I HACK, YOU HACK, WE HACK

Watch_Dogs

HWM (Singapore) - - TEST - by Ju­lianYeo

Watch_Dogs is Ubisoft’s am­bi­tious open world “hack­ven­ture” game that most gamers will see as an at­tempt to el­e­vate the Grand Theft Auto ex­pe­ri­ence. You play Ai­den Pearce, the weird fel­low with the trench coat, be­cause noth­ing is more in­con­spic­u­ous than a person walk­ing around in a trench coat. Ai­den is look­ing for an­swers, and like most of us liv­ing in to­day’s world of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, all his an­swers can come from his trusty smart­phone.

This fu­ture city of Chicago is all wired up, you see. A gi­ant se­cu­rity net­work called ctOS blan­kets the whole city to mon­i­tor crime, util­i­ties and the like. To take a cue from all the re­cent high pro­file se­cu­rity breaches like Edward Snow­den, LulzSec, Anony­mous and the NSA spy­ing scandal, no net­work is im­pen­e­tra­ble and ctOS is just as vul­ner­a­ble as any com­moner sys­tem, at least through the eyes of Ai­den Pearce.

Through your smart­phone, you hack vul­ner­a­ble ob­jects around you, blow­ing steam pipes, over­load­ing switch boxes to ex­plode, change traf­fic sig­nals or raise se­cu­rity bol­lards. You use these to your ad­van­tage when evad­ing pursuers or when do­ing the chas­ing your­self.

You can also pro­file NPCs to see their quirks in one­liner de­scrip­tions and more im­por­tantly to get bank­ing in­for­ma­tion for a quick buck off an ATM or tune into their phone con­ver­sa­tions to un­cover po­ten­tial side­mis­sions.

Most of the city’s net­works can­not be bro­ken into by you un­til you take over a nearby ctOS cen­ter though, which you have to do at sev­eral points of the game. These ctOS cen­ters are rid­dled with armed guards, so you ei­ther go in guns-blaz­ing or by stealth pick­ing them out one by one through afore­men­tioned hack­ing and dis­trac­tions.

Tak­ing over a ctOS node trig­gers a hack­ing minigame, for which Deus Ex: HR fans might be fa­mil­iar with, although the puzzles here are sim­pler. You have to do this for ev­ery district you need to un­lock, and each gets more chal­leng­ing, which keeps it fun.

CON­CLU­SION Watch_Dogs can be sum­ma­rized as As­sas­sin’s Creed meets Grand Theft Auto meets Deus Ex: Hu­man Revo­lu­tion. It’s mainly that, but it does have its own charms.

There are no con­se­quences go­ing in fully-loaded, ex­cept that you have a higher chance get­ting spot­ted and al­low­ing the “You aren’t sup­posed to be here” de­tec­tion tri­an­gle to fill up, trig­ger­ing re­in­force­ments.

For a game built around tech­nol­ogy, the game is sorely lack­ing in the A.I. de­part­ment. Guards re­main un­re­spon­sive even when their part­ner drops in front of their very eyes; and when they do no­tice you, they con­stantly shoot at your lo­ca­tion even when you’re un­der cover, only to stop when you’ve popped a few bul­lets of your own in them.

Ve­hi­cle han­dling is also not quite Grand Theft Auto. Ve­hi­cles you run into with your car are com­i­cally pushed aside or flung back­wards across the street. I’m not sure if that was Ubisoft’s in­ten­tion to re­mind us it’s just a game.

You can pull an Ezio and park your car to hide in­side, blend­ing into the street and leav­ing the bum­bling po­lice A.I. driv­ing past you un­til you com­pletely avoid their de­tec­tion (Fic­tional Chicago’s finest must have Tem­plar blood in their veins). The sim­ple A.I. makes play­ing Watch_Dogs rather wasy for the most part, un­til you face some bugs and glitches.

I’ve no­ticed glitchy load­ing is­sues from time to time; these ranged from blocky ATM ma­chines to over­lap­ping ra­dio broad­casts be­tween news and mes­sages from hacker group DedSec. I’ve even made it through one mis­sion in par­tic­u­lar with­out need­ing to take out a tar­get an in­structed, with Ai­den sud­denly re­call­ing him­self, im­ply­ing a kill was al­ready made.

If you’re tired of muck­ing around with the A.I., you can hang out with other play­ers, or they can find their way into your game. One im­mer­sive as­pect of Watch_Dogs is an on­line mul­ti­player mode that brings other play­ers into your game (or you into theirs); they can then track you down, steal your data or col­lect a bounty placed on your head. If you’re alert, this usu­ally ends up with a bit of a car chase un­less you blow up your at­tacker’s ve­hi­cle with your trusty grenade launcher.

Another as­pect of tthe Watch_Dogs ex­pe­ri­ence is ctOS mo­bile, a free, mo­bile­based com­pan­ion app where users can en­ter your game through a sim­pli­fied ver­sion of the game’s map on their smart­phone or tablet and play cops and rob­bers over the in­ter­net with­out ever need­ing a copy of Watch_Dogs.

Hav­ing tried both PS4 and PS3 ver­sions of the game, there is an ob­vi­ous dis­par­ity in terms of graph­i­cal qual­ity. Nonethe­less, for such a hyped ti­tle, it’s nice that Ubisoft still kept those on pre­vi­ous-gen­er­a­tion hard­ware in their thoughts.

Play­ers can join each other’s games in var­i­ous multi-player modes like tail­ing and hack­ing called “On­line Con­tracts”.

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