Watch Dogs 2 Review – No Hack Job

Silicon Right-Up-My-Alley.

08

Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Format: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Released: November 15, 2016
Copy provided by publisher

Historical public opinion has not been kind to the original Watch Dogs. A game propelled by unreasonable levels of hype and buoyed by controversially unrepresentative promotional footage, it’s not the most fondly looked upon game in these cultural circles.

Despite its reputation and its housing of one of the least likable protagonists in all of videogames, I loved Watch Dogs, perhaps more than a vast majority of people.

Watch Dogs 2 enters the world without either of the original’s glaring problems hanging over its head.

Expectations have been significantly lowered, and the detestable Aiden Pierce has been replaced by the instantly more entertaining Marcus Holloway.

07

Marcus is the first clue that Watch Dogs 2 will be an entertaining romp. He’s not a generic Ubisoft protagonist avenging yet another dead family member, he’s positioned as a strong part of hacker culture with the ability to crack a smile.

He’s a pop culture nerd, a cocky asshole, and an overly idealistic hacktivist. In short, he’s the exact kind of protagonist Watch Dogs needed from the start.

Watch Dogs 2‘s narrative is similarly more enthralling than the original’s, throwing in some light social commentary about such things as “big brother” culture, gentrification, and the importance of information.

In a San Francisco where every gadget, building, and vehicle is integrated into a ruling operating system, Marcus and his colorful buddies from DeadSEC conspire to disrupt the system and cause chaos.

Their aim is to win followers and earn both the fame and resources required to take down Blume – a ruling corporation exploiting the “smart city” of San Fran for its own typically evil ends.

Hacking culture is affectionately spoofed, and while the writing can be a little wince-inducing at times, the giddy movie references, satirical plot arcs, and excitable character banter make for a game that is often genuinely amusing.

06

San Francisco itself feels remarkably alive. Pedestrians love interacting with Marcus, whether they’re getting out of their cars to yell at a player blocking traffic, or photobombing Marcus as he takes pics.

It’s a reactive city, and one that I just love wandering around in. Plus of course, you can hack anybody’s phone to find out random facts, eavesdrop on correspondence, or steal some quick cash.

Watch Dogs 2 is absolutely drenched in things to do to the point where it can be overwhelming. As is typical of Ubisoft games at this point, San Francisco is practically bloated with content – from missions and sudden events to collectibles to landmarks where Marcus can take selfies.

Hell, the game even has a Shazam-style app that lets you save music whenever you hear it.

The main missions are well structured and pit DeadSEC up against some interesting adversaries.

Ubisoft has learned from the original Watch Dogs where the fight against Deadmau5 parody DEFALT was the best part. Now, almost every mission offers exaggerated opponents or colorful scenarios, and it’s all the better for it.

05

Side missions occur regularly, sometimes needing to be found in the city by hacking phones or talking to random people. There are also “Driver SF” missions where Marcus ferries people about town, as well as a robust online mode.

Like the first Watch DogsWD2 can be played with a persistent online connection that allows for players to “invade” each other. You never know when a player might turn up in your city and attempt to hack your data, hiding among NPCs and needing to be sniffed out.

Hacked players can use Marcus’ “detective vision” (games love it!) to highlight potential attackers in purple, hoping to find their opponent before it’s too late. If discovered before the download is complete, the hacker can try to escape, initiating a fun competitive chase.

The cat-and-mouse gameplay has always been great fun, and has been given more emphasis in the sequel.

While at times it can be annoying to get hacked in the middle of a mission, I’ve almost always loved the sudden diversion and I delight in hunting down and eliminating enemy players.

Outside of sneaky hackery, players can help the cops chase down real players or engage in a series of cooperative objectives. All of these sidelines contribute to the overall goal of earning followers and unlocking research points that Marcus can use to improve his gear.

If the online interruptions get too irritating, they can be switched off, so you only ever have to screw around with others when you want.

04

Much of Watch Dogs‘ gameplay has been retained. Fundamentally a standard open-world action game, things are given a shot in the arm by Marcus’ ability to hack the “CTOS” powered devices around him.

Players can cause distractions by triggering phone alarms, shut down power around him, and create traps or lures by tinkering with electrical devices.

There’s a ton of stuff players can take advantage of, moreso than the first game, and things again risk overwhelming the player as they drown in options.

It certainly takes time to get to grips with everything Watch Dogs 2 offers, and some of the toys require experimentation before their practical usage becomes apparent.

