Critic's Corner: Watch_Dogs - Not a hack job
This week’s hottest game is Ubisoft’s open world action effort with a huge dash of hacking and commentary on technology. How did it fare among the press?By Jonathan Toyad 29 May, 2014
It’s the middle of 2014, and a potential IP has made its way onto game retail shelves worldwide: Watch Dogs. Despite the open world action game receiving early backlash due to its delayed release date, ludicrous collectors edition offers and its 2014 trailer not being graphically up to par to the IP’s debut in 2012, it beat all odds and garnered a respectable reception.
We made our point clear that the game is great, but what about other international publications? Turns out they all have one thing in common: they like the game enough, but not to the point that they can call it a revolution in the open world genre. Keep in mind that the criticisms are referring to the PlayStation 4 version; while the graphics may vary in each other version, the gameplay remains intact.
US Gamer definitely loved the game as it gave it a score of distinction. The outlet admired its astonishingly-detailed world, its storyline and its creative mechanics. The Escapist felt that the game was polished and was bursting with content, coupled with great visuals and a thriving open world packed with “an embarrassment of riches in the content department”. The game’s hacking elements give a sense of empowerment, and it balances its ease-of-use controls and challenge.
The praises still continue; Edge said that while its visuals do not match its Electronic Entertainment Expo 2012 reveal, it delivers on its design and systemic promises of its hacking and open world mechanics and theme. Polygon said that the game has lofty ambitions combining gameplay designs of past Ubisoft series like Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell, though it is at its best when it refines all of these elements into an enjoyable experience with multiple good options.
What was interesting about Polygon’s analysis was its pointing out some of the game’s troublesome representation of certain characters and topics. Female characters in the game are mostly victims that serve to further the plot, while the game’s flavour text when profiling characters (via hacking) uses the lowest-common denominator for humour.
Two noteworthy online publications feel that the title is good, but could have done more with its hacking theme and sandbox concept: Eurogamer and Giant Bomb. The former publication said that while it entertains, it borrows a lot from the existing open world games and its hacking theme feels undercooked. The latter said that the game is still rough around the edges and that players who have high expectations for the sandbox genre may be disappointed by Ubisoft’s effort.
The most common points of praise is on its busy world and huge amount of content in-game. At the very least, Ubisoft can work on other areas and just leave the aforementioned two points the way it is if it wants its impending sequel to aspire loftier heights.
As of right now, the game is getting a lot of flak on Steam forums due to Ubisoft botching up its online UPlay service for the PC version. Then again, the quick reviews that are trending right now; any kind of publicity is good publicity, right? Review the chart below for your reference:
“Watch_Dogs combines an astonishingly detailed world, a gripping storyline, creative game mechanics, a myriad of missions and activities, and improvisational tactical sandbox gameplay to create a truly next-generation open world game. Phenomenal. No other word for it.”
“Polished to a mirror sheen, and bursting with content, Watch Dogs is a great looking game with a thriving open world and an empowering premise. It suffers from being an amalgamation of every other major Ubisoft game, to the point where it doesn’t feel as fresh as it deserves to, but it’s still a varied, rich, thoroughly dense experience. It’s perhaps the most believable open world game out there, and it’s pretty damn fun to boot. Sandbox fans will miss out if they don’t scope it.”
“(The overall game is) a bit of a muddle, suggesting an unwarranted lack of confidence in the core systems, and at times the most keenly anticipated game of this new generation leans too heavily on the conventions of the past. Watch Dogs was so well received at E3 2012 not for its looks, but what it promised: a truly new way to play open-world games in which the concept of agency extends beyond choosing where to go and what to do next. And whether you’re on foot, behind the wheel or in combat, Watch Dogs delivers on that promise. Rarely has a single button done so much, and so well.”
“As an open world game, Watch Dogs provides ‘enough’ — enough sidequests, enough space, enough of a playground — to qualify, but it doesn’t quite place. Other games have nailed a better balance in optional activities and large-scale ambiance, including other games from Ubisoft Montreal itself. But when Watch Dogs focuses on the things it does better than anyone else, it finds an identity worth developing. As a hybrid open-world stealth-action game, it’s in a class by itself.”
“Watch Dogs doesn’t have that promising kernel. It certainly entertains, but mostly through borrowed concepts, and the central notion that could have made it stand out – the hacking – is the most undercooked of all. It doesn’t get anything horribly wrong, but nor does it excel at any of the genre beats it so faithfully bangs out. It’s good, and yet that always feels like a criticism when a game comes weighed down by this much hype. You won’t regret the time you spend in Aiden Pearce’s world, but nor will it be saved as a precious memory when you reboot.”
“Even though I feel its story is often weak and its action isn’t that different from other games in the genre, I still enjoyed my time with Watch Dogs. It turns out that the old stuff still works, and the strong-but-standard mission design kept me entertained, most of the time. It’s rough around the edges, though, so if you don’t settle for anything less than the best, you’ll probably be disappointed.
But hey, Watch Dogs 2? That’ll probably be pretty cool.”