Yup. Five out of a possible ten. That's what I'm rating this game as, marginally average. It has just enough polish to elevate it to complete mediocrity, which is just above where the majority of this game dwells.
This is just one confused mess of a game. I'm not sure I even know where to begin. I'll start with the story and characters, as that's usually one of the most important things in a game, to me at least.
This game is about our utterly bland vigilante "hero", Aiden Pierce. It's strangely fitting that the most promoted aspect of his personality is his "Iconic Cap." That's the only thing that really stands out about him. He has a hat. That's why he's "interesting." Which is odd, because he's simultaneously a master hacker, an expert close-quarters combatant, an expert with all firearms, and he's a expert driver with all vehicles. This man seems to be the epitome of power-fantasy.
Okay, that's our protagonist, right? So who's our villain? At first, it seems like the ultimate bad guy is going to be a powerful tech corporation called Blume. Great, our enemy is a gigantic faceless, corporate entity. It turns out that Blume is just "the man" that you frequently get to stick it to. Further on down the way, it turns out that there are other personalities involved, but they seem to come and go with alarming regularity. A blackmailing military gangsta veteran, a shadowy crime boss, an old frenemy hacker, and a corrupt mayor. Who's really pulling the strings? Well that would depend on what part of the story you're at.
Is our hero out for Revenge? Justice? Trying to protect his family? Uncovering the Truth? As it turns out, the answer is all of the above. It's a lot to balance if you try to stop at any point in the game and pin down just why, exactly, Aiden is doing what he's doing.
Rounding out this cast of lackluster characters are: a damsel in distress sister, a handful of token support one-dimensional hackers, one of which was presumably a love interest, being that she was the only female character who wasn't a relative of Aiden in the game. Seriously, that's the ONLY reason I can think of that the game made it out to seem like she was a love interest in the end, because that stance certainly wasn't supported by any exchange Aiden had with her throughout the entire game.
It's really hard for me to describe what happens in this game, because it all seems like a blur. Rarely would I describe a story as "A bunch of stuff happens," but that seems to be exactly the case here. It doesn't help that none of these people seem to react in a human fashion to the events that transpire in the game. Aiden's sister is the most baffling character in this regard. For the sake of spoilers, I won't elaborate here, but... man... I have no idea how her brain could possibly arrive at the conclusion that what she says and does is in any way a logical or natural way to act.
All in all, what I have to say about the characters in this game is this: the less said, the better. It's really hard to care about a story when you absolutely cannot relate in any human way with the characters in it.
Alright, so the story is a wash, what else is there?
Well, there are the side-quests and mini games! Don't worry, these are every bit as ridiculous as the story for being in this game. What's a good mini-game for a vigilante on a mission for answers and revenge? How about a drinking mini game? That makes sense, right? Ooo, ooo, what about a game of puzzle chess? How about gambling? Slots, shell games, and poker. That's how a vigilante spends his free time. That makes sense, right? There are some admittedly neat tech-oriented mini games like the AR (Augmented Reality) Games and "Digital Trips" which create some truly bizarre (imaginary) scenarios ranging from evil robots to alien invasions. There's also one that is admittedly kinda cool, where you control a robot-spider-tank-thing. I mean, it's cool, but... WHY? Alright the mini games are kinda weird, what about this side-missions? Well, there are various investigations that you can partake in, such as breaking up a human trafficking ring or stopping an illegal arms shipping ring, there's even a series of missing persons to find (read: stopping a serial killer). Okay, these seem like things a vigilante would do, but again, they're all kind of out of context. The only one that's mentioned in the course of the story is the human trafficking, which seems to be a really important event in the story, so naturally, outside of this side-mission, they never mention it again. There are also various vehicle based races (called fixer contracts) and combat scenarios (clearing gang hideouts and stopping criminal convoys). Okay, these seem to fit in with the whole vigilante thing, but again, they're kind of out of context. Also, they apply a whole bunch of completely arbitrary rules. You need to "takedown" (ie-knockout in hand-to-hand combat) a criminal, but you CANNOT KILL HIM. Sure, you can kill EVERYONE ELSE with impunity, but not this one really dangerous, really bad guy.
Alright, that about covers what needs to be said about what you can do in the game, how does the game actually play?
Well the driving is extremely weird. All the vehicles really seem "floaty". Like they only have the most tenuous relationship with the surface beneath them. Also, it seems like everything in this game world of Chicago is made out of cardboard and kindling. Light poles, telephone poles, and fences seem to just collapse like a house of cards as soon as a vehicle touches them.
