Wot I Think: Watch Dogs

By Graham Smith on May 27th, 2014 at 10:00 am.

Press E to grieve. But put away your phone first, at least.

One day you will purchase a multi-pack bag of assorted crisps. Maybe because you’re going to a party, maybe because you’re living on a budget. You won’t be overly fond of any of the contained flavours, every bite will feel a little on the soft side of fresh, and the individual packets will be 90% air, but you’ll at least feel comforted by having choice and abundance.

Welcome to Watch_Dogs, the latest videogame from Ubisoft. You play as Aiden Pearce, a brooding packet of cheese & onion whose hacker-criminal past has led to the death of his niece. Now you must run, drive and hack around its ready salted open world on a quest for truth and vengeance, alternating between salt ‘n’ vinegar main quests and a prawn cocktail of crafting and side missions familiar from Far Cry 3 among others.

Running low on crisp flavours, I may just end my review right here. But there’s something of Watch underscore Dogs stuck in my teeth and I need to unpick it. This is wot I think.

SKIP.

That was Watch Dogs analogy number one. Here is number two.

Late last year I played around with the Leap Motion, a control device which can track your hands down to individual fingers in 3D space. It’s designed to enable Minority Report-style air-swiping interfaces and it feels like magic when it works. The issue is that it only works 90% of the time.

It feels churlish to complain about something which is only magical 90% of the time, but in some things, ten percent can seep out and render the rest infuriating and useless.

I feel similarly about Watch Dogs. It’s set in a beautiful, open world Chicago. It lacks the grandiosity of Grand Theft Auto V’s Los Santos, but there’s a similar thrill to taking in its cityscape, speeding along its sweeping motorways, and visiting its re-created landmarks.

This man is running towards the person with the gun: one of a few AI problems.

The city is populated by the requisite gun, clothing and food stores, but also a dozen possible activities. Aside from the main story missions, there are street crimes to stop and criminal convoys to ambush in Aiden Pearce’s role as a vigilante, there are ctOS towers to scale and unlock in the manner of Far Cry 3′s radio towers, there are “investigation” side missions in which you’re tracking and stopping criminal enterprises, there are mini-games like chess and poker, and there are roughly two billion collectables.

On top of that sits the game’s hacking system. It’s not Gunpoint – you will not be doing anything as complicated as re-wiring the city’s infrastructure – but it layers a set of interactive triggers on top of the world, unlocked through skillpoints. To begin with, you can change traffic lights and raise and lower bollards at the press of a button, to clear paths or cause crashes. Soon you’re able to open doors and gates to open up new paths, raise and lower the city’s bridges, and explode steam pipes.

It’s empowering but has less of an impact on the open world than the scanning mechanic, which allows you to see information on every pedestrian in the world around you. It’s easy to see the crowds milling around the streets of most open world games as nothing but litter in your path, but here they have names, interests, a job. It’s immediately humanising when you see that the hoodie in a backalley “writes vampire fan fiction”, and you’ll feel bad when your car careens into him and relief when a message pops up to say that your reputation has been affected by his being injured, not killed.

Some of the best moments I’ve had in Watch Dogs have come just from being in its world, driving around and exploring its streets. I so often find this about open world games. I like the in-between moments.

Given all of Watch Dogs’ beauty and detail, and its multiple flavors of content offering both choice and abundance, is it churlish to tear it apart for the ten percent it gets wrong?

Shader problems rendered certain skin tones pitch black. A shame it's only a bug.

No. The Leap Motion wouldn’t have struggled to detect me giving Watch underscore Dogs the middle finger over a miserable weekend of playing it to storyline completion.

Bad men who don’t like Aiden Pearce being a hacker attack him while he’s driving with his niece. His niece is killed in the crash. A year later, Aiden is still searching for the people responsible, driven by anger, grief and guilt, and having split from his hacking partner and gone into semi-hiding. By comparison his sister – his niece’s mother – seems to have grieved and moved on, because it’s important that women not have agency in a story like this. (She’ll spend half the game waiting for you to rescue her from a kidnapping. Other roles for women in this game include: victim, sacrifice, property for sale at an auction.)

I cannot describe Pearce’s character any better than “cheese & onion”. Even his anger, grief and guilt are mild. Anyway, it doesn’t matter: your investigation spirals and you get drawn into more and more corruption involving city officials, the police, and the company responsible for creating ctOS, the interconnected system which you can hack and which allows you to use your phone to open doors and blow up things. Every campaign mission is about about furthering that investigation.

Similar to but legally distinct from an infamously copyrighted sculpture.

At the game’s best, those missions are about breaking into a secure facility of guards. This is the closest the the game comes to allowing you to be creative with its toolset.

On one mission to hack a server, I needed to reach a small building at the center of an open yard near the city’s docks. There were three gates in and out and guards on patrol all over.

I could have hacked open any of those gates, but I found a fourth way: a maintenance worker’s mobile lift, which could be hacked to lift me up to the rooftop of an adjacent building. I am using the word “hacked” here but really I pressed Q to make the lift raise. I used it.

