When it made its debut two and a half years ago, Watch Dogs brought a lot of fresh air to the sandbox-based action game landscape. It was of course the attempt by Ubisoft to create its own Grand Theft Auto, introducing however different themes and closely linked with the gameplay, in this case the world of hackers, smart cities with all their contradictions and a protagonist, Aiden. Pearce, who was acting out of revenge: tired, tried by life, he abandoned his habits to pursue a single purpose, and that is to annihilate those responsible for the death of his niece.
Of course, also trying to clean the company of bad apples in the meantime. A ruthless punisher, in short, who used technology to his advantage to control vehicles, traffic lights, cameras and of course computers. That mix of storytelling, atmosphere and gameplay worked, allowing Watch Dogs to establish itself as the best-selling day one game ever in Ubisoft history. It is therefore surprising that for this second episode the French house has thought about changing practically everything: we have a new protagonist, Marcus "Retr0" Holloway, XNUMX-year-old as good at hacking as he is athletically gifted; a new setting, represented by the San Francisco Bay Area, twice the size of the Chicago of the debut chapter; new mechanics related to computer breaches, also enriched by the introduction of two different drones; and, above all, a very different approach to the narrative, which abandons the serious atmospheres of the original game to propose something much more frivolous and light-hearted.
Watch Dogs 2 is a very different game than the first episode, rich and fun despite the plot
What a special group
The incipit of Watch Dogs 2 sees Marcus intent on deleting his personal data from the ctOS servers as a "baptism of fire" to become part of the San Francisco DedSec and thus join a group that includes Sitara, a skilled street artist far wiser than his years; Wrench, a very strange guy, who always wears a mask with an LED display to communicate his mood; Josh, shy and taciturn but damn good with computers; and Horatio, an employee of Dudle by day (fictional version of Google), an executioner hacker by night.
The story revolves around how the Blume Corporation is using ctOS 2.0 and the famous social network Invite (aka Facebook) to manipulate people, steal their information and even influence their vote. Marcus himself was a victim of the system years before, unjustly accused of crimes he had not committed just because the software of the powerful multinational deemed him capable of carrying them out. The DedSec group opposes these aggressive profiling techniques by launching its own app and inviting its followers to share computational skills to allow the breach of Blume's servers and thus reveal the truth about its work. Now, if one of the flaws of the first Watch Dogs was the lack of deepening of the supporting actors, we can safely say that the sequel remedies this lack and outlines Marcus' companions quite well, perhaps even more than it does with him. The problem is, however, that the plot always remains rather inconsistent: a particular event occurs after the first half of the campaign, but we are very far from Aiden's motivations. The atmosphere is generally light-hearted, designed for a specific audience, and although some cutscenes tear a smile, there is a real risk that a part of the audience will not recognize themselves in these characters., who ultimately fight evil with evil: they get money by transferring it from the checking account of random people, steal vehicles on the street, read messages and listen to private phone calls, and often clash with the police.
Although the Watch Dogs 2 implant represents the natural evolution of the mechanics seen in the first episode, the initial impact with the game is not the best and it takes some time to understand where the developers want to go. Here too there is a great emphasis on stealth and the possibilities for Marcus to activate the "tactical view" have multiplied to exploit manholes, motors and electronic devices to his advantage, turning them into stun charges, thus getting rid of quite a few enemies before even going to the site of a mission personally.
In this sense, the two drones play a fundamental role: the Jumper, equipped with wheels and a spring to jump, allows the protagonist to complete even physical hacking and is therefore tremendously convenient for completing risky tasks, perhaps within an office full of guards; the Quadricopter does not boast such characteristics, but it is really useful for stealing access codes on the fly (literally) and carrying out a reconnaissance of the places to identify threats and strategic points. We can say that the behavior of the enemies is not trivial, and indeed the degree of challenge is quite significant, especially in the advanced stages or in certain side quests, so much so that you will find yourself having to repeat them several times. Succeeding in a seemingly impossible feat produces great satisfaction, as does understanding how one can reach a certain point or violate a system. We found the mechanisms related to the traps very funny and well implemented, a sort of strategic variation that finds fertile ground especially in some secondary missions, when we are given an outline of what the situation will be like in a few minutes and we will have to prepare the location best to cope with threats. Also beautiful are the "circuit" puzzles in which you have to conduct energy along a path to access a device, adjusting the various branches and unlocking nodes to get the signal to its destination. We must also applaud the quality and variety of the missions, without distinguishing between main and secondary: beyond the sorties in the bases of some gang, you always find yourself doing different things and new mechanics are introduced from time to time, such as those concerning the control of cranes and mechanisms, or even the production line of robots designed for military use. In this regard, a funny quote from the first Watch Dogs also stands out, but we don't want to spoil the surprise. So the stealth and its implementation are good, but unfortunately there are no alternatives, in the sense that the silent action arises in most cases as the only possibility, even when maybe the game spurs us to take up a grenade launcher and unleash the hell without caring about anything. In those cases the clear numerical superiority of the opponents and their ability to surround us (and even to call quick reinforcements) means that our chances of surviving are close to zero. Let's also put a gunplay that does not convince and an emphasis on the arsenal much lower than everything else (first of all the skills that we can unlock using the points earned during the campaign), and it is clear why the solution we have always preferred in the game was to distract enemies by making their phone ring and take them down quickly. Of course, as long as they weren't touring in a group ...
