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