Dave Cook continues his appraisal of Ubisoft’s blockbuster with a look at online play, as well as diving deeper into the campaign’s mission arc.
Looking for part one of my Watch Dogs review? Hit the link for perhaps the most detailed write-up this side of the internet.
This is a game about our digitally-connected world, so it makes sense that Ubisoft Montreal has worked some interesting multiplayer modes into its sandbox. I sensed that a lot of people were a bit like, ‘What? No deathmatch’ when the studio confirmed a lack of basic gunplay modes, but I like that approach. The old form of tacked-on TDM, CTF and other modes has been done to death. I’m bored, and chances are you are too.
So here’s a look at what Watch Dogs does differently, along with more discussion about new things I’ve experienced in the overall campaign.
Eye Have You
There are Fixers like Aiden Pearce all over Chicago, and from time to time you’ll get a warning that says one of them has invaded your world. I touched on this briefly in part one, but this forms the basis of Watch Dogs multiplayer, and if you’re a fan of Dark Souls PvP then just know that this is right up your street. Of course, you are entirely able to switch invasions off if you don’t want to be bothered, or if you’d rather focus on the campaign.
”There’s tons going on in Watch Dogs multiplayer, and I’m still thankful that Ubisoft hasn’t peddled out a lot of overly-familiar modes that try to ape the likes of Battlefield or Call of Duty.”
I’ve been putting all my efforts into online play recently, just to determine if it’s really good or not. From the invader’s perspective, you simply bring up the online contracts menu and select a job type, then wait for matchmaking to find you a suitable opponent. My typical wait time was two minutes and it only failed to connect twice, but bear in mind I was playing pre-release. It’s a straight-forward system that seems to work well.
The standard job type is Online Hacking, which sees you invade another player’s city as an NPC. You have to get close to them and hack their phone to download data. Once it’s done you must then escape a radial on the map to win the round. Simple. The trick is in not getting caught, and because you both look like NPCs to each other, you need to walk slowly and mechanically like pedestrians to avoid drawing attention to yourself. This makes for a genuinely tense game of cat and mouse.
Once the hack begins, a green overlay is placed over the map depicting the rough area of your opponent. I’ve failed spectacularly a few times already, but won some triumphant victories as well. However, my main concern is that once your attacker gets into their getaway vehicle and speeds off, you may as well give up. I found that a lot of hackers approach your location in a souped-up car and leave it nearby. Unless you’re smart enough to have done the same, you’ll find yourself eating their dust.
Other rounds saw my invader hacking me from a high up rooftop entirely out of sight, in one of those ‘how the hell do I get up there?’ kind of places. If that happens to you I guarantee you’ll frantically start scanning all the pedestrians on street level to expose the perp – because the streets are always well populated – leaving very little time to scour up high. The mode has good and bad points, but I reckon you’ll have a better match if the game drops you in a fair location.
”Decryption is the kind of mode Twitch streaming was made for, and although it’s early days yet, I guarantee we’ll start seeing some pretty hilarious videos coming out of the community down the line.”
The saving grace is that as you participate in competitive multiplayer events Aiden will earn Notoriety, and this unlocks new skills that are incredibly useful online. The first skill can be earned quickly, and gives all of your weapons anti-vehicle rounds, which are perfect for bringing down cars before your invader makes a break for it. That’s one potential solution for the problem I mentioned above.
Precision Scanning will make the hacker location overlay shrink with every step to give you a clearer indication of where they are, while Security Footage displays an image of the person hacking you, so you can pick them out of the crowd. It just means that online has a purpose in both the campaign and multiplayer; which of course is incentive for those who can’t be bothered interacting with others.