Maybe Watch Dogs 2 isn’t selling because… it’s not very good?

By Matt Martin, Tuesday, 22 November 2016 12:25 GMT

Information overload.

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“Here’s a bunch of millennials flipping the bird at pretend-Facebook while 3D printing their own weapons, running their own social media revolution armed with lethal Nerf guns”

There’s been a fair bit of soul-searching about the poor initial sales of Watch Dogs 2 this week, as news filtered out that it sold 80 percent less than the first game in its first week. Uh-oh, there goes any chance of Watch Dogs 3.

Was it due to the seemingly broken promises of the first Watch Dogs, which many expected to be the first “real” Xbox One and PS4 game of the generation, only to believe that Ubisoft had “downgraded” it from its rapturous E3 reveal in time for release day? Gamers won’t be fooled again!

Or is it the change of tone over the original, as Watch Dogs 2 finds some much-needed humour. Out go the dark conspiracies and in come the dayglo self-referential hipster gags. Here’s a bunch of millennials flipping the bird at pretend-Facebook while 3D printing their own weapons, running their own social media revolution armed with lethal Nerf guns. Maybe those loons on Kotaku in Action are right: Ubisoft shouldn’t have bowed to SJWs and feminist agendas, injecting politics into our hobby. Down with this sort of thing!

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Was it the fact that AAA games are dying for other reasons? Sales have been low for Dishonored 2, Titanfall 2 and now Watch Dogs 2, and as everyone knows, three is a trend. The market is saturated, games are expensive and less people are buying games on day one. Why not wait until the inevitable and almost immediate price cuts?

All the above are interesting little theories, but may I present my own? The game isn’t very good.

The open world of Watch Dogs 2 is excellent. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had fun wandering around messing up the city, causing chaos, exploring, listening to the mad locals. But the actual game? It’s clunky as hell.

I wanted to go the stealth route but just like the first game you can’t hide bodies. And as soon as one is discovered the guards go full-on alert. The more guards you knock out, the higher the chances of being discovered, and more guards are called in. Stealth is rarely a viable option in Watch Dogs 2.

This is compounded by the fact that the AI in Watch Dogs 2 is so comically aggressive. On my very first introductory mission in Watch Dogs 2 I had to hack a mainframe computer (or something). I’d incapacitated a few guards with a taser on the way, but when they saw me with my laptop out? They threw hand grenades at me. Talk about overkill.

This inconsistency floods Watch Dogs 2. You want to bring down The Man by hacking into corporate websites, by stealing music and setting it free, and by, err, shooting hundreds of cops and guards dead with 3D printed machines guns. Hey, at least you can stick meme decals on them. LOL.

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There are other features that are either over or under developed. It’s attitude is interesting and not nearly as shallow as it appears from the marketing, but it’s never as cool as Mr Robot or as cynical as The Circle. Sometimes is hits the nail on the head (“you are less valuable than the data you produce”) and other times you’ll cringe yourself inside out at its dialogue.

And it throws so much info at you that it becomes overwhelming almost immediately. The screen is littered with pointers and information, layered up until it’s a pile of colour and sound and distractions. Add TV news reports covering a chunk of the screen (while you’re driving down the freeway!) and you’ve got the busiest load of white noise you’ve played in years.

“It throws so much info at you that it becomes overwhelming almost immediately. The screen is littered with pointers and information, layered up until it’s a pile of colour and sound and distractions.”

Other problems; the gunplay is poor, it’s a basic cover-shooter, the unique vehicles are dull, the hidden secrets a bit rubbish, the driving is pretty basic.

That Watch Dogs 2 hasn’t sold very well shouldn’t be a surprise. It certainly wasn’t to Ubisoft.

As a place to get crazy, it’s a great time waster. I laughed at the racist self-driving car. The soundtrack is great. It’s sense of childish anarchy is fun – as much as throwing a brick through a window is in real life, or slapping a sticker on a hard to reach sign. But it’s also about as much fun as getting into a fight in real life (that shit hurts), or getting your stash confiscated by the police. It sucks, man.

It’s style over substance, and that’s coming from someone who quite enjoys having two beers and posting pictures of his new shit on Instagram. Maybe that’s why it’s not selling. It’s not very good once you’ve burnt a few hours in it, and that’s not worth $50.

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