You can only hack use what’s within range. From my rooftop vantage I was able to hack use a camera, and then effectively hop from one to the next and get close to whatever I needed to within the area. I marked each of the enemies on my minimap, turned off the ability for two of the guards to call in reinforcements, and pressed use on the guard who my phone told me had the server access code. I then dropped down into the yard.

Someone at Ubisoft really likes poker. This is only briefly mandatory.

From here, I tended to take it stealthily. Hitting a button sticks you to a nearby piece of cover, and you continue to use that to carefully skirt around corners, sprint across open spaces and remain unseen. Get close enough to an enemy and you can perform a swift take down move. Chain these moves together, get inside that server room, and your reward is a Pipemania-with-a-twist minigame, but even this relatively simple performance feels great, and the escape back out into the open world can be exhilarating.

But this is not how it goes. Here is how it goes: you press ‘hack’ to use the camera under your crosshair, but at that moment the game’s predictive targeting decides you’re actually looking at a guard in the middle distance. The guard explodes, because you hacked his grenade. Everyone on the level is now alerted.

You drop down and take cover behind an object and begin to move quickly towards the server room, still trying to avoid conflict. You press C to move behind a pillar, but in your haste didn’t have time to deal with the fiddly targeting here, either. You hide on the wrong side of the pillar, are too stuck to it to quickly disengage, and are spotted by a guard or six who begin firing at you.

You press 1 to bring out your weapon and nothing happens, I don’t know why, and press it a second time and now you have a machinegun in your hands. You rapidly press your left mouse button while aiming at the nearest guard, but this only causes you to awkwardly twitch your arms. You need to hold down the button for longer if you want him to lift his arms and then fire, a system that seems designed for analogue triggers more than digital buttons.

Now you’re dead. Reload, you’re back outside the compound. Start again.

Yeah, note the hands. That shader problem again.

This is Watch underscore Dogs’ missions at their best.

What do they look like at their worst? Forced stealth missions in which being spotted is an instant fail, turning misinterpreted controls into a tedious roulette. Or maybe the occasional wave-defense missions, in which death against an onslaught of enemies spins you back to an autosave placed before a cutscene.

Maybe missions in which your objective is directly contradicted by the things the characters say. When Aiden says, “I have to beat them to the next train station”, he doesn’t actually mean it; when you get too far ahead of your racemates, you’re told that you’re “losing your target”. The task is actually to destroy them before they reach their destination. When Aiden says “I better get out of here,” but driving away in your car prompts a, “YOU ARE LEAVING THE MISSION AREA” warning, the task is actually to stand still for a second until inner monologue triggers the next objective marker.

Maybe any mission involving a helicopter chase. I have an unlocked ability which allows me to scramble those for 30 seconds, stopping their pursuit. Unfortunately I can’t angle the camera up steeply enough to see helicopters while driving, swimming or running, and standing perfectly still so I can crane my neck skyward exposes me to fire from its high-powered sniper rifle.

Maybe just every mission, in which the environment is designed both restrictively and inconsistently. On one mission I arrived, saw the tower block which lay before me, and decided a sniper rifle would be a fun approach. I figured I could buy one from a nearby gun shop, so I hopped back in my car and sped off. When I reached an invisible boundary, the game yelled at me for leaving the mission area, failed the mission, and reloaded me back to the outskirts of the gang’s base I was to infiltrate. My car was now gone, as if as punishment for daring to deviate.

Women, yesterday.

On another mission set inside an abandoned, cargo container-filled warehouse lot, you rely on Aiden’s climbing and jumping in order to reach your destination. He’s less nimble than Ezio, but your movement is similarly prescriptive: you can only jump at ledges where there’s something to grab, for example. In this warehouse lot, some cargo containers can be climbed upon. Some can’t. These two types are not visually distinct. In one area you need to bypass an unclimbable fence; you might think that a set of stacked boxes which lead up to its height would be the perfect way across, but your inability to jump an inch forward without the game’s say-so will see you stymied at the top.

These are the things that made me slam my keyboard, throw my mouse and scream bloody swears. Watch Dogs is infuriating because of its controls and rendered dull by its slavish devotion to scripts and plots. It bends no further than an inch to the imaginations of its players. For a game about being subject to an inescapable, oppressive computer system, that’s at least apt.

It’s equally apt that the subversion of these constraints should come from the game’s ambient multiplayer. While going on your merry way around Chicago, other players are able to “infiltrate” your game, turning your singleplayer suddenly multi. In some instances they do so in order to “hack” some data from your character, a process which takes a set period of time during which they must hide and you must find, identify and kill them.

This – as Dark Souls players will know – is brilliant. It’s never less than exciting, although in my six or seven experiences thus far it’s also largely based on luck. When I was first infiltrated, it happened at an inner-city intersection below a raised train platform and above an underground tunnel. The person hacking me could have been on any level, which made them next to impossible to find on time. In some respects this could be credited to my opponent, who may well have waited as I drove through town before triggering the attack, but it was just as much luck that I happened to be near this area when they logged into my world.

