Watch_Dogs Review: Deus Ex Smartphonia

👤by Tim Harmer Comments 📅27-05-14
Tools To Survive

Aiden's Smartphone

It will become something of a cliché in retrospective discussions of Watch_Dogs but Aiden's smartphone truly is a catch-all. Part game UI element, part mythical skeleton key to the vaults of Croesus, through a simple tap on the screen our protagonist can unlock doors or hack cameras half a mile away by catching a glimpse of it from another camera. Thematically skills unlock complex hacking apps which Aiden can use so effortlessly, but it all serves as a massive layer of abstraction to shield the player from any underlying complexity. Supposedly Ubisoft consulted with Kaspersky on the real-world capabilities of such software, but one imagines that a certain amount of creative licence was still applied. Of course this portrays Aiden as less of a master hacker, more a disgruntled Facebook app power user.

The smartphone UI, well represented in-game and brought up with a middle mouse click, is the major means you have of accessing in-game statistics and gameplay features. You can also check-in at local landmarks as if it were 4-square, if that's your thing. Navigation is via mouse movement but without a visible pointer it is clumsy at best, perhaps some indication of how silly such a system is to represent and invest with gameplay significance.

Weapons and Equipment

As you would expect from any shooter title Watch_Dogs includes a wide selection of weapons and miscellaneous equipment for the deadly encounters within the game. In time-honoured fashion you start with a pistol, but swiftly unlock both rifle and SMG via mission rewards and pickups from foes you defeat. Advanced versions are available via mission unlocks or purchasable in-game from vendors.

At least initially the choice of weapons is largely irrelevant as pistol and assault rifle are more than sufficient for your needs. Recoil is a factor given how obnoxious the in-game controls can be, and sometimes Focus should be used just so it is less difficult to deal with. Later sniper rifles, useful by virtue of their extended range, are more optimal as stealth sections become more complex; sadly non-lethal weapons don't seem to be a part of your possible arsenal.

Watch_Dogs also includes a rudimentary crafting system, allowing the creation of helpful pieces of equipment such as portable distraction devices and even IEDs for use during missions. Typically you'll unlock items via the crafting skill tree but some may also be granted temporarily if they're critical to the completion of certain critical tasks. Crafting materials can be found around the world, and limited inventory space means that you're well served by crafting equipment only as you need them.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the wide array of crafted items are most useful in challenging areas of gameplay, either where you want equalise the numbers in combat or avoid it altogether. The most valuable are probably jammers, which help you to avoid ctOS police scanners during random encounters in the wider game world as well as specific missions. Distraction devices are less useful as they're so sensitive to timing, something problematic given the already ropey control system.

Mission-specific hacks and equipment are often granted you when they're necessary to complete a specific objective, but to use them in multiplayer or in the open world they typically need to be unlocked beforehand.

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