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Old 11-29-2016, 09:36 AM   #1
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The Evil Avatar Watch Dogs 2 Review!

Title: Watch Dogs 2
Platform: PS4,Xbox One, PC
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Developer: DEVELOPER
Publisher: PUBLISHER
MSRP: $59.99
Writer: Aaron Birch

Watch Dogs 2 Review

Happy, hacking hipsters

Although it was largely criticised and overshadowed by the controversy surrounding its obvious downgrade from its initial E3 showing, I actually liked the original Watch Dogs quite a lot. Sure, I could see why so many found it lacking, and I, myself also found the game somewhat of a disappointment given its lofty promises, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It was a decent, open world title that actually had a collection of enjoyable side activities, and did combat and stealth better than most. The hacking, whilst much more simplified that we'd hoped, worked well, and sat within the core game comfortably. It was good. Not great, but good.

Fast forward to now, and we have the sequel, Watch Dogs 2. This time the game takes place in the bohemian city of San Francisco, and the protagonist is a more contemporary hero, instead of Aiden Pearce's admittedly clichéd gruff, tragic figure.

New boy, Marcus Holloway, is a young super hacker who quickly finds himself on hacktivist group, Dedsec's radar. Inducted into the group following a trial operation, he joins Dedsec with a mission to end the Orwellian state rule that's in place thanks to the new CtOS 2.0 monitoring network created by Blume, as well as a host of other new tech.



Right from the off, it's clear Ubisoft has listened to a lot of the critics of the first game, and the story, setting, and characters are very different to the original. Whereas the first game attempted a darker and more gritty story, the sequel is much more light-hearted and far less serious. It's not on the scale of, say, Saint's Row, but it's much brighter and takes itself far less seriously.

Marcus is a likeable, if borderline stereotypical young, black male with his own views of social freedom, and his compatriots in Dedsec are even more colourful, perhaps no more than Wrench, a hacker/mechanic who constantly wears a digital mask that expresses his emotions via emotes. This may sound silly, and to some degree, it is, but it works, and each character is both interesting and likeable, something a lot of fans found a problem with Aiden and Co.

The actual story is pretty weak initially, and the goal of the game is simply to see Dedsec perform all sorts of high profile hacks so they gain enough followers to take on the CtOS system. As followers are gained, they donate their own computers to contribute to Dedsec's cloud, giving the hacker group more computing power. Power that's needed to take on Blume and its CtOS. It's a simple enough premise, and not as trite as the original game's revenge plot. At the very least, it's much more grounded in today's technological trends, and it leans very heavily on social media.



This is a good thing in many ways, and the hacking in general is a little more believable here than before. Sure, there are a lot of big stretches, such as a 3D printer the group has that can print anything from guns, and rifles, to remote control drones, but on the whole, with a heavy dose of sci-fi, the game does the whole hacking things well enough.

This hacking is also more integrated into the game than before, with more puzzle and navigational elements added to make it a bigger challenge. For example, there are devices you can hack remotely, but others you need to hack physically. This means for some hacks you need to figure out how to get to the device, or brave a jaunt into a restricted area to reach it manually.

The old circuit-style minigame is back, but this time the puzzle is overlaid on the world, and can require correct use of tools, such as the quadcopter, to solve the puzzle. It works very well, and is much better, adding more of an actual challenge.



The remote control units add a lot to the mix too, and open up alternative tactics and approaches to missions. The Jumper two wheeled RC can be used to enter locations via vents or other small entrances too small for Marcus. It can be used for scouting, and can also perform some physical hacks. The quadcopter can fly, and is perfect for scouting and remote hacking, but can't perform any physical duties.

This is, of course, accompanied by the use of camera hacking, which remains similar to the first game, but enhanced with a new hacking view that shows all cameras, even behind walls. This makes navigating camera views much easier.

Plenty of new hacking abilities have been interceded, along with most of the old ones, and there are more options when distracting or dealing with people and enemies, such as making their phones ring, emit harmful high pitched noise, or even blowing up, Samsung-style. One of the best new additions is the new vehicle hack, which you can use to move vehicles forward, backwards and left or right. It's tricky, but makes for great, possibly lethal diversions. In one mission where I had to steal a truck from a guarded compound, I even managed to do so by remotely moving the truck through the compound and out of the gates, all without even stepping foot in restricted territory. Neat.



You can even call in help of sorts by hacking people's personal data and flaggng them as criminals or gang members. This means you can call in a police or gang squad to do battle with your foes. They're still not on your side, but this combat can make for a great diversion, and can even empty a location, making it easy for you to waltz in an do your thing.