The online modes are the best thing about the game.

I’ve experienced good luck, too. In one instance I attempted to begin a singleplayer mission, which isn’t possible when you’re being infiltrated, and was instead given some rough information as to the location of the hacker. Using my minimap, I was able to turn the tables, ram their car in a head-on collision, and take them out before they could retaliate. The other player wouldn’t have expected that.

In an instance of bad luck, I infiltrated another player with a mission to tail them unseen for a set period of time. I teleported to their location to discover they were out in the backwoods north of Chicago, stood unmoving next to a dirt bike. I observed them for a while – an odd thrill – before they got on their bike and sped away. At which point I realised my only means to follow was a damaged novelty van with a sombrero hat on top. By the time I had guided the smoking wreck through a three-point turn on a narrow dirt road, my charge was a kilometer away, uncatchable.

Still, I’ve had fun with these moments of off-kilter multiplayer, and they make far better use of Watch underscore Dogs’ strengths – its open world, its hacker theme, its push-button explosions, its stealth mechanics – than anything else in the game. Even more explicit multiplayer modes, like the 3-8 player Risk And Reward mode in which you must hold a piece of data for a period of time while other players scramble to steal it from you, takes place over a dozen city blocks and plays out like a giddily enlarged game of hide-and-seek.

I struggled at first to resolve the varying quality levels of Watch underscore Dogs. Its city is beautiful. I enjoy spending time in its open world. The architecture, the detail, the music on the radio, the re-created streets, the wind effects, the traffic and pedestrian systems… All this art. Isn’t this the magical 90%? Is Watch underscore Dogs too expensive to hate?

Then I remembered. Those things aren’t a game. The game is sloppy controls which cause you to constantly do the wrong thing accidentally with disastrous consequences; is inconsistently interactive world design; is a cover system whereby you get stuck on scenery or it guesses incorrectly where you want to move. The game is insta-fail stealth missions, wave-defense missions, escort missions, missions where what the characters say and what the objective is don’t match up. The game is five crashes to desktop, including two which required me to reboot my machine before it would reload. The game is restrictive objectives which don’t make use of the possibilities provided by the open city or the hacking mechanics, and checkpoint positions that force you to re-watch short cutscenes or re-perform rote actions after every death.

Fuck underscore that. When the world is full of pickled onion Monster Munch, don’t settle for less.

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304 Comments »

Top comments

  1. kettleton says:

    Big Al says (Watch_)dogs can’t look up.

  1. Optimaximal says:

    Why do all the black/white people have white/black hands?

    • Graham Smith says:

      I couldn’t relate it back to crisp flavors so cut it, but: I had shader problems with certain surfaces in the game which caused them to appear totally black or totally transparent from certain angles. It happened on pavements, chainlink fences, and most jarringly on certain skin tones.

      I’m running with a GeForce GTX 780 and tried but the stable and beta release of the drivers to no avail. Other than that – and the five crashes, which I think may also be driver related – the game ran a slick 60fps at almost all times with every graphics setting maxed out. (The rest of my spec: an Intel i7-4770K and 16GB RAM).

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        welverin says:

        Hey, this implies there may BE a good reason Ubisoft is always delaying their PC releases!

    • iainl says:

      The black faces in these screenshots look actually -black- rather than any of the shades of dark brown that people mean by “black” when referring to skin tone. Which makes me think it’s a texture issue. I’m seeing reports that “Ultra” texture quality is very unfriendly to anyone with less than 4GB of GPU memory, so it might be that. Or, indeed, just the generally iffy quality of the PC release.

      • Phasma Felis says:

        So many things would be so much less confusing if we hadn’t all decided to call pink people “white” and brown people “black.”

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    Lexx87 says:

    I’m really quite pleased in one way this is coming up sounding terrible (as in, the parts Graham describes). Money savings to be had!

    In another it’s almost like they couldn’t make the hacking work (I mean, press a button or pipemania. Really?) so just went full on GTA instead. It’s really quite disappointing. Ubi have been on such a good run recently too!

    Although I don’t know why you played with a m&k Graham, surely this was designed around a pad. Not an excuse for bad controls of course.

    • Graham Smith says:

      I tried a pad as well. It makes the driving experience better – to the game’s credit, the on-screen control prompts change on the fly based on what you use at any moment – but otherwise the ambiguity in the context-sensitive controls remains an issue.

    • fish99 says:

      Some games play better on a pad, but having played most of the GTA games on both console (on pad) and PC (on m/k), they play just fine on mouse/keyboard.

      • malkav11 says:

        Better, actually, because the shooting is much more responsive and accurate, and the driving’s about the same either way.

        • Rindan says:

          I found that mouse and keyboard kind of messed up GTA4 for me a little. I am too damn good at aiming. The result is that car chases take about 5 seconds before they get 14 head shots through their window. On a whim, I onetime decided to not murder my target in the first 5 seconds of the chase and was rewarded with an AWESOME car chase that went through tunnels, up one ways, and all sorts of fun stuff. It made me wonder how many good chases I missed because I was busily murdering everyone with headshots.

