Everything You Need To Know About ‘Watch Dogs’, One Of The More Highly Anticipated Video Games Of The Year

Watch Dogs finally hits most of the platforms it was supposed to arrive on today. Sorry, Wii U owners, Ubisoft will get to you eventually. We put a few hours into the game, and here are a few things you absolutely need to know.

Level Up Your Hacking Tree Early And Often

Honestly, hacking in this game ranges from a fun but inessential bit of mechanics in the third-person shooting to absolutely essential in some parts of the game. Either way, you’ll want to be a master hacker as soon as you can; even just fooling around for an hour or two, increasing hacking skills made getting through some areas a lot easier. It also meant that you could progress in the main story much more easily.

You Can’t Outrun The Police, Or Overtake A Chase Target

It’s gamer instinct: You get into a car chase, you floor it and run from the 5-0. That’s not going to work here, and not because the police are smarter than the average officer in this game. The game specifically wants you to lure the police into traps, whether you’re pancaking them with a semi or blowing them up with a steam vent. Similarly, there’s no driveby option, and to be honest, it’s actually a lot easier and more fun to use traps on your foes.

It’s simple once you get the hang of it; go into the game’s bullet-time mode, find the trap you want, and set it off at just the right moment. It’s basically Batman: Arkham combat except with cars.

Stealth Is Possible, But Annoyingly Hard And Unrewarding

Watch Dogs thankfully ducks any sort of karma meter, although your actions in-game will have something of an effect on what you experience. Basically, the more you act like a dick in the game, the more likely people are to call the police when they recognize you, so playing it quiet will save you some aggravation.

The trade-off is that while you can sneak your way through areas, beating down enemies with a baton and using hacks to distract or even defeat foes, it’s pretty hard and there’s no real bonus for doing so. The game deserves credit for making these encounters a bit easier to use with the hacking mechanic, at least. Most of our time on missions boiled down to winnowing down the field a bit with hacking before going in guns blazing.

That said, the combat’s solid and fun, so you won’t mind. But it’d be nice if hacking was more integral to some parts of the game. That said…

The Hacking Is Unintentionally Hilarious

Oh, man, the whiny computer science articles that are going to come out of this game. The furthest I get into computer science is being able to follow online instructions to install Ubuntu, and even I know what a crock this game is. Watch Dogs treats “hacking” and “magic spells” as functionally interchangeable; if you can see it, and your phone is charged, you can hack it. This extends to cameras, by the way, because a surveillance camera comes with a processor and a highly directional antenna.

That said, there are plenty of enjoyable touches. The lack of a karma meter means you can rip off a con man or a single mom at the end of her rope. Or both! The game’s not judging! Also, in practice, seeing what each character in the game has as a deep, dark secret is actually pretty funny, and does a lot to create the illusion you’re traveling through a living, breathing world.

It also opens up opportunities to essentially play harmless pranks in the game, like switching the muzak to something obnoxious in a coffee shop. This is far too funny if you’ve ever been trapped in a Starbucks, raging against the smooth jazz.

Open World Syndrome Is In Full Effect

Open-world games tend to have a problem in that everything surrounding the main quest is more interesting and fun than the main quest itself. So it is with this game; it’s so packed with stuff to do, ranging from street races to stopping muggings to sneaking into buildings for the hell of it, and Aiden is so utterly uninteresting as a protagonist, that you kind of see the main quest as a chore to get through occasionally.

On the other hand, that does mean you get a hell of a lot of gameplay for your $60. So we suppose in the end that’s not much of a problem. Watch Dogs is out today for PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC.