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A breakdown of the Watch Dogs 2 announcement Video

Thoughts and reactions to the recent Watch Dogs 2 announcement video.

As I’m sure you all know, Ubisoft just released an announcement video for Watch Dogs 2 a few days ago, which I’m sure surprised no one, given that E3 begins at the end of this week. Though we had heard rumors of a Watch Dogs sequel being in the works for a while now, I was nonetheless glad when this was finally confirmed, despite having not completed the original.

The video is almost 20 minutes long and does provide some snippets of both cinematics and gameplay footage, -- though as you’d expect, the majority of the video comprises of a sales pitch by the developers themselves. Now, I’ll provide a breakdown of my personal opinions and thoughts on what they’ve shown so far, while glossing over the “corporate waffle” as I do so.

Watch Dogs 1's woes

To start off, they reflect on the merits of the first Watch Dogs game and attempt to reassure us that they have listened to a lot of community feedback for the development of the sequel. It’s shame that they don’t elaborate particularly on what this feedback encompasses. I think it would have given me a lot more confidence in them had they actually admitted what was wrong with the original. This would help me understand what needs to be changed with the sequel.

To be clear, Watch Dogs wasn’t a bad game by any means. The biggest problem was that I didn’t care at all about the story, hence why I didn’t end up beating the original. It didn’t help that the game also fell into the same pitfalls as most other open world shooters, despite being hyped up as something exceeding revolutionary. -- Also, Aiden.

Aiden is probably one of the dullest, unlikable protagonists I’ve played in recent times. I’m usually completely indifferent with most generic modern-day video game protagonists (not a good thing by any means), but Aiden is a rare example of a character that somehow manages to lower my enjoyment of a game as a whole.

The City's inspiration and influence

The new city in which the sequel takes place is San Francisco. As someone who has never been to America, I can’t really say I’m too excited. To me, it’s pretty much just another city. I mean, how many modern open-world shooters aren’t set in American cities nowadays? This doesn’t stop it from looking pretty of course. --Ubisoft often has a knack for making stunning environments for us to gawk at. They go on to provide some more background on the setting, and predictably explains how the world “feels alive”, as if other open world games haven’t attempted this before.

You can probably tell that I’m not entirely convinced yet. By now, that phrase "feel alive" has become such a tired promise that doesn’t really end up impacting the end product in a significant manner. You know what would be more exciting? If a more “alive” world meant more variety of activities and ways to interact meaningfully with the world and its inhabitants. -- This is what developers should be trying to convey to us.

New character, new focus

What they showed next of the main protagonist, Marcus, is slightly more interesting, but again, frustratingly vague. We don’t actually hear him utter a single word throughout the whole video, which is puzzling. It even becomes a little awkward later on, especially when they start showing a clip from the “character trailer” that only consists of said protagonist striking poses in front of some backgrounds.

We probably shouldn’t be too concerned about this though; since it is, in theory, pretty damn hard to make a character more boring than Aiden.

One thing that does interest me about Marcus is his direct involvement with the hacker group Dedsec. This should provide a more playful and light-hearted feel to the game, which I think suits the game’s setting far more than a dreary, drab “badass” and his tale of revenge. Hopefully this will also translate to a more interesting story and likable set of characters to encounter.

Then we move into the gameplay section of the video, one of the main strengths of the original. When the original title released, I was quite impressed with how well the game controlled, given how complex the idea of hacking the environment seemed at the time. It definitely adds another dimension to the gameplay you’d normally find in a third person shooter, and even added a puzzle element to some of the missions that I found refreshing.

More Features

They showed off the hacking being used in a variety of different scenarios. Like with many of these presentations, it's wise to assume the majority of this in-game footage is likely heavily scripted. I’d expect the gameplay to feel very similar to the original, perhaps with a few new hackable objects being subtly added in at very specific points. The new gadgets and hacking interactions are nice, but probably are very situational and not something we can really judge without playing the game ourselves.

I also welcome the addition of parkour, which I previously expected to be in the original game, given how smoothly it has worked in Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series. -- Obviously I won’t expect Marcus to be scaling skyscrapers as effortlessly as Ezio, but it should make traversing the city a lot more fun than simply driving from A to B.

Finally, there’s the multiplayer component that was very briefly mentioned near the end and thus, we know very little about. Back in the original, while the online mode never really took off, I found it to be actually quite an innovative and enjoyable game of cat and mouse.

Like the Assassin’s Creed multiplayer modes, it is quite a shame that it was underdeveloped and treated just as a mere distraction to occupy a few minutes of your time. Here’s hoping they show off some more things about this in the future.

Expectations 

From what they’ve shown so far, I remain moderately interested in Watch Dogs 2. I enjoyed the time I’ve spent with the original, so I’ll probably do so with the sequel. My problem with the presentation is that nothing really jumps out to me that gets me excited and it doesn't distinguish itself from the previous game.

I guess this could be a good thing, given how ridiculously over-hyped the first game became. However Watch Dogs 2 seems to be using the same buzzwords and promising the same things as other open world games have done in the past – a world that feels “alive”, “building your own moments” etc., but still remaining unclear at the same time.

I will remain hopeful that they address this as more footage is inevitably released in the coming weeks. After all, Watch Dogs has always been a game that I wanted to be more than just “good”.

Published Jun. 13th 2016

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