge about the latest in digital security. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, I spent time off binge-watching the USA network show “Mr. Robot.” The protagonist, Elliot Anderson, was not a social butterfly, but if he wanted to know something about someone, all he needs is their digital details and he would either help or hinder them. Before Mr. Robot took form, Ubisoft in 2014 developed a game that applied action-adventure elements and mixed them with cybersecurity and personal privacy issues involving big technology companies. Watch Dogs was born of that curiosity.
In Watch Dogs, you take on the role of hacker Aiden Pierce, who in 2012 was collaborating with his mentor/partner Damien Brenks on an electronic financial heist in a fictional Chicago hotel. Unknown to the hacking duo, they tripped off an alarm set by another hacker, which forces Aiden to take his family out of the city.
While on the run, they are pursued by hitman Maurice Vega in a car chase that kills Aiden’s niece. Enraged, Aiden, along with partner/fixer Jordi Chin, sets off to find Vega and his employer while uncovering a hideous conspiracy behind the popular CtOS (Central Operating System) that has Chicago heavily dependent on it.
Watch Dogs is simple to play yet requires some practice to be familiar with. Using the analog sticks to control Aiden’s movements and the in-game camera was difficult at first; however, with enough practice, you will have him almost invincible. The menu for Aiden’s collected items as well as driving scenarios are like Grand Theft Auto, which I found frustrating but not unplayable. Aiden’s main weapons are a collapsible baton and a portable device known as the Profiler. The Profiler picks up NPC info that could be used to loot or embarrass them, depending on the situation. Also, you scan scale vertical walls and crouch behind walls to hide from enemies. I especially like the ability to hide because it’s well done in its application. During the first mission of the game, I found Vega and roughed him up, hacked the baseball stadium’s power grid to cause a blackout and snuck away from the police. With the well-practiced controls, it was easy to make this sequence work and get on with the rest of the game. That’s how smooth it should be.
The graphics in Watch Dogs are sharp and do well in taking advantage of Ubisoft’s Disrupt engine, which presented the city of Chicago and its landmarks with great care and detail. Another detail I liked was the ability to set the time for Aiden to rest. The representation of the day and night cycle was perfect. Watch Dog’s music is a nice mix of adrenaline and house music and contributed well to the overall atmosphere.
Watch Dogs is great to play if you want to act out your vigilante hero fantasies, legally, of course. Watch Dogs will not disappoint, although I would recommend using a strategy guide to help make your first playthrough more enjoyable.
For those who are interested in cybersecurity like I am or want to experience control of a city by technology, get to hacking.