Watch Dogs 2 – Surprisingly little time spent looking at dogs.

I have mentioned in the past my dislike for most open world games.  They often contain heaps of tedious filler, endless meaningless collectibles, and travel times that do little more than elongate the game.  I find this even more irritating in games of this style set in a facsimile of the real world due to it being even less likely to come across something unexpected or out of the ordinary.  So obviously I decided to pick up and play Watch Dogs 2, an open world game set in modern San Francisco.

Watch Dogs 2 City View
There’s a whole lot of city too explore. Thankfully it’s contents are mostly fun and the whole place can be navigated quickly right from the start.

I’d heard a lot of good things about this open world hacking game.  Things such as “It’s really fun with meaningful activities!” and “Don’t worry, it’s not as bland as the previous game.” (which seem like odd ways to form a compliment, but I digress). Eventually I caved and gave it a go, expecting to find the characters unlikable, the story uninteresting and the gameplay as generic as they come.  I was wrong on at least 2 of those counts, and as Meat Loaf says: 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

Watch Dogs 2 car driving
The driving is fairly enjoyable with plenty of vehicles to choose from. The buses are not fun though, even less so when you have to drive one for a mission.

We play as Marcus, a young hacker breaking into the ctOS server farm to change his online presence so he isn’t profiled as a potential criminal based on his background.  I found this introduction and tutorial to be the weakest part of the game, I had no idea what was going on, how to play the game due to vague instructions, or why I should care about doing this.  But after this shaky start the game picks up rather quickly.  Marcus is inducted into Dedsec, an underground hacker group dedicated to bringing down companies who would abuse people’s online data for their own ends.  This is about as far as I got with the storyline before writing it off as “hackers gotta hack” and just decided to do the missions for the enjoyment rather than the plot.

Watch Dogs 2 Knight Rider Cutscene
I expected to hate the characters in this, but I actually found them to be likeable.

Thankfully, the missions are great.  Plenty of variety in mechanics, approaches and contexts meant I didn’t find myself becoming fed up of gunfights, driving tasks or stealth as in most cases there were plenty of viable options to approach a situation.  From racing a smart car stolen from a movie set to breaking into a spoof of Google I felt the tasks were mostly well paced from mission to mission.  There was the odd miss (driving a bus to pick up passengers was a pain) but for the most part they were well constructed.  This also stretched to the side missions which were mostly great fun, including ripping off a Martin Shkreli type and hacking ATM machines to give money to deserving people.  In spite of the mechanics being similar to the main missions, they were kept fresh by applying them to different contexts.

Watch Dogs 2 Zombie Mission
You can use a vision mode to scan the environment and see certain things through walls.

The game offers plenty of options for each mission which is excellent.  Sneaking through area whilst using you drones to unlock doors and mark threats is an option, but maybe you’d rather hack a police database and have someone nearby be marked as a criminal causing a police chase to distract everyone.  Maybe you could remotely control a fork lift to destroy a drug stash rather than have to fight your way to it yourself.  Or perhaps you could use Marcus’ free running skills to get on a nearby roof to scout the area out.  You can go in guns blazing, but I found this was at odds with the characters.  Straight up murder seemed a bit out of character for Marcus, although it does remain an option that isn’t penalised in any way greater than it would be in GTA or its ilk.  This is actually something I’m a fan of, as I tend to dislike GTA as a series due to not relating to the protagonist and finding them rather unpleasant.  Marcus and his cohorts are fun and seem to have something of a moral compass.  I wouldn’t mind if there was some sort of penalty of some kind for acting out of character and going on a killing spree.

Watch Dogs 2 Knight Rider Race
One of the early missions has you racing a knock off of the Knight Rider car through the city.

The graphics are rather good (with my wife at one point asking if I was playing Forza Horizon 3), with the environment looking mostly excellent apart from the occasional muddy texture when looking at buildings over a long distance.  Animations are also good or character models including some nice transitions from one animation to another.  I did come across the occasional glitch with characters floating in mid air, but this was very rare.  Sounds is fine, with the usual array of radio stations including a variety of genres (although it didn’t take long to start hearing the same songs) and well delivered voice acting lending the characters their own personality.  Seriously, the members of Dedsec are excellently written and acted and weren’t nearly as irritating as i expected them to be.

Watch Dogs 2 Martin Shkreli
Hacking people’s computers allows you to mess about with objects in their house to achieve different objectives.

The main story plus the major side missions took me about 20 hours to get through, but there was plenty left to find and do.  Whilst the bike and drone races didn’t interest me, they’re certainly a nice inclusion.  The ScoutX missions challenge you to find and take a selfie with certain landmarks around the city whilst hidden collectibles can be found to unlock more abilities (collectibles that serve a purpose?!) so there are a good variety of post game activities.  And I’ve not even mentioned the multiplayer features that allow you to co-op missions or invade another player’s world.  A good amount of varied content!

Watch Dogs 2 Hack the Planet
Just to make sure the game doesn’t aim too low, you can hack satellites.

Watch Dogs 2 was developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft.  I played the game on XBox One and highly recommend it.  Once you get through the first hour you have an excellent game with a lot of fun content.  I’m not one for open world games so I may not be the best authority on the genre, but as a video game this is well worth a look.

21 thoughts on “Watch Dogs 2 – Surprisingly little time spent looking at dogs.

  1. You make this game sound really interesting. I’d like to give this a try someday! Unfortunately, I’ll be tied up with Zelda and HZD for the foreseeable future (possibly until the end of time itself 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Just reading this article makes me interested in Watch Dogs 2, typically I run across a lot the same problem with open world, but it seems like Watch Dogs 2, addressed it well. I’m sure it will be full of a lot kicks and fun.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Watch Dogs 2 doesn’t interest me at all. I don’t consider Ubisoft great at making open world games. They’ve gotten better, but I still find myself getting bored in games like Watch Dogs after about 2 hours of playing them which is why I never reviewed any of them :).

    I’m glad you enjoyed the game. Nice review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I expected to dislike it to be honest, but the fact that there aren’t silly collectibles or the ever present “viewpoints” to unlock the map is a step in the right direction.


      1. I’ve been really going through the game at my own pace, but I haven’t really been interested in actually trying to complete the game. I haven’t returned to the game in like 2 weeks, but we’ll see. The missions are really varied and interesting, that’s one thing I really enjoy about the game itself.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. One of the key things for me is that I actually found the characters likeable. A downside I neglected to mention though was that the movement system was a bit weak. I felt like Assassin’s Creed lite and lacked a lot of the freedom in spite of asking you to clamber up large buildings.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That is very much true, although I do wish Marcus was more likable and more fleshed out, but alas it’s Ubisoft, they’re not really known for great writing. I do like the girl and the guy in the mask, the characters are pretty likable except Marcus

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Agreed but I feel like his background is very timely of what’s going on here in America, his character is very timely but in the end, it just gets ignored and I wish that they would play more on that and give us more background but it’s Ubisoft

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m actually going through WD2 as we speak! I’m in the minority with the first one as I really enjoyed it – but this one is better in almost every way!

    It lives up to the promises made of the first and delivers a genuinely interesting cast of characters in an exceptionally well realised open world!

    Really good review by the way!

    Liked by 1 person

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