Play The Es­sen­tial: Watch Dogs

In Watch Dogs, ev­ery­one is lis­ten­ing, watch­ing and hack­ing. Who says gam­ing isn’t real­is­tic?

Australian T3 - - CONTENTS -

Your hack­ing play­ground has ar­rived

Pull out your smart­phone. Now look at it – not as a com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­vice or your next Clash of Clans fix, but as the most deadly weapon you own. Af­ter all, ev­ery­thing is con­nected and con­nec­tion is power, and Watch Dogs rev­els in the re­al­i­ties and con­spir­a­cies of both.

Un­veiled orig­i­nally at the E3 expo in Los Angeles two years ago, and ush­er­ing in the much-an­tic­i­pated “next-gen” of gam­ing, Ubisoft’s techy thriller quickly be­came a must- have. Yet hav­ing failed to turn up to help the PS4’s launch as promised in Novem­ber, it’s ready to re­boot. Down­graded vis­ual leaks may have damp­ened spir­its but when we go hands-on, the game’s high-tech premise still im­presses.

“We are sell­ing the idea of in­stant ac­cess,” says cre­ative di­rec­tor Jonathan Morin, en­thu­si­as­ti­cally, “the fan­tasy that you can do any­thing at the touch of a but­ton.” Yet Watch Dogs’ “fan­tasy”, which plonks play­ers into the

shoes of hacker Ai­den Pearce to com­bat in­jus­tice by turn­ing the con­nected gad­getry of his city against its cre­ators, can play out un­com­fort­ably close to re­al­ity.

“It’s based on the back­bone of the tech we use in so­ci­ety to­day,” claims Morin. “We dig into so­ci­ety’s re­la­tion­ship with so­cial me­dia, data gath­er­ing and the ev­i­dent vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties there.” He reck­ons ev­ery hack in the game can, tech­ni­cally, be du­pli­cated in real life, too.

Of course, Ed­ward Snow­den’s leak­ing of de­tails con­cern­ing the US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency’s PRISM data-min­ing pro­gram have made a mock­ery of on­line pri­vacy. When we ask Morin how it feels to have the NSA ef­fec­tively PRing his game, he laughs.

“It’s not like we pre­dicted it,” he says. “To say that would be very pre­ten­tious. But quite a few times we would end up watch­ing the news and see sto­ries based on ideas that we’d been brain­storm­ing dur­ing re­search.”

In the game world you’re free to hack any elec­tronic de­vice in Pearce’s vicin­ity. For T3 that meant steal­ing sev­eral cars, de­ploy­ing sleep­ing po­lice­men to slow down pur­suers and help­ing our­selves to texts and bank de­tails from sev­eral passers-by. The pick was tak­ing con­trol of a server farm by com­man­deer­ing its CCTV and help­ing our­selves to sys­tem pass­words from an un­sus­pect­ing se­cu­rity guard’s phone.

Sim­i­larly, the sec­ond-screen app lets a ri­val player hack the city to stop your es­cape, while mul­ti­player sees oth­ers go rogue in your world. The game’s plot may still be shrouded in se­crecy, but the chance to reen­act our hacker fan­tasies, with­out the know-how or sub­se­quent risk of le­gal ac­tion, has us hooked.

This month… Mario Kart revs up / Wolf of Wall Street cuts deep / Hor­rors turn on the dark / Sur­geon Sim­u­la­tor’s cut­ting edge

Hack­ing goes

high oc­tane

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