Review: Watch Dogs

When Ubisoft released the first teaser for Watch_Dogs at E3 2012, everyone was blown away at their new approach to open-world games. A year later, Rockstar up the ante releasing Grand Theft Auto V (GTA:V) and breaking multiple sales records. After much anticipation and impressive marketing, it’s finally here. Did the two-year wait deter fans from purchasing?

With 4 million copies sold globally within a week of its release, UrbanWire can safely conclude: No. But is it worth your money (S$75 on Steam)?

The opening scene of Watch Dogs calls hackers “modern day magicians”, a description befitting of the huge amount of tricks at your disposal, as you run around a well-detailed, futuristic rendition of Chicago. The push of a button allows you to empty a citizen’s bank account, raise blockers to smash pursuing cars, stop a train, or even remotely detonate enemy explosives. The possibilities are (virtually) limitless and there’s no denying it – hacking in this game is great.

You play Aiden Pearce, a man out for vengeance against the people who killed his niece after a job went awry. By installing backdoor viruses into the Central Operating System (ctOS) of each district, he gains access to everyone’s personal data. If there’s ever an intruder anybody should be afraid of, it’s him.


Yet, the intruder becomes the intruded at times. Other players in the game take can “intrude” your game through their mobile devices and attempt to steal your data, requiring you to stop the intrusion using any means possible. It’s interesting, but it gets annoying if it occurs at the exact moment when you want to do a campaign mission.

The game’s dynamic and interactive open-world environment is a joy to behold. Having sudden side-events in addition to its fun side-games (pilot a spider tank, anyone?) and campaigns keep the game interesting. However, the creators of Assassin’s Creed didn’t stop there. A “reputation system” acts as a sort of karmic, moral compass, with an indirect link to Newton’s Third Law: your actions determine how the city views and treats you, whether as a true vigilante, or a villain. 


A third-person game like this has its advantages, as seen in the combat aspect. The perspective allows freedom in engaging enemies through stealthy take-downs, utilizing every hack available to your advantage (just don’t explode anything if you’re within range), or storming in with a bang.

In addition, the game’s “bullet time” skill, “Focus” (one UrbanWire highly recommends to unlock), allows for quick kills and hacks before an enemy reacts. There’s no shortage of weapons, but gamers will be disappointed to know that the game doesn’t have any rocket launchers when compared to its Rockstar rival. Then again, a phone is all you need to wreak havoc.


Despite such fluidity, there are notable flaws. The French company has a lot to work on when it comes to creating a realistic driving experience. While it’s nice to hide in cars and avoid the police, the screenshakes you get when you floor the throttle might get more annoying as time passes. The brakes aren’t that reliable as well – drifting (with the handbrake) would be slightly quicker when clearing corners.

For a game of this much hype, we are let down by the plot – an abundance of conflicting plotlines are weaved together in an unappealing way, spoiling the build-up of tension as the story progresses. In short, it feels like one made from a combination from several other games.

Should you decide to get your hands on the PC version like UrbanWire did, the graphics are horrendously un-optimized. Besides the low-frame rates, users complain of lag even with high-end video cards, which is unacceptable for a game of this calibre. To add insult to injury, gamers who bought a digital copy had to wait an extra month before they could play it.

Watch_Dogs is not a bad game by any means – the environment design and elements such as hacking and combat are polished, and users will have a lot of fun playing it. However, being laden with issues from within and outside the game has halted its chance of being an epic game. In the end, Ubisoft’s valiant attempt is still overshadowed by Rockstar’s most recent offering ­– especially when GTA:V is slated for release on PS4, Xbox One and the PC this fall.

Additional Info:

This game is not suitable for players under 18 due to excessive displays of violence, coarse language and portrayals of gambling. The full technical specifications for the PC version of the game can be found here.

Price: US$59.99 (about S$75) on Steam

Rating: 3.5/5

Operating Systems: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Photos Courtesy of Ubisoft