The gunplay is okay. It's not really anything to write home about. Mostly ho-hum. Nothing special here. None of the weapons really feel any different from one another. The only thing worth noting is that once you acquire a silenced weapon, that's all you're really going to need for the rest of the game. The only thing that seems to set Watch Dogs apart from other third person shooters is the fact that Aiden seems to get taken out with disturbing ease. For as many things that Aiden seems to be a master of, surviving a couple bullets is not among them. Okay, if you're going to make the argument that it's more "realistic" I'm going to reply with silence as you reflect on what an idiotic thing it is that you just said when you think about the context of absolute fantasy and suspension of disbelief that this game already asks of you. If you want to get into the "realism" topic, understand this, when Aiden hits someone in the head with a collapsible steel baton, it is highly likely that he just murdered that person, or at the very LEAST gave that person SEVERE brain damage. So... let's not go there, hmmm?
Alright, what about this much ballyhooed smartphone control of the city infrastructure aspect? Well it's kind neat at first, especially the first few times that you use a new ability. But those abilities rapidly lose their luster once you realize that they mostly just boil down to quick-time button presses. Sure, raising blockers up in the road after you've driven past them, to lose your pursuers is kind of a neat idea. However, in the middle of a car chase, it's inadvisable to rotate the camera around to look at it, because you know what'll happen if you do. (You'll inevitably crash into something you're not looking at. KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD!) BUT! Every once in a while, the game will automatically do this to you. It'll slow down the game and switch to a cinematic view of your pursuer being disabled by your clever quick-time button press. And then BAM! Back to where you were, usually as you slam into the car that you were trying to swerve out of the way before you game forced you to watch that. Well, I guess there's no real way that was going to work out well. Oh, also, it doesn't particularly matter that you just disabled a pursuer, because shortly thereafter, another will just appear out of the ether to join the chase.
Well, how does the game look and sound? Okay, here's where the game does get some high marks from me. It actually looks pretty good. I suppose you can take that for what it's worth, because that's usually one of the things that I really don't care about. I mean, it doesn't matter how good a game looks if it's just not fun to play, right? You can polish a turd as much as you want, you're not going to change the fact that it's a turd. That said, it does look like a very pretty turd.
Sound on the other hand is a very mixed bag. The environmental and sound effects are good. Nothing particularly stood out as being either bad or good. It worked, and ya know what? That's good enough for me. HOWEVER, the radio station was just godawful. Seriously, I highly advise anyone playing this game to just disable the radio as soon as you can. There aren't radio stations, there's just radio on or radio off. That's it. That's your choice right there. And for the most part, the music on the radio is just bad. First off, it's a VERY eclectic mix. You can go from techno sounding music to ball-less pop rock to some kind of reggae-fusion, back to back to back. There's no reason or rhyme. But, even if you turn the radio off, there is the bewildering fact that the game will still deliver "breaking news" regularly. Is anyone else disturbed by this? I'm not sure if this was intentional or not. If you're driving along in your car, and you turn the radio off, and then later on down the road, the radio turns back on to let you know about some recent events, isn't that profoundly weird?
Given how much this game leans towards the bizarre, it really stands at odds with how seriously it wants to take itself. It is just all about coming down regularly with heavy-handed messages about invasion of privacy and the perils of a tech-reliant, interconnected world. And you know what? That's fine, that message is one that I'm sure would resonate with a lot of actual human beings. I'm just not sure that this is the game that should be trying to have that discussion, especially when one of the activities you can partake in is the random eavesdropping of innocent civilians. When Aiden is trying to pass himself off as some kind of moral crusader, privacy invasion stands in stark contrast to that assertion. That seems to sum up this game fairly well. It's trying to have it's cake and eat it too. It wants you to be a vigilante striving for justice as you murder people wantonly, invade random people's privacy, and annihilate half of the telephone poles and street lights in the city.
This game just absolutely cannot maintain a consistent tone. And you know what? this is just the tip of the iceberg here. I could go on AT LENGTH about what's wrong with every character in this game, and the MANY shortcomings in terms of gameplay. This is probably one of the most over-hyped games of all time. For me, it's up there with Daikatana. Maybe I'm more upset with this game than I should be. I really do respect the developer, Ubisoft. I think they've made a lot of really good, really fun games. It's just a damn shame to see this lackluster game come from such a good Developer. I expect better from you, Ubisoft. A LOT better.
I'm actually forcing myself to stop talking about this game right here, just like I should have stopped playing this game shortly after starting it. But I just HAD to make myself finish it, and I can say, I'm sorry I did. I wish I could have all of the time back that I spent playing this game. Time that I could have spent playing games that are actually fun.