When not hacking, you'll be exploring, driving, or taking part in combat and stealth. All of this is improved in some way from before. Vehicle handling seems a little smoother now, although I find most cars handle more like a remote control car than a real one in terms of acceleration and breaking. There's very little feeling of weight like that found in GTA or the recent Mafia III.

Combat is very similar to before, and is primarily cover-based with a very strong lean to stealth. It's good, but it's also much more difficult to actually be stealthy this time. This is due to a much more complex stealth system, with more options, and what seems to be better AI. Don't be mistaken, the AI is still often as dumb as a bag of hammers, but it's an improvement over the first game. Playing on the hardest difficulty makes for some truly challenging moments, and I'd advise this if you want to get the most out of the hacking and combat mixture of mechanics.



Every mission that involves infiltrating an enemy location can be competed in many ways, with a mixture of gadgets, hacks, and guns. You can be non-lethal, or a bloodthirsty maniac, it's up to you. You can also control a lot of machinery too, such as forklifts and giant cranes, all of which expand options available to you. I really like the open nature of the missions, which is much more varied and flexible than the first game, and this is one of the best improvements over the first.

When outside of main missions, there are all sorts of side missions and diversions, and many of these are good too. The side missions are all fleshed out with decent stories and objectives, and the diversions can be fun, such as hacking ATMs and deciding if visitors get more money, or donate to charity. There are eKart races, dirt bike trials, quadcopter races, and other smaller tasks, such as painting Dedsec graffiti around the city. This actually involves navigational puzzles, and painting, or fly posting is a simple press of a button, but it can reward more followers and often incorporates hacking elements to get to where you need to be.

One of the most entertaining diversions is the new location tagging app called ScoutX. This allows Marcus to use his phone's camera to take selfie pictures of him in front of various landmarks, granting more followers. However, the more entertaining side effect of having a selfie cam is being able to interact with NPCs, many of whom will try to photobomb you, or just get plain angry. It's great fun trying to get responses from people, and taking selfies of yourself in ridiculous situations.



Another mini game comes via the Driver SF app. An obvious reference to Driver San Francisco, this is an in-game Uber service where you can take on taxi jobs for various people. These can be pretty funny, and include a robot inventor who's looking for his robot, Johnny 5. Yes, it comes with plenty of references from the movies, and it's great.

All in all, there's a lot to do here, and the city map is very impressive in terms of detail and accuracy. Once again Ubisoft has crafted a believable and absorbing world. Of course, once again it's also a world replete with bugs, glitches and all sorts of weirdness, such as people leaning against thin air, AI pathfinding bugs, graphical clipping, and more. In particular, I've encountered a raft of audio balancing issues that make some audio and music nigh on impossible to make out, and I've also seen a few performance hiccups here and there. This is after the first couple of patches.

The game does have a full online component too, with dedicated online missions for co-op and PvP, and a seamless invasion system. I'd love to say that this is good, but aside from missions that allow solo play, I can't elaborate, as at the time of writing the online performance is non-existent to unreliable (Ubisoft has disabled seamless play due to stability issues). I'm constantly bombarded with server errors during play, and it's just not an option. Oh well. Hopefully this will be patched, but for now, it has to dent the review score.

Taking in to account the usual open world Ubisoft glitches, and the lack of functional online play, I still enjoyed Watch Dogs 2 a great deal, and although I have to admit, I personally prefer the characters and style of the original, the enhancements and wider scope of hacking and general play here really do make it the better game. It's a unique, and very enjoyable open world sandbox, and is well worth a go, even if you're one of the many that disliked the original release.

Score: 4 out of 5



The Good
  • Improved hacking
  • Challenging and flexible stealth
  • Varied missiosn and side quests
The Bad
  • Classic Ubi glitches and bugs
  • Audio issues
The Ugly
  • Broken online features
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Old 11-29-2016, 10:07 AM   #2
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Hmmm, I just might give this a try now after reading this. I thought it would be much worse.

Thanks for the write up!
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Old 11-29-2016, 10:27 AM   #3
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I loved how in one of the missions where you are supposed to steal a vehicle, I just remotely accessed it and drove it right out the gate. The guards didn't know what hit them.

Which is also the con of this game. The AI is both extremely stupid (you can be doing things like opening and closing gates, driving vehicles, etc, and they will just "inspect" the one that it is it) and incredibly frustrating (once the AI is engaging you, it is relentless). Take it from someone who played the entire game without killing anyone (accidental kills were unavoidable due to open world gameplay and there is one mission that can't be done without killing), don't play non-letha. Go silent and stealth, but don't rely on the options available for stunning enemies. Stunned enemies can wake up, you have only two weapon options for stuns, and using environmental stuns will cause the AI to go on alert, which makes it harder to stun additional guards/enemies. Go for the kill.
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Old 11-29-2016, 10:28 AM   #4
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Thanks for the write-up. I was toying with this as the next-in-line after I finish up Dishonored 2 - the review here seals that deal.
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Old 11-29-2016, 10:29 AM   #5
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It appears Ubisoft is starting and/or maintaining a trend of ensuring the first sequel is the go-to version of the game. They did it with Assassin's Creed, so I guess I'm not entirely surprised Watch Dogs 2 is so much better than the first.

