Watch Dogs E3 2013 Preview: Hack Life

by David Sanchez June 18, 2013 @ 11:15 am

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Up until recently, a lot of what we knew about Ubisoft’s upcoming espionage action-adventure game Watch Dogs was relegated to trailers and tiny tidbits of information revealed through interviews. At this year’s E3 in Los Angeles, however, the company gave a closer look at the game and shed light on some of the finer details, gameplay systems, and online connectivity features. I had the chance to see Watch Dogs in action firsthand during an exclusive presentation at the massive gaming trade show, and I was thoroughly impressed by what I saw — so much so that it’s easy to see this being Ubisoft’s next major ongoing franchise.

The gameplay demonstration started out with protagonist Aiden Pearce attempting to infiltrate a locked down industrial type area filled with armed guards. An Ubisoft representative stated that players could potentially go in guns a-blazin’, but for the purposes of the demo, the player decided to do a little hacking instead. By hacking the security cameras, Aiden could spy on threats and formulate ways to get through the heavy security. After getting through, he hacked a forklift, which distracted a guard long enough for Aiden to take him out. Immediately following these events, the cover-shooting gameplay of Watch Dogs was briefly shown off.

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Admittedly, I was more intrigued by the hacking in Watch Dogs than the third-person shooter elements. Thankfully, Ubisoft expressed that you’ll be able to play the way you want to. So if you want to use more tactical stealth methods and hacking equipment, you can do so. Alternatively, you can also purchase weapons from shops and approach the game in a more gun-heavy way. I personally like the idea of being able to mix styles, focusing on a balance of both hacking and gun play.

Aside from following the main campaign, you can engage in various optional activities. During the demo, Aiden followed a potential victim down the street, only to discover that some thug was assaulting her soon after she entered an alley. Aiden chased after the guy, who entered a getaway vehicle; hacked another vehicle; and began chasing after the criminal by car. By using CtOS technology to hack the vehicle, Aiden was able to stop the driver. Well, he made him crash, but that’s kind of like stopping, right?

You can approach Watch Dogs in different ways, but the way you complete objectives will have a direct impact on your reputation. If you have high standing, for example, people will likely look the other way if you do something like hijack a vehicle. If you go the antihero route, you can expect the cops to be on your ass more often. Thankfully, the onscreen map shows you the radius of any given area that the cops may be watching, so you can plan an escape route accordingly.

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There are various things you can hack. If you want to listen in on phone conversations, you can go ahead and do so. If you want to hack into someone’s home computer and spy on them, you can do that, too. You can even use your sweet espionage tech to steal money from people. Of course, that’s a total d*ck move, but it’s there if you want it, so it’s really your call.

Don’t think you can just hack away as you see fit without being vulnerable yourself. Enemy characters and even other players can trace you and gather precious information. You won’t know you’re being hacked at first, but eventually you’ll be able to see the general vicinity of the person who’s messing with you. It’s then up to you to discover that person’s whereabouts and unleash all hell on said individual.

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Hacking other players is actually fairly simple. All you need to do is find a good hiding place (like a car), initiate the download, and wait. While you’re waiting, the other player will get a threat notification, and if you’re spotted, it’s time to run. The idea of always being connected to other players is definitely interesting, but you have to wonder how it’ll play out in the end. If this is a constant part of the single-player campaign, it could prove to be an annoying distraction later in the game, especially considering the fact that the repercussions are still under wraps.

Watch Dogs is a fun change of pace for Ubisoft when you consider how long Assassin’s Creed has been the focal point of the company. Whether or not Ubisoft will dish out sequel after sequel for this new IP like it has for its profitable action-adventure series remains to be seen, but it’s very possible. For now, though, Watch Dogs looks like an absolutely thrilling game that’s worth being completely excited over, whether you plan on playing it on current or next-gen platforms. While we still don’t know for sure how the “always connected” aspect of the game will pan out in the end, it could be a really cool implementation when all is said and done. Aside from that uncertainty, Watch Dogs is shaping up to be a real hit when it launches later this year on the Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, and PC.

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