Watch Dogs 2 is a much more vibrant, entertaining and enjoyable experience than the original Watch Dogs. Expanding on what the first game got right, Watch Dogs 2 tries to add to it with better mechanics, hacking challenges, and a change of tone. Did it do well enough to purchase?
Watch Dogs 2 is an enjoyable and entertaining experience it puts you in the perspective of a new protagonist, Marcus Holloway, an African-American hacker who lives in Oakland. Joining up with a group of eccentric, yet likable, hacktivists calling themselves DedSec, they take it upon themselves to bring down the company Blume who is behind the creation of ctOS 2.0 - an upgraded system from the first Watch Dogs, that's secretly using stolen information of citizens to carry out their own agenda.
From the beginning, Watch Dogs 2 ditches the dreadful seriousness, that plagued Watch Dogs, with a more playful and colorful tone that accompanies an equally colorful supporting cast of characters.
The game does a good job keeping the mood light. It still deals with some pretty serious topics, such as death, and invasion of your personal information and it does a really good parody of Silicon Valley's popular tech companies and pharma bro Martin Shkreli.
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The game shows a lot of improvement when it comes to its missions. Each mission allows for several different ways of completion. From complete stealth skills, to guns blazing, there is a little bit of something for everyone’s play style. Very early on, you’re able to create a 3D printed drone and remote control car, which grants you the ability to reach cramped spaces as well as completely infiltrate restricted areas without setting foot inside.
The drones are also a great way of getting an idea of the area you’re about to break into to plan your next course of action. Their usefulness goes more in depth. Upgrades from the games skill tree grants the ability to drop explosives, EMPs, taunts and more that add to your arsenal.
Alongside his drones, Marcus has a pretty unique melee weapon that consists of a cue ball attached to a knotted rope. It’s one of the most unique melee weapons I’ve seen in an open world sandbox video game in some time. It proved quite satisfying when landing a knockout blow to guards.
The hacking ability, this time around, is a lot more entertaining than the previous game, but I found myself still wishing they could’ve done more. You now have the option to hack just about anything to benefit your play style. Phones, cars, electrical boxes, almost anything electrical is fair game. The downside I had with hacking was I didn’t always feel a sense of accomplishment during my missions. It felt repetitive doing the mini game of directing the signal to the end point. I would’ve liked to see variations in the types of hacks that could be done to unlock the next phase of your missions.
Also, I think it would’ve been great to utilize the hacking skill to find the majority of side missions in the game. A lot of them were just markers on my map that I could just fast travel to and begin.
The number of side missions that accompany the main story can easily make this game a 40 hour plus play-through. From drone racing, go-kart racing, dirt bike racing, “lyft missions”, graffiti, fighting gangs, taking landmark pictures for the in-game social media apps, and a whole bunch more, I managed to put in about thirty six hours and I’m not even finished with all of the side missions. And that doesn’t include the game's Multiplayer mode.
I personally haven’t tried Multiplayer since I was more interested in the story and because online players kept popping up at random times while in the middle of a main story mission. Luckily Ubisoft added an option to turn online mode off.
The last thing I found somewhat awkward was even though the main character comes off as likeable and passionate, it contradicts the gameplay where you are free to kill people with various weapons and then enter a cutscene where you return to a happy go lucky character. While it was fun to run in guns blazing, it did take me out of the story a bit.
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The skill tree, like many RPG and action games, allow you to place points in different areas that fit a player’s play style. Watch Dogs 2 is no different. They use a system called research points that allows you to unlock new abilities in a variety of options. During my playthrough, I chose to utilize the drone, RC, and hacking upgrades opposed to the weapon abilities which proved to be more enjoyable.
Speaking of weapons, you can customize the look of them. The game uses a 3D printer to not only craft your weapons and drones, but also the colors and graphic details on them. It’s a nice touch including Silicon Valley’s fascination of 3D printing into this video game; I love details like this.
Just about everywhere you turn, there is a clothing store where you can customize Marcus’ clothes at any point throughout the game. Although I did not utilize this customization feature much, it’s nice to have that option when things start feeling stale.
The best thing I can say about this game is that it’s very refreshing seeing a game so colorful and silly among a whole bunch of games now that wants to achieve a level of grit and realness devoid of color.
Overall the game mechanics were enjoyable. Driving saw the biggest improvement from its predecessor where I actually found myself enjoying the drive and at times I likened it to Grand Theft Auto 5’s even though the driving still has some room for improvement.
I did run into some head scratching moments where the A.I. made some questionable choices during missions. I found myself slightly annoyed at times with NPC’s who would jump out of the way while you are either driving or running, yet, you are a considerable distance from them.
I wish there was a bit more attention to detail when it came to dialogue of NPC’s. Often times I found many one liners and conversations funny and entertaining but quickly got over them especially, when they reuse the same lines and conversations over and over again.
For the most part the lip sync animations were great but I did find a few times where the sync of the animation didn't match up with the voice over but that’s just me nitpicking.
I think this may have been the weak spot of the game for me.
While I loved the new group of characters, I found myself a bit put off by the use of a couple of characters. The first issue is the character Horatio. His utilization just felt like he was a throw away for the sake of advancing the story. I saw the warning signs when I picked up my copy and his character wasn’t even featured on the cover yet is shown throughout most of the game up to a certain point. it’s unfortunate too because I really grew fond of his character.
That being said, the relationship between Marcus and Horatio was the most enjoyable out of all of the characters. He was humorous and charming.
Another character I questioned is Raymond Kenney. I appreciate their attempt to try and connect the first game with the second but I felt they did a bit of a lazy job with this character. I would’ve liked more clues or foreshadowing that leads to Kenney’s entrance to the game. For people who haven’t played the first title of the franchise, I would see this as a somewhat confusing moment in the game’s story.
My main concern is the “villain” of the story. I just couldn’t see him being that believable as far as a traditional villain is concerned and he seemed to just pop up when it was convenient almost like a Marvel movie villain.
Watch Dogs 2 improved a lot of the flaws from the previous entry and for the most part makes for an enjoyable play-through with a lot of extra content. The characters this time around are a lot more lively and I really appreciate the fact that this time Watch Dogs 2 doesn’t take itself too serious. You don’t necessarily need to play Watch Dogs when a simple read from the wiki can catch you up to speed with Raymond Kenney’s character. Watch Dogs 2 is available for Xbox One, Ps4, and PC.