I've still all but written it off because of the first one, though. I'll wait for a sale.
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Old 11-29-2016, 11:20 AM   #6
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Judging from the screens and videos, this sequel still isn't as good looking as the original's E3 video from years ago.
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Old 11-29-2016, 11:48 AM   #7
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the major failing of the first one, imho, was how fucking tedious it was to progress. After a few hours of play you had done everything. Then it forced you to do the same things more and more until you were seeing repetition not only after every story point but in the same break between story points.

The amount of time required and the number of stupid tasks needed to progress grew to the point that you no longer cared what the story was, you just wanted to shoot yourself in the head if you had to hack one more thing.
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Old 11-29-2016, 12:18 PM   #8
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My first impressions of the game were less than favorable because of the audio issues and because you start out the game without some key abilities you have to unlock in the skills wheel. Once you've gotten over the hurdle of attaining some key abilities (RC of lifts/cranes, jumpier jumper, big bank account flagging, etc.) and can afford to print out a quadcopter, the game becomes much more fun pretty much instantly.

I've also mitigated the audio issues (PS4, 7.1 DTS setup) somewhat by bringing my audio output levels down to 2-speaker stereo. It isn't as immersive as it could be or should be, of course, but the levels are much more even and you can hear what's going on more consistently, especially character dialog and car engine sounds. When I play the game with my default audio settings, it feels like every single vehicle in the game is an electric car because you just can't hear the engine at all. While playing in 2-speaker stereo, there are still some dialog audio dropouts, but they are much more rare than in 7.1 DTS mode.
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Old 11-29-2016, 12:28 PM   #9
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the major failing of the first one, imho, was how fucking tedious it was to progress. After a few hours of play you had done everything. Then it forced you to do the same things more and more until you were seeing repetition not only after every story point but in the same break between story points.
This is one of Watch_Dogs 2 benefits: You do not take over territory to unlock more missions. Everything is available pretty much from day one, so you choose which missions, side-missions, unlocks and other crap that you want to tackle. You can play the entire game just doing the main missions if you so chose to. So you are pretty much in control of the story beats.
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Old 11-29-2016, 12:37 PM   #10
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Oh, and I was also impressed that this time around they went with some actual licensed music for the radio stations. It's not on the same level as GTA V, but it's better than nothing.
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Old 11-29-2016, 03:16 PM   #11
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Online features were only temporarily broken, they work fine as of several days ago.

And I thought I would hate the game because of it seeming like a GTA V rip off, but its so much fun and LOOKS SO GOOD on the PS4 Pro, 4/5 is spot on.

And I just finished all the multiplayer trophies just like the first Watch Dogs, so Platinum here I come!!
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Old 11-29-2016, 03:17 PM   #12
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Oh, and I was also impressed that this time around they went with some actual licensed music for the radio stations. It's not on the same level as GTA V, but it's better than nothing.
Turbo Lover during Cyberdriver mission rocked my world!!!!
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Old 11-29-2016, 03:32 PM   #13
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Too bad they ruined the story, characters, setting and tone. I have no interest in playing despite getting this for free. The surface level pandering is too much.
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Old 11-29-2016, 06:47 PM   #14
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I'll wait for a price drop and hopefully a mod that will let you change the protagonist's appearance (or at least the stupid facial hair that he currently has).
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Old 11-30-2016, 01:59 AM   #15
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I've only played the game for something like two hours, but even if I hadn't just received my copy of FFXV, I wouldn't be in any hurry to return to the world of "Watch Dogs 2". Sure, it looks very good, and so far, the controls didn't give me any major trouble, but...

San Francisco seems a lot smaller than I remember it from GDC, there are armed thugs everywhere, and my oh-so-athletic protagonist can't jump. I'm also surprised people here like the characters, or the story setup in general. Maybe it gets better later on, but I'm having a really hard time relating to these 20-something year-old hipsters who run around killing people with 8-balls on strings and think that a skull logo would be perfect for making the populace trust their movement.
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Old 11-30-2016, 05:22 PM   #16
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Too bad they ruined the story, characters, setting and tone. I have no interest in playing despite getting this for free. The surface level pandering is too much.
Yeah, they added a veneer of Saint's Row to it. Thought I would hate it for the same reasons but it actually made it a lot more fun. The darker and more serious tone of the first was awesome at first, but then it just got really dry and boring very quickly.
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