          • malkav11 says:

            None, as far as I’m concerned. Every car chase mission in GTA IV was agony because of that horrible driving model. Also I couldn’t get past the first big combat mission without mouse aim (I know because I stupidly bought GTA IV shortly after consoletoy launch because I didn’t expect it to come to PC. never again.). But I dunno, maybe I’m just bad at the game. Probably so.

          • fish99 says:

            I though the GTA4 driving model was superb, and by far the most enjoyable and realistic I’ve seen in a GTA-style game (and indeed better than GTAV), but it alienated a lot of people because you had to be decent at driving/racing games to be comfortable with it. I’ve watched my brother (who doesn’t play racing games) play GTA4 and he would basically crash into something at nearly every corner – not understanding that hitting the hand brake at 100mph won’t get you round a 90 degree bend.

            For someone like me who plays a ton of racing games, the driving is an absolute doddle.

            And yes mouse aim definitely makes the game easier and can cut short some chases. Controls shouldn’t be a barrier in games though. The way the game plays on a mouse is how it should play IMO, rather than dealing with the frustrating inadequacies of the auto aim system on a pad.

    • Quickest says:

      I agree. I was hoping that the hacking would be more involved. So now that I’m not going to buy Watch_Dogs, can anyone recommend some good games about hacking?

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        Ninja Dodo says:

        Uplink is fun and Quadrilateral Cowboy seems cool. Also Gunpoint.

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        Cinek says:

        As a guy who works in the industry I can tell you: There are none.
        If anything – play Uplink, this game also doesn’t make any sense and it’s hacking – from my perspective – is as realistic as “press F to hack” – but at least it has a good storyline.

        I’m glad that Ubi made hacking so simplified. Last thing I’d like to see is toying with some ridiculous minigames that got NOTHING to deal with reality (look: DX:HR) or type in some fake commands in fake scripting language (Hacker Evolution – I can’t remember last time when I played worse game than that).

        What ubi did is getting right to the thing: EFFECTS of what can be done by hacking various subsystems with a pre-made scripts (yep, the guy in this game seems to be a skid) instead of forcing you to harass yourself with totally pointless mechanics.

        • Tacroy says:

          Personally, I found the DX:HR hacking minigame to be really fun.

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            Cinek says:

            Well, it was, but didn’t have anything to deal with reality. It was as realistic as “click F to hack” only you spent more time on it.

          • toxic avenger says:

            @Cinek – What are you really, then, proposing if not realism over fun? Do you really expect real hacking procedures and various programming languages and intimate knowledge of computer networks to be viable game mechanics for a large audience, so that developers may recoup their money? Me thinks you doth protest too much.

          • gwathdring says:

            I thought it was fun, but I could have stood it to be more difficult.

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            Cinek says:

            I either want to play games that focus on a storyline and effects of hacking, where the process itself is secondary, or the games that really get this sense of how many unknowns are there in a process and how an important element psychology is with constant struggle to find and learn best & newest techniques.

            The first category of games would appeal to the “crowds” – and that’s what Watch_Dogs is trying to do – while the second category would appeal to passionate gamers.

            Games that are focused on progress bars running (you complete thing before timer = you win, otherwise: you loose…), black background, and hours spent on typing some in-game commands that they’ll never, ever see again in their life.

            In general though hacking is a very unattractive topic for making games and something that’s very difficult to get right – but it’s also because the topic itself appeals only to a specific kind of people. As said – Uplink is probably as close as it gets to a good and fun game about hacking though it’s totally unrealistic and misses plenty of key points in a process. Watch Dogs found it’s own way, one that I also like, though if it’d be up to me – I’d certainly modify few things here and there (eg. force player at least to choose which script he wants to use instead of simple “click a button”) – but overall – I wouldn’t dismiss Ubisoft approach just like that. It’s MILES better than a BS most of the “hacking” games made.

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            Bugamn says:

            I think that Uplink works as a hacking game if you keep in mind that it was deliberately made to mimic film hacking.

            There is also Hacker Evolution, but I haven’t played any of the games in the series (even though they are on my Steam list), so I cannot comment on them.

            Another game that I remembered was Hack’n'Slash. I haven’t played either, but the idea of modifying the variables of the world to achieve your objectives instead of playing by the rules sounds very much like hacking for me.

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            Philopoemen says:

            But no game “job” is realistic. Military shooters don’t cover the 40mins of cleaning and oiling your gun before and after you use it, the boredom of waiting around between missions. Cop games don’t cover the six hours of paperwork that’s involved after every arrest, the completely inane calls that you get, etc. Expecting a hacking game to be realistic when it’s largely very unexciting even when it is exciting is a bit of a stretch.

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            jezcentral says:

            I really liked the hacking in Bioshock.

            *Stands back with raised fists* Okay, come at me.

