Watch Dogs 2: review

Watch Dogs 2 is the sequel to the 2014 original, and is set in a fictional version of San Francisco. You take the role of Marcus Holloway, a young hacker who is part of a collective hacking group called DedSec, who are tasked with bringing down the city’s advanced surveillance system ctOS 2.0, which shady tech company Blume have rolled out across the city. This system can be used by criminals to manipulate and monitor the city’s population. The original was much hyped, but didn’t quite live up to that hype. Can this sequel deliver the experience the original promised so much?

The Golden Gate Bridge in all its glory.

Thankfully Watch Dogs 2 has a much lighter tone than its predecessor. The group of hackers that form DedSec are all likeable, with amusing traits and foibles that means you enjoy the time you spend hanging out with the group. Some of the dialogue was pretty funny and quite natural, with two of the characters arguing over who would win in a fight between an Alien and a Predator. There’s also some nice geeky Easter eggs, like a superb mission involving stealing a talking car reminiscent of the 80’s classic Knight Rider.

One of the DedSec crew who goes by the name Wrench.

In their efforts to bring down ctOS and Blume, our group of hackers perform a series of hacking stunts to earn publicity and gain the group social media followers. The more followers you gain, the more points you get to unlock perks on your skill tree, which helps unlock extra side missions, and bring you closer to finding out what Blume are up to.

The open world of San Francisco is a great little playground to ply your hacking skills. It features the main landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, with Alcatraz looming ominously in the bay, and smaller districts like Oakland and Silicon Valley all having distinctly different areas to explore. The technological aspect of the city fits well with the hacking subject matter, and you can cause a fair bit of chaos with your supercharged smartphone. The phone has various uses, from hacking traffic light systems to cause pile ups to remote controlling vehicles, hopping between CCTV cameras to get into guarded areas, and using it to put hits on enemies, that sees local gangs move in to take out your target. It is a veritable swiss army phone, that makes you feel in total control of your surroundings. Security systems can be quite hard to hack as sometimes you need to attain a digital key from a guard, or sometimes you need to play a kind of pipe game where you need to route power through various points to unlock further junction points. Some of these were quite challenging, as later on in the game you are up against the clock, and have an opposing hacker mixing up the junction points you’ve already unlocked.

You also have a remote control vehicle called the Jumper, which you use to sneak into enemy bases without being there in person and hack into systems; while the Quadcopter can be used to tag enemies from the air, steal digital security keys from guards, sneak through air vents and set traps for unwitting enemies. These gadgets add an extra layer to the gameplay and increase the ways you can play through the missions. You can decide to go in gungho with the 3D printed weapons you have bought, or you can just sit back on your laptop while you control your two drones to complete the mission.

The premises of Nudle, which is part of the Silicon Valley part of the map.

There are a couple of niggles with the gameplay though. Moving between cover when you are in a gun battle was a hit or a miss, with Marcus sometimes not moving from his spot, or moving to the wrong spot, which puts him in danger. Which makes gunfights more frustrating than they should be. Vehicles seem to lack weight which makes driving a bit uneventful unless you are involved in a chase with the police, and some of the cars can be a chore to drive as they are painfully slow. Also, while the pipe puzzles are nice distractions for a while, they do overstay their welcome later on in the game.

The open world is quite refreshing compared to other icon-filled Ubisoft games, with none of the boring item collecting from games like Assassins Creed, but more substantial narrative driven missions that encourage you to play through them. There are also excellent seamless online multiplayer missions, with some tense hacking invasions from online players (which were present in the previous game) along with Bounty Hunter, which has you helping the police to take down an online player; or if you are being chased, an online player can join in and help apprehend you. The co-op side missions are also fantastic, with you able to join with other players to sneak into secure areas to access a laptop or server and download its data. One player can send in their drones to cause chaos, while the other hacker sneaks in to obtain the data. This was great fun, and when it went well you felt like Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible, but it can also go spectacularly and hilariously wrong. Either way it is a great way to work co-op into the open world single player story.

Marcus can use drones to do his dirty work for him.

Watch Dogs 2 is a fantastic game that rights most of the wrongs from its predecessor. While its open world and humour may not quite be up to Rockstar’s Los Santos standards, it has a likeable roster of characters and an open world that is refreshing, and has a great way of integrating online play into the experience. This is a sequel that has made great strides forward, and we can really look forward to what’s to come if a third installment is greenlit in the future.

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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

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