My whole city
If the concept of smart city hides many threats, in the same way Marcus can exploit the peculiar computer system that regulates the functions of San Francisco (and of the vehicles that go around its streets) in order to control the almost complete way the scenario. Enhancing the hacking of the cars allows you to steal them without even triggering the alarm, but it is the traction control of the other vehicles that makes the difference, allowing us to have the road free from any obstacles thanks to a simple press of a back button, which causes the vehicle in front to swerve sharply to the right or left.
Similarly, if chased we will be able to trigger bombs using the manholes to eliminate the car that we have at our heels, or even in that case use hacking to make it skid or brake and thus gain a little advantage. The variety of vehicles present in the game is formidable, and although the physics tends to be a bit light and the approach to driving inevitably arcade, there is a good differentiation depending on the car or motorcycle we drive, passing from more nervous behaviors. to others that are precise and easily manageable. The setting naturally plays a fundamental role: Watch Dogs 2's San Francisco is gorgeous and includes surrounding areas like Silicon Valley, Oakland, Civic and Marin. Among the many places present there are also numerous easter eggs and more or less autobiographical quotes for Ubisoft, in addition to the usual, full-bodied hours of sandbox-based productions like this one. You can set a destination on the virtual smartphone and leave, or go around for the pure pleasure of doing it, perhaps going to clothing stores to give the protagonist a look in line with our tastes. Speaking of smartphones, as in the first chapter it is a fundamental device, through which to access missions, the map and secondary functions such as the assignments as a driver or the ScoutX app, which rewards us with new followers if we take selfies in certain location. Added to this is the inevitable Media Player, where you can select the songs from the soundtrack that will accompany our adventures between different genres or thematic radio stations.
Watch Dogs 2's approach to online multiplayer is very interesting, as the activities that you can do together with other users are inserted transparently into the standard action. For example, it happens that you are near a player that we have the task of hacking, and at that point you can decide whether to pursue this activity or move away and stay on the campaign. There are many types of online events, both competitive and cooperative, and we had the opportunity in the first hours of testing to try different ones, with the only exception of the more structured one, "Bounty Hunter", in which a player dresses the clothes of the wanted man and the others chase him, moreover with the support of the police forces.
PlayStation 4 Trophies
The fifty Trophies of Watch Dogs 2 are obtained by completing activities that follow the events of the single player campaign, but the sandbox could only open up a series of extra opportunities: being photo bombed during a selfie, stealing a bus, caressing a certain number of dogs, complete a regatta, participate in speed races and so on.
From a technical point of view
Beyond a fluctuating characterization for the characters, with Marcus being a bit anonymous in the first place, it must be said that technically the developers of Watch Dogs 2 have done a great job. There is less attention to the many non-player characters, as is normal, but as mentioned, the San Francisco scenery is splendid and is well enhanced by a solid and convincing lighting system, with good effects (the reflections of the water in the puddles, while the rain is only discreet), gives an excellent water yield and a fairly wide visual horizon, although there are some pop-ups from time to time.
The textures are clear and succeed in the arduous task of not being repetitive, with a view to a setting full of personality even in its suburbs, with suggestive cross-sections that actually make you want to open the protagonist's camera app and take a selfie. The many vehicles that can be used boast a convincing design, referring to real models of brands that are not concretely represented in the game, and are damaged in a variable way depending on the impact. The huge world created by Ubisoft Montreal moves well on PlayStation 4 (we will delve into the performance on PlayStation 4 Pro separately), maintaining thirty frames per second in most situations, whether walking or driving. The dips occur during particularly messy firefights, between explosions and gusts, or while driving in traffic and making a sharp bend, forcing the graphics engine to quickly recalculate the landscape. There is some aliasing on the cars, but nothing transcendental. As for the sound sector, we need to make some clarifications: the soundtrack is fairly varied and it is even possible to find new songs around the map, but it tends to be a bit too intrusive and we preferred to deactivate it during our hours of game. As this is a completely personal matter, it is clear that to your ears it could instead be exciting and indispensable. We found the Spanish voice acting excellent, but there is a big problem with the audio levels that affects the early stages of the game and that heavily undermines the rendering of the dialogues, with volumes that are too low compared to the ambient sounds or obvious differences between a level and the other: we hope that we can fix it with an update, because we are talking about an inconvenience that has a marked influence on the first impact with the experience.
CommentTested version PlayStation 4 Resources4Gaming.com
Watch Dogs 2 is a very different game than the first episode, with a largely inconsistent narrative and a somewhat anonymous protagonist, but at the same time strong in a sandbox extraordinarily full of things to do and deep stealth mechanics, multifaceted and very well implemented. The many missions available boast a constant quality level and an excellent variety, without distinction between main and secondary, and the introduction of drones and new hacks makes the gameplay even more exciting. Of course, there are aspects that end up a bit in the shadows, crushed by the weight of other factors that the developers wanted to focus on, but in general we are faced with a solid, full-bodied and very fun product.
- Very rich sandbox, beautiful scenery
- Technically it is a great sight
- Deep, multifaceted stealth mechanics ...
- ... but don't ask him to be a third person shooter
- Plot without treble, a little anonymous protagonist
- Some problems in the audio levels