        • Michael Fogg says:

          How do your really hack a computer system? Now, I’m not actually asking for detailed instructions for criminal activity, but isn’t the most common method to use social trickery to obtain codes and then enter the system as admin. Other than that, you use software for brute force attack that simply attempts to guess the password?

          • LionsPhil says:

            Well, first you have to calibrate the polarity matrix. Once you’ve done that, you need to re-orient the authentication nodes to be coplanar with the malicious vector tangent. Only then can you carefully cy-chisel the ice, being cautious not to dislodge any intrusion detection nodes. Finally you can datablast the CPU core with the new algorithms.

            That or you just wait for the OpenSSL team (or distros patching it) to screw up again.

          • Chaosed0 says:

            Hacking computers these days generally depends on someone screwing up. Most attack vectors are known and can be dealt with. When you’ve got lazy/tired programmers, someone intercepting your mainframe shipments in-transit, or incompetent sysadmins, that’s when the bad stuff happens.

            On a tangent, one of my favorite quotes: “An SQL injection is when you ask the waiter for a large pepperoni GIVE ME ALL YOUR MONEY with a side of fries.”

          • aepervius says:

            Most of it involve privilege escalation and vulnerabilities. Some vulnerabilities you might have heard about (especially with the heartbeat SSL bug…). They involve something called a buffer overflow : you give far more data than expected by the service, and the service screw up variously, my prefered screw up is when your buffer overwrite something called the “stack” and you can then executed arbitrary code by using a return address to the stack. Others may simply involve brute forcing a password on a service which does not count the number of failed attempt or do not buffer them with time. Then you can add SQL statement when some service do not sanityze their checks (and so you can “;SELECT *” from tables and get everything back). Then there are services which do not check their own server data against the client data and trust the client, so you can escalate your privilege if you simply change the client data. Others involve giving screwy input to a service (which it did not expect) but instead of failing gracefully the service fail ungracefully and give you a higher privilege (I remember fondly a mainframe I used to work, which you gave a specific command the value 0 as input, it failed and told you so, but at the same time gave you sys Op status , for obvious reason since this is still used in some industry I will not tell you which).

            By far the easiest and quickest and depressing is what I call social hacking. I will let you google that one.

      • Henson says:

        I have a real soft spot for Uplink. Even though I wish there had been more typing, Uplink really does hacking well. Just don’t expect to ‘finish’ it.

        • Koozer says:

          I considered it finished when I managed to hack a bank and bought every piece of hardware and software with plenty to spare. That kind of removed the reason to do the missions. Well worth the money though!

      • InternetBatman says:

        Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines has the closest thing to a decent hacking system in any game I’ve played.

        • Michael Fogg says:

          What, Ctrl+c to hack and it succeeds when skill check is succesful? Really?

      • guygodbois00 says:

        Baldur’s Gate has very good hacking … and slashing.

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      Cinek says:

      “Ubi have been on such a good run recently too! ” – I loled.

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        Lexx87 says:

        I’d find it quite hard to say that the Rayman games, Far Cry 3 and Ass Creed 4 were not part of a ‘good run’.

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          Cinek says:

          Yes, I think that getting people into their online services with nearly every single game doesn’t count as a “good run”. It counts as a “horrible run”. FarCry 3 wasn’t really bad, and it was a huge improvement over FC2 but overall – this game got nothing that would make me keep on going or re-play it after completing the main, super-linear plot filled with shitty and utterly pointless QTEs. And don’t get me started with AssCreed – the BS they made from Naval battles is something I’ll never forget, while 2012 Ass as a complete and utter crap. They basically turned the franchise that had a potential to become something good into a new CoD.

          • toxic avenger says:

            So you don’t like the delivery method, but the game is ok? That’s a minor gripe people such as yourself have been trying to convince others of since Half-Life 2 and Steam, if not before. It’s an evil, sure, just at this point its a necessary evil.
            You didn’t comment on Rayman, said FC3 was an improvement over FC2, didn’t mention Deus Ex: HR, though (keyword) seemed to throw the baby out with the bathwater over none other than its hacking mechanic, which if it were anymore complicated, would render most of the game impossible as presented (with enemy locations, level layout, etc). You also didn’t say anything about the new Thief, which was serviceable at worst, though I’m sure you’d find a small nitnpick about that game as well, though I’d be right with you if you’d mention the lack of real multiple ways to solve each level.
            With all that being said, name another developer who has both pushed out as many software video game titles AND had as high of a non-shitty rate as this studio. There are a few, but certainly not enough for such a quick and easy, flippant response that you originally gave.

          • Premium User Badge

            Cinek says:

            Well, first of all – I never said all of their games were shit. DX:HR was good, I did enjoy it, got collectors edition. Rayman – never played any new one, just like several other ubisoft games. New Thief – I played only a first chapter but the mechanic of “press F to jump, press F to sneak, press F to get on a rope, press F to jump off the rope, press F to climb, press F to abort climbing” was horrible, the cover mechanics was huge step down from DX:HR, while the storyline seemed generic & boring so I never got around playing through the game.
            But if you want to get through it this way – please, do. ShootMania Storm – someone called it “game for peasants”, The Expendables 2 game – OMGWTF, Future Soldier – that never should be released, not at this stage, Anno 2070 – glow, glow everywhere, but little to no value, Driver: San Francisco – buahahahaha, pathetic, NCIS game – another jump on cash, and so on, and so on….

