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In the minds of many, Watch Dogs is THE next-gen game. It was at E3 2012 when Ubisoft stole the show and provided viewers their first glimpse of the next-generation. Since then, there's been a tremendous amount of hype and fanfare surrounding the game, and also a fair share of controversy concerning the game's visuals. No, the final game doesn't look as good as the E3 build. Does the overall game live up to the hype, however? Well, that's also debatable, but Watch Dogs does deliver a competent and fun open-world experience that's bursting at the seams with content.
Watch Dogs begins with a hacking job gone wrong, and Aiden Pearce and his partner come across something they weren't supposed to see. A couple of Chicago's less desirable citizens don't take too kindly to this, and Aiden's niece gets caught in the resulting crossfire. Devastated by the loss, Aiden takes to vigilantism, waging war on Chicago's living filth with the help of his magic phone that has a direct connection to ctOS - the central mainframe which controls the entire city's technology.
There's not really much more to say about Aiden though. He's a pretty bland character, in all honesty. I get the impression that Ubisoft were going for a sympathetic character who has his heart in the right place but gets caught up in bad situations. In truth though, Aiden's kind of a dick. He steal cars, runs over civilians, shoots cops, causes huge traffic pile-ups for fun, and even steals money from cancer sufferers. He's just an asshole.
The supporting cast of characters fare much better, featuring excellent voice-acting and animation. The stand-out character has to be the sociopathic Jordi, who enjoys his work perhaps a little too much; but overall, Watch Dogs' crime and revenge story is a bit cliché, even a bit dumb at times - definitely not the games strongest point.
As for gameplay, Watch Dogs feels like an amalgamation of other top Ubisoft franchises. Taking the open-world parkour of Assassin's Creed, and combining it with Splinter Cell: Blacklist's gadget-based stealth and cover-shooting, players will find a competent, though not entirely unique, gameplay experience. Gun combat is conventional, but still fairly enjoyable, though it's held back somewhat by negative mouse acceleration that can't be disabled.
Players can also approach some situations in a more stealthy manner, opting to shoot enemies with suppressed weapons, performing silent takedowns, and distracting guards by activating various environmental props, allowing the player to slip by unnoticed.
Mission-design is largely by-the-numbers, with the majority of the main missions boiling down to "drive here, kill all of these bad guys, hack this thing, cutscene, kill more bad guys, and escape". Worse still, Watch Dogs features those god awful tailing missions that Ubisoft insists on soiling every one of their games with, and also those shit forced-stealth missions that instantly fail and force you to retry if you get spotted.
Other mission design mishaps include a new escort-type mission in which you command a hapless ally from A to B, while fumbling around with surveillance cameras and wishing the game would just let you go in and stealth kill everyone yourself. And the less said about this shitty hacking minigame, the better.