All that said, there’s room for distinct play styles and things go from an overloard to a fantastic laugh once a player finds their own flavor.

Setting traps to stun and kill enemies, charging in with 3D-printed assault rifles, sneaking about like a ghost, there are lots of ways to approach an objective, and nobody ever has to be tied to one style.

Let me also just reemphasize that you 3D print assault rifles. Weapons and gadgets are all 3D-printed. Because of course they are.

03

The biggest additions to the game are the RC Jumper and Quad Copter. These remote controlled devices can infiltrate places ahead of Marcus, sometimes accessing places he can’t reach.

The Jumper is great for sneaking and hacking physical data ports in Marcus’ stead, using vents and small spaces to scuttle about safely. It can also pick up cash or hidden research points, and be upgraded to taunt NPCs so they’ll follow it into traps.

The Quad is a terrific surveillance device, with upgrades that let it detect and mark enemies more efficiently. It gives a good overview of any area, finds online opponents efficiently, and can remotely hack out-of-reach areas.

It would look stupid for Aiden “Iconic” Pierce to use these things since he’s such a po-faced wanker, but they’re both fun toys that fit Marcus’ personality, and incredibly useful tactical devices.

Watch Dogs 2 has its fair share of glitches, as one sadly has to expect these days.

I’ve had some framerate stuttering, NPCs behaving bizarrely and getting into weird places, and one stunning experience where all the DeadSEC members’ character models spawned maybe forty times each in the same room, all trapped in weird poses.

At the very least it was interesting and funny, even if I did need to reload the game. Certainly one of the strangest bugs I’ve seen outside of Steam’s barrel bottom.

While the “looser” aspects of the game can get in the way, they’re not too frequent to damage the overall experience and WD2 is great at perpetually autosaving so I’ve lost no progress as a result of anything.

Outside of such errors, the game looks pleasant even if it isn’t graphically stunning, with more attention given to creating a stylish looking city and filling it with believable, interactively satisfying NPCs.

02

The one thing Aiden had going for him was his cool coat, and while Marcus doesn’t sport such attire himself, he can buy and discover tons of clothing for all one’s customization needs.

There are lots of fun aesthetic options and I found myself constantly playing with my protagonist’s look. The only grating part is the “Premium” store section that, while not currently featuring anything but preorder bonus items, hints at future exploitation.

As one of the first Watch Dogs‘ few long-standing fans, I was hoping for an expanded version of the original game with more playthings and a better hero, which is exactly what I got.

There are still lots of typically “Ubi” moments in the game, and the issue of nebulous, sometimes repeated content is hard to avoid, but overall this is one of the best open-world Ubisoft games out there.

Missions are varied and hugely fun, traditional combat and driving are enjoyable, while all the hacking is a delight – traffic lights to turn off, sewer openings to explode, cars to steer out of control, and opposing players to troll.

Lots to do, and a vast load of it’s a trip.

01

Most importantly, Watch Dogs 2 offers a sense of humor running through it that the series badly needed. You don’t need miserable family death stories in a ludicrous game about “smart cities” and cartoony hackers.

You need writing that leans into the silliness, that has a laugh at its own expense, which is exactly what this game gets.

It has its serious and its sad moments, absolutely, but it also has Short Circuit 2 quotes, a charming Aliens versus Predator debate, and the theft of a parody Knight Rider car.

Watch Dogs 2 is a great game as a rock solid action title, but being unafraid of its own nonsense is what makes it a truly pleasurable experience.

Oh, and I kind of love Wrench, DeadSEC’s masked, toaster-smashing geek. He’s just the right sort of cringe and I really want that mask.

It’s better than an “iconic baseball cap“, at any rate.

9/10
Superb

keironsmith123
Guest
keironsmith123

Damn this month is being brutal to my bank account only just got Dishonered 2 last week as well (i’m loving it so far) and now this.

Peter Korman
Guest
Peter Korman

As someone who wasn’t a fan of the obnoxiously-serious tone of the first one, I’m incredibly happy to see that this doesn’t make the same mistake. As for the fun of the game, Jim sold this game to me more than the entire promotional campaign. I’m not sure I’ll purchase it any time soon, but I’ll definitely give it a look at it after a price drop.

diamond
Guest
diamond

The first game did have a sense of humor, it just didn’t come from Aidan.