            “name another developer who….” – why would I? That wasn’t a topic. Guy said that they got “such a good run” while in fact – they did not. Yes, companies publishing tons of games publish tons of garbage, that’s not an excuse though.

          • Rilmo says:

            Okay, this is killing me. People seem to get Eidos Montreal and Ubisoft Montreal mixed all the time. Deus Ex and Thief are not Ubisoft games!

          • tetracycloide says:

            Ugh, guys? Human revolution was squarenix, not ubisoft.

          • kendoka15 says:

            @tetracycloide No it wasn’t. (Google the difference between publisher and developer)

        • Lemming says:

          Mileage varying of course, but I think the Rayman games are the only things in that list I actually cared about and bought. I’ve not been interested in Ass Creed since 2, and Far Cry only really impressed me with 2 (although it was a dog to play), and I’ve just not really cared since.

          • Superpat says:

            The rayman games were awesome, an while the farcry campaign was rather linear, the open world game was great fun.

      • Michael Fogg says:

        Hmm, personally I think both FC3 and Asscreed IV are okay and mostly managed to get right the open-ended stealth aspect. You know, they give you a toolset and allow to play around with it in enemy camps/compounds. And it mostly has satisfying results, with occasional hilarity from some emergent hijinks. It’s a shame Ubi messed it up this time.

  3. Nachtfischer says:

    Cool! I really deeply appreciate a review with such honesty and clarity about what games as a medium actually are about. And as the article correctly concludes, it’s definitely not audiovisual spectacle. It’s meaningful, deep and fluid interactivity, which we apparently do not get here. This is not “next gen gaming”. This, once again, is “last_gen++”. It’s about time the major public gets the hang of what really makes games beautiful. And I believe reviews such as this one will help a great deal. So, thanks!

    • Eight Rooks says:

      On the other hand

      honesty and clarity about what games as a medium actually are about

      I suspect I wildly disagree with you about “what games are actually about”, but I still appreciate the review. Eurogamer, Ars Technica and now this make a very good case for “You’ll love it if you just want GTA with a light cyberpunk veneer because reasons, but if you were hoping for anything deeper – story, gameplay mechanics, open world – then it generally comes up short”. I was really hoping I’d click with the single-player narrative, but apparently there’s virtually nothing more to it than what we see in the trailers. Yeah, I’m slightly relieved, since I can’t really afford to buy it anyway, but it’s also disappointing to see some very convincing arguments that Ubi dropped the ball, or perhaps couldn’t even be bothered to pick the ball up in the first place.

      Also, I don’t think I can read USGamer any more. Christ, their review comes across as if it was written by a 12-year-old who saw Mountain Doritogate and thought he’d love to be a games journalist. If Jaz Rignall really likes Watch_Dogs that much, good for him, but the whole thing reads like he’s got a PR drone stood just behind his workstation – “Can you say again how awesome and thrilling and exciting it was? Maybe remind them again how amazing fast cars and explosions and T3H HAXX0R5 all are?” (shudder)

      • Nachtfischer says:

        I think we can at least agree on the fact that the defining feature of games is their interactivity. So that’s the major area where the quality needs to be for it to be a “good game”.

        • Eight Rooks says:

          But I like stuff like Gone Home. ;-) Just saying, you took away from the review that the game doesn’t give you the freedom you expect, I took away that the story’s a mess of dull action-movie nonsense with pretensions to being cool and dark and edgy. I trust Ubisoft to be able to do a competent GTA knockoff with a few vaguely innovative touches here and there and I don’t much care if I’m railroaded down the missions. But while I like the writing in just about all the Assassin’s Creed games (and I love it at times) I don’t trust them to be able to do a decent story every time. I would have been happy with a competent GTA knockoff if the narrative actually did anything interesting with the “Hack all the things! Invade everyone’s privacy!” schtick. It seems, from all the reviews I’ve read by writers I like, that it doesn’t even come close.

          EDIT: Ars spent a little too much time looking at the story, IMO, but they did come up with some neat lines too:

          In the end, Aiden comes off as a confused, meandering, center-less nothing of a character, swept along by a ridiculous sequence of events without any real agency or consistent sense of self. During one of his frequent monologues explaining and re-explaining the circuitous story for our benefit, he asks himself a rhetorical question about the motivations he just laid out. “Do I believe that? It doesn’t matter… I have no choice.” Seems to sum up the writers’ feeling about this game pretty succinctly

          • Nachtfischer says:

            I don’t understand what you liking Gone Home has to do with that. Whether Gone Home or any other form of interactive entertainment is a “game” or not does say nothing about its quality. “Being a game” is neither good nor bad, it’s just a fact based on the definition of the word. If I put Gone Home in another category than “game” (which we should, I think, because it has nothing to do with anything that’s been called a “game” in the history of mankind before there were computers, but that’s not my point here), then there are totally different criteria that apply. Gone Home can be an amazing thing (let’s say “virtual interactive art installation” maybe) and still not a game.

            Anyways, what IS bad is if you offer the player something that looks amazing (like an abundance of choices) and there’s no actual gameplay depth behind it. That’s actually what I took away from the review. It’s not about “missing freedom”, it’s about missing depth, clarity and focus of the interaction. Something far too many AAA titles are guilty of. It’s audiovisual spectacle all over the place. Hence all the hype. But what’s left when you look behind all that? A huge pile of semi-connected “stuff” for you to exhaust, “spiced” up with some chores to perform while you’re looking for something new. In other words, terrible gameplay.

          • Premium User Badge

            Rizlar says:

            The thing you are missing is context. Gone Home is a game because of the context it was made in. It’s just a word, deal with it.

          • The Random One says:

            Gone Home is obviously a game, but the thing is that it has been built with minimal interaction in mind. It wasn’t a shooter that took all the guns and enemies halfway through, it was always built so that its primary verbs would be picking up stuff and looking at it. A game that deliberately fails to do something gamey can be a lot better than a game that attempts to do a lot of gamey stuff and fails. (I also dislike games that try to do a lot of gamey stuff and succeed, in general, but that’s my personal bias. The important thing is whether or not the game succeeds at what it was trying to do.)

        • gwathdring says:

          Games don’t have one defining feature. It’s a complex, highly contextual category. Interactivity is certainly not the defining feature. There are many interactive things that are not games. Further, there are many different kinds and degrees of interactivity. Gone Home is interactive as it Bit.Trip.Runner as is Mass Effect as is Tales from Monkey Island as is Pong as is–

          You get the point.

          • Nachtfischer says:

            In the area of entertainment/art, interactivity certainly is the one thing the differentiates games from everything else. The game talks back to you. That’s not even a point of controversy. Obviously, “being interactive” alone is not a criterion of quality. But I never claimed it to be anyways.

          • gwathdring says:

            My DVD player talks back to me, as does my phone as does my computer, as does my toaster. These are not games.

          • The Random One says:

            All media talks back to you. That’s what makes them a medium. Games talk back to you more, more loudly, and more clearly, but saying that they’re the only interactive media is like saying movies are the only media that has visuals.

      • Premium User Badge

        jezcentral says:

        I appreciate a good car-crash of a review, so I had a look at the Jaz review on USGamer, and it’s hysterical. It’s like the “nine-year-old’s reaction” section from the Honest Trailer of Pacific Rim.

  4. Syra says:

    That’s a brutally damning opening paragraph O_o.

    • Nachtfischer says:

      And one accurately describing 90 % of today’s so-called “sandbox games”. :P

      • gwathdring says:

        Yeah … even Saints Row III’s genuine innovation and humor in certain aspects of the game is horribly marred by the awful, awful mechanics.

        • Nachtfischer says:

          Well, they’re not exactly awful. I mean, there are obviously problems. As with any 3rd-person action game, you’re spending a good chunk of your time in the game adjusting the camera (which is NOT meaningful or deep interactivity, by the way). Also, I don’t see any “genuine innovation” really. But anyways, SR3 is probably one of the better ones.

          Your answer is kind of strange anyways. I didn’t say the first paragraph describes ALL of them. So why would you pick one example before even knowing which ones I included?

          • gwathdring says:

            Because I have my own opinions and was speaking for myself, not for you and YOUR specific 90%? Consider it a form of ellipsis. “Yeah … [I agree most sandbox games are accurately described by that opening paragraph] even Saints Row III [which I found to have] genuine innovation and humor in certain aspects of the game [namely in it's structure and writing] is horribly marred by [what I would consider to be] [relatively bad (compared to 3rd person action games I consider "good")] [core] mechanics.”

            Obviously not all of that was supposed to come across in detail, but enough of it should have come across that you wouldn’t be confused as to why I picked an example that doesn’t necessarily match up with your vision.

            You’re welcome to think the controls and whatnot aren’t awful and you’re welcome to think it does nothing interesting or innovative with the form or the writing. I would beg to differ on both counts.

  5. frightlever says:

    “Fuck underscore that. When the world is full of pickled onion Monster Munch, don’t settle for less.”

    I know we don’t have review scores here but, I really don’t know what to do with that. I don’t like pickled onions, so I won’t like Watch Dogs? Conan had so much fun with it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      Or, worse, Watch_Dogs is that cheap multipack at fancy artisan crisp prices (if what this article says is true). It’s a shame how big games have so much poured into them but often fail for mundane reasons.

    • serioussgtstu says:

      Conan was paid a dumpster truck full of pickled onion crisps to have fun with it.

    • Nevard says:

      I’m afraid that if you don’t like pickled onion monster munch there may actually be something clinically wrong with you, maybe get your tongue examined?

    • qrter says:

      The interesting thing about Conan’s review is that it really reminded me of his GTA V review. He was having the exact same kind of fun there, the typical GTA “blow up everyone and everything” kind.

      • Premium User Badge

        Gap Gen says:

        Yeah, that’s what Graham said was good; the general city stuff, rather than the missions.

      • Tacroy says:

        Also Conan plays these games for maybe an hour, max.

        If a modern AAA title can’t be mindlessly entertaining for an hour, they’ve done something really really wrong.

    • kendoka15 says:

      Best end to a review I’ve ever seen

    • Chorltonwheelie says:

      Flamin’ Hot Monster Munch. Carpe diem.

  6. surethingbud says:

    yeah the game sucks

  7. blobb says:

    Funny how Gunpoint is better than Watch_Dogs.

  8. Tams80 says:

    If all the game really has going for it is its art, then that third screenshit isn’t very impressive for a PC release, nor are the shader issues.

  9. Baltech says:

    Reviews for this game seem to be all over the place. I was, for example, really surprised to see Jim Sterling give it a 9/10 on the Escapist (the whole review sounds absolutely positive), Eurogamer seems to sit more in the middle while Mr. Smiths words here have all but discouraged me to whip out me card and run to the Steams.

    On one hand, I usually enjoy open world games, even more middling ones like Sleeping no underscore Dogs. On the other, this one sounds like a chore and from what I can glean, this Aiden fellow doesn’t seem to be pleasant to be around.

    Well, crud.

    • ramirezfm says:

      From what I get this is great for walking around the city doing stuff. And also tedious and annoying if you actually want to do some missions. Not to mention all the PC related gfx problems that pop up everywhere.
      Personally I will grab it on 75% sale, hopefully xmas.

    • kael13 says:

      Jim disliked Transistor and likes this. I think that explains his taste in games pretty well.

      • Wauffles says:

        Is he still doing that awful, cringey, ‘JIMQUISITION’ thing where an ageing turbonerd wearing all black summons all the spittle -flecked exaggerated rage he’s capable of to whinge about things that don’t even make much sense to complain about

        I’m so glad this game has got a kicking, I’m so sick of by-the-numbers open world shooters and the hype train for this thing has been fucking unstoppable for a year now. I wonder what people even thought it would end up being? None of the hype showed anything interesting apart from LOOK AT THESE TRAFFIC LIGHTS YOU CAN CHANGE which will be used once at the start of the game and once in a mission and then will have no relevance to anything.

        Bit surprised Eurogamer didn’t give it their requisite Ubisoft 9+/10

        • Baltech says:

          I dunno, most of the time I tend to completely agree with him, especially when he covers less than ideal business practices and he does have a heart for oddball titles.

          On the other hand, he loves the PS Vita. I guess no man, not even a godly apparition as the allmighty Jim, is without fault :)

          • ramirezfm says:

            PSV is the best platform ever! And I play on PC mostly…

          • gwathdring says:

            I tend to agree with him, and indeed for all his mock rage and spittle he’s pretty middle-ground on a lot of things the industry and it’s audience get angsty and polarized about.

          • pepperfez says:

            Spittle-flecked outrage in support of middle-groundy positions is what’s wrong with the world.

          • Wurstwaffel says:

            I love the guy, but his opinions on games are pretty worthless to me.

        • Optimaximal says:

          When do Eurogamer EVER give anything more than 7 these days?

        • Premium User Badge

          Rizlar says:

          Spot on about the hype train. Not that I am happy it is getting a kicking now, but the central ‘hack the world’ concept has only ever looked underwhelming. Ah well.

      • fingerboxes says:

        Well, transistor is actually pretty bad.

    • Shooop says:

      You’re surprised that the same man who ran to the defense of Call of Duty games when RPS called them “non-games” likes another game that’s shit?

      He’s an obnoxious, pompous, hypocritical slob who complains about the industry doing the same things over and over again one day, and then praises it for doing those same things the next. He wouldn’t know what good journalism was if he was force-fed it.

    • Nenjin says:

      Seems pretty standard. Large review sites give it a 80 to 90%, RPS says they had some fun but then proceed to spend the rest of the article deconstructing the game and what they didn’t like about it.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Amatyr says:

    /removes it from the Steam wishlist

    • jonahcutter says:

      Leave it there and it will notify you when a sale comes up. It’s probably worth it at 50-75% off.

      • belgand says:

        It will likely be $5 in about a year. Seems like the right time to buy it. Hopefully the majority of problems will be fixed by then and the DLC will be bundled in.

  11. Drake Sigar says:

    ‘Developed with the PC as the lead platform’ my ass.

    • Quinnbeast says:

      When I read those sorts of comments, it usually translates in my head to “developed *on* a PC”, y’know, cos coding with a PS4 controller is a bit clunky n’stuff.

  12. drinniol says:

    Well, Ubisoft did pay a