The reveal to Watch Dogs was met with incredible hype. I was considered to be one of first truly next-generation experiences. The graphics were meant to be extraordinary. The gameplay involved a rogue vigilante who can hack into streetlights, networks, and personal information without breaking a sweat while evading authorities in a game of cat and mouse. It was seen as something that would really break ground but, in reality, the game only broke itself.
The critic reviews average out to a 77 out of 100 according to Metacritic while the user ratings reached a saddening 4.6. Much of the outcry against the game comes to its technical issues on the PC. For many PC gamers, Watch Dogs was virtually unplayable or completely hindered by graphical upsets and its poorly tethered port to PC. You can read the Metacritic reviews briefly to see the actual extent of the games hindrances (there are many, to say the least). For console gamers, criticism on its technicalities often came from its aesthetic. It appeared to be no aesthetically appealing than the graphics capabilities of the Xbox 360 or the PS3 and it was, in fact, no greater than its predecessors either.
Aside from the technicalities, the game also suffered from the complete lack of development that was apparent in every aspect of the game. The game focused on hacking the world – an action that would reasonably take at least some sort of time but was inevitably reduced to a simple press of a button. I can understand the concept is relatively new the gaming world but it felt incredibly underwhelming to be able to hack everything with such ease. And when I say that you can hack everything… you can hack everything. You can hack a grenade in an enemies hands forcing it to explode. How you hack a grenade, I’m not sure, but in Watch Dogs, I suppose, you’re not meant to question it.
The combat system is set to be stealth-oriented and meant to focus on a game of cat and mouse with your targets and your pursuers; however, the game enlists a monotonous form of side missions to raise you enough money to buy guns, explosives, and even more guns. When forced into combat, the experience is nothing greater than your average TPS.
As for the environment, the ‘open-world’ presented in Watch Dogs is nothing to be impressed about. Compared to the monument in gaming that has been Grand Theft Auto V, Watch Dogs’ map is a child’s sandbox in the middle of the Sahara Desert. Regardless of its size, the game is almost impossible to drive through. The engine forces cars to sputter through walls, fly incredible distances, receive minimal damage, or just fly around in a ridiculous fashion. It’s humorous at first but becomes an incredible nuisance in time.
If traversing the environment wasn’t hard enough, there is also the horrendous AI both within combat and outside of it. Firefights, explosions (that rarely will ever kill you(, and dead bodies falling left and right never seem to even phase the average citizen driving down the roads. As for the law enforcement, they never incorporate any non-lethal tactics in an attempt to take you down. If you bump into their car then you best prepare for a firefight.
As for those firefights, a shot to the knee may disable even the most heavily armored enemies but a shot to the head will instantly kill a target no matter their difficulty. As for citizens, shoot their foot and they die instantly. If you try to mix it up with some road rage, you’ll notice that the game can barely discern how much momentum the player has at any given moment. Hit an enemy at high speeds and he may get up without a scratch. Receive a small bump from a car and you might be killed instantly. And with all of these difficulties, you might think there’d be a penalty for dying from all of these ridiculous ways but, in fact, you respawn a few feet away from your dead body with full ammunition. Failure isn’t even penalized in the game. Even the karma system barely plays an effect on the games ‘outcomes.’ My experience proved that the system altered a single outcome throughout my entire playthrough(s).
As for the story, it was nothing more than bland a carbon copy of previous Ubisoft titles where a rogue vigilante fights an overwhelming evil. The karma system was meant to affect your choices and character interactions but, in reality, your hand is held through every mission as if you were an infant gaming for the first time. There are even major evident plot holes and character flaws that make you scratch your head or roll your eyes in every cutscene. By the end, I was merely trying to finish the game so I could put it down for good.
All in all, this was nothing that I hoped Watch Dogs would be. It was a broken, poorly developed game that should’ve never been released so early. In essence, this felt like a bad alpha-version of a game that could’ve been great. In the end, it was a colossal failure. Don’t waste your time or money on a game so poorly made.