Peter Korman
Guest
Peter Korman

I didn’t stick with the game for more than a six or seven hours (there was a pricing glitch at Walmart, and I got it for $1, so I didn’t feel like I was losing out on anything). Perhaps the tone brightens up further down the road.

Lloyd
Guest
Lloyd

Always good to hear a game is worthwhile, though personally I’m still cold toward this game. Something I’ll get around to playing eventually probably but not in any hurry.

Scott John Harrison
Guest
Scott John Harrison

I bought the first game second hand and got bored of it rather quickly – mainly because of the generic-ness of the protagonist. This seems like it will be better but I think I will just wait to watch a good let’s play of it instead of playing it myself.

CriticalQuit
Guest
CriticalQuit

Maybe I’ll pick this up around the winter sale. I’ve always been intrigued by the Watch_Dogs concept, but never picked up the first one because I’d always heard it was mediocre.

Sperium3000
Guest
Sperium3000

You know, if a few years back you told me I’d be more interested in a Watchdogs game than in a Dead Rising sequel starring Frank West again, I’d gut you with my chainsaw-taped-to-the-end-of-an-oar.

I need a fucking drink,…

diamond
Guest
diamond

I think Dead Rising 4 looks fucking awesome, couldn’t care less about Frank having a new voice actor, I barely even remember his voice anyways.

Hell I didn’t even notice that David Sarif in Mankind Divided had a new voice actor.

Sperium3000
Guest
Sperium3000

I’m sorry, what part of my post led you to think that I was talking about you? Why do the personal feelings of someone you don’t even know bother you so much you have to shove your own in my face like I’m wrong for having the opions I have?

Anton
Guest
Anton

Well, this is a pleasant revelation. Seeing as I liked the first one despite all its flaws, I might actually pick this up too.

cowboyjimmy
Guest
cowboyjimmy

i watched your Jimpressions video and i couldnt help myself but not to notice how the video was choppy, was this a mistake in encoding or the game really runs that bad?

EDOJHVKHV
Guest
EDOJHVKHV

“Just the right sort of cringe…”ok then.

Belsameth
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Belsameth

I loved the original despite its failings so I have *huge* hopes fore this one. Roll on tuesday! m/

Greyson Xiu
Guest
Greyson Xiu

I did not expect a 9/10… I am gonna get this one once I get my pay next month.

Buddahec
Guest
Buddahec

Take that with a grain of salt, the protagonist is gay.
Which is an aspect Jim has a boner for.

Peter Korman
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Peter Korman

Considering that he didn’t mention that in his review, I’m pretty sure you’re wrong. The review backed up the score (in my opinion).

Buddahec
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Buddahec

Keep in mind Jim isn’t stupid. If he wanted to use his review to increase sales of a game with this protagonist; even among those prejudiced; what would be the best way to do that?

Peter Korman
Guest
Peter Korman

You could easily be right as well. I just think the text backs up the higher score.

Gus
Guest
Gus

He’s black AND gay? Wild.

Greyson Xiu
Guest
Greyson Xiu

I am not a white guy I am actually Chinese. so what do I care about what my in game skin color is. its not gonna be an Asian dude anyway. so I rather be a black guy than a white guy at this point cause I have been so many white muscly men.

Henry Ashman
Guest
Henry Ashman

Well this might be getting promoted from my “meh don’t care” pile into my “maybe in a sale” pile then.

But my biggest turn off was the whole “hacking culture” side of things. Seems like punk rockers swallowed a technical phrasebook and don’t know what any of it means. All the media in the run-up looked beyond the level of cringe I can tolerate.

Greyson Xiu
Guest
Greyson Xiu

hey if its not your thing than its not your thing 🙂

diamond
Guest
diamond

I know people who are like that in real life, so i’m totally fine with it.

Aiat
Guest
Aiat

So this does not have any microtransactions?

GamingSage
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GamingSage

probably not now, but they gotten smart enough now to put them in after the reviews of the game comes out

Gareth
Guest
Gareth

Do the majority of reviewers even mention them?

Lies That Bind
Guest
Lies That Bind

Not unless they’re like Jim.

GamingSage
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GamingSage

if there are in at the time the review is done? usually yes

Candy Cab
Guest
Candy Cab

Car skins and clothing if that counts ?

Charles Smith
Guest
Charles Smith

i am wondering how long does this game take to complete story

astra
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astra

I kindof figured this would be good. Watchdogs wasn’t necessarily bad and ubisoft always nails the first sequel

M. P.
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M. P.

First Titanfall 2 and now Watch_Dogs 2… Are we entering an era of redemption for the Big Three?

diamond
Guest
diamond

Jim also sort of liked Infinite Warfare, so maybe.

Bilateralrope
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Bilateralrope

I might buy this. Once all the DLC has been released.

Mario M.
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Mario M.

Looks like Triple-A’s are doing their homework.

uxtull
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uxtull

It’s post Witcher 3 world after all.

Will Quan
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Will Quan

Can you actually punch people this time?

Candy Cab
Guest
Candy Cab

Yes, one punch knock outs that are pretty entertaining. Checkout this mornings Streamer House stream. Inigo was on a rampage smacking people and mowing everyone down. Some of the police chases were hilarious.

goodbyejojo
Guest
goodbyejojo

another case of “this is what the first game was supposed to be” ?

Chris
Guest
Chris

God damn it Jim. Stop making me want games. I literally don’t have the time to play console games (The nintendo switch can’t come out soon enough)

wvstolzing
Guest
wvstolzing

One downside of trying to keep up with Jim’s work is that he makes me want games …. and I can’t afford any at the moment.

(Once he let me down, though, with MGSV.)

The Jünger Ludendorf
Guest
The Jünger Ludendorf

On a side note, anyone played Owlboy lately? I heard it’s fan-Titan-astic.

Leon Shepard
Guest
Leon Shepard

damn us pc peasants and having to wait a further 2 weeks as we are not worthy

Psychobudgie
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Psychobudgie

Given the current state of the PC version of Dishonored 2 I’m not holding out any hope whatsoever.

CaitSeith
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CaitSeith

Add 1-2 months so they can fix their iconic game breaking bugs.

Pangalaktichki
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Pangalaktichki

Wait… what? 9!? Wait… what? Wow… I… it’s THAT good? I wasn’t expecting that, especially from Ubi, seems like another game for shopping list.

Father
Guest
Father

Ubi is a hit or miss when it comes to games. They’ll put out a turd and then come out with a gem the next year.

Burt Humperdink
Guest
Burt Humperdink

True this is exactly what happened to Assassins Creed, first one was okay but deeply flawed first sequel was awesom.

wvstolzing
Guest
wvstolzing

Hopefully the 2017 AC will also be good.

diamond
Guest
diamond

I’m not holding my breath, I think that series needs to truly re-invent itself by taking place either in the present or entirely in the future, ancient Egypt just doesn’t sound like it’s going to be enough to stop the series from becoming stagnant.

wvstolzing
Guest
wvstolzing
If it *really* does take place in ancient Egypt, they’ll need to address fundamental questions with respect to the lore (Back then the Assassins didn’t even call themselves ‘Assassins’, and didn’t even use the hidden blade — so what was it like, to be a member of the ‘order’? Was there much of an ‘order’ to speak of? –etc., etc. ) *and* if they can do this at all creatively, it might give the currently stale story, and lore that’s ridiculously dwindled in significance, a new breath of fresh air. Also there’s an abundance of real-life crackpot theories about ancient… Read more »
SmaMan
Guest
SmaMan

And then they slowly drifted back in to broken games at worst, mediocre games at best.

I think the real difference here is *time.* They gave Watch Dogs’ sequel a few years, so they could more adequately see what people liked and didn’t like about it, and then build the game based on that.

diamond
Guest
diamond

I thought the first one sucked, it was really fucking boring and repetitive.

ManuOtaku
Guest
ManuOtaku

Lately they have been a hit, primal, syndicate and now this. Probably their next trio might end up being not a hit.

Gareth
Guest
Gareth

And which game is it they’ve claimed is now actually in production?

ManuOtaku
Guest
ManuOtaku

It seems to be a new iP.

Gareth
Guest
Gareth

While it has been over a decade Beyond Good & Evil is not a new IP.

ManuOtaku
Guest
ManuOtaku

Oh i meant the game that appear to be an space shooter. Yes BG&E is not a new IP.

ManuOtaku
Guest
ManuOtaku

I did like the fist game, although not perfect by any means, i really like the different approach to any mission and that it was like a mixture of assassins creed and splinter cell.

I have high hopes for this game, nice to hear that is more of what made the first game good. Sadly my only desire for this series was a nemesis system of his own, which is something i believe would do wonders to the series, i mean to see the repercussion of your hacking activity.

Father
Guest
Father

I’m glad that they have learned their lesson from the last game!

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