Watch Dogs 2 is coming, here’s hoping Ubisoft has learned from the original game’s mistakes
A recent press release from Ubisoft has confirmed the developer plans to release a sequel to Watch Dogs before the end of the 2017 fiscal year. This is certainly welcome news to fans of the 2014 open-world game, which put players in control of vigilante hacker Aiden Pearce as he cleaned up the streets of Chicago on a quest for vengeance. However, the game fell short of many players’ expectations when it ultimately released, making the title a somewhat divisive entry in Ubisoft’s catalog of sprawling, sandbox franchises. From performance issues and under-cooked hacking mechanics to the game’s painfully formulaic design approach, there were more than a few things that kept the title from living up to its true potential. While we’re excited as anyone to dive back into the world of digital subterfuge and underworld intrigue that made the original game so addicting, there are more than a few pitfalls Ubisoft will have to address before we’re ready for the next entry in the series to hack its way into our hearts.
One of our major gripes with Watch Dogs when it released back in May of 2014 was the game’s driving controls, which left quite a bit to be desired. Best described as attempting to steer a refrigerator strapped to a pair of roller skates, getting around Watch Dogs‘ seedy streets and rural valleys that make up Chicago and its surrounding areas never felt quite right. It felt as if Aiden Pearce were perpetually soaked in a sickly haze of booze and sedatives, pitting players against seemingly drunken driving mechanics that almost always felt like a battle of wills between where players wanted to go, and where the game seemingly wanted you to crash your slick new pair of wheels. Cars slide and careen uncontrollably, with little sense of weight or fluidity, which consistently makes the pursuing targets for missions or evading capture by the police way more trouble than it should be. Simply put, if Watch Dogs 2 intends to keep players in the driver’s seat for an extended period of time, Ubisoft better work on fine-tuning the game’s driving component.
Of course, we can’t talk about evading the police without mentioning another glaring issue with the original Watch Dogs that really needs to be addressed in the sequel; Chicago’s cops are deathly afraid of the water. Swimming out to sea or hopping on a boat was like pressing the “win” button: it was always a surefire way to evade capture in the game, as police would all but forget about the fifteen cars you blew up, countless innocents you slaughtered and sensitive databases you compromised once they realize with abject terror that you’ve allied yourself with the nefarious forces of H2O. Between this simple AI exploit and your enemies’ utter lack of regard for self-preservation, we really hope the next game in the series delivers a pretty major upload of logic to Watch Dogs‘ brain-dead enemies and Chicago’s seriously aquaphobic police force.
For a game that focused so heavily on selling its hacking theme, it’s a shame that the feature is implemented as cheaply as giving players a universal remote that interacts with any electronic devices in an area with no real consequences. Shallow, single-button hacking that allowed you to run amok on the city’s infrastructure so long as your Magical Hacking Wonderphone had a few bars of battery life made what could have been a huge selling point nothing more than a tired shtick. This halfhearted approach to the game’s central mechanic did little to sell the game’s smart and sexy premise of being a more cerebral experience than your average open-world title. Adding more context to the hacking, maybe in the form of some actually engaging mini-games to interact with the objects in the environment would go a long way towards making it a more interesting part of Watch Dogs 2‘s package.
Last but not least, if there’s one thing Ubisoft can’t afford to do with Watch Dogs 2, it’s showcase a version of the game ahead of it’s release that looks vastly improved over what we’ll ultimately see at retail. The massive visual downgrade the original Watch Dogs received following the game’s breathtaking reveal at E3 2012 did a lot to hurt the goodwill of fans, who expected the game to look worlds better than what we saw at retail (that is, before the PC modding community got their hands on the game). Obviously, graphics aren’t everything, but in a generation where players are absolutely fed up with bullshots, downgrades and patches that hurt the visual fidelity of the titles they’ve already purchased, a repeat of this fiasco is the last thing Ubisoft needs to keep the peace with their consumers.
That said, despite its flaws, we really enjoyed our time with the original Watch Dogs. The game’s narrative was interesting enough, and the gun-play felt fantastic. If Ubisoft can capitalize on these strengths with the sequel while building upon the things that weren’t so fleshed out, the game could really be something special. We’re excited to see where the series takes us next sometime over the next year. Here’s hoping Ubisoft takes the needed time to give Watch Dogs 2 the polish necessary to make the second game in the franchise a truly memorable experience.
So, what are your thoughts on Ubisoft’s decision to release another Watch Dogs title? Watch changes would you like to see implemented in this upcoming sequel? Be sure to sound off in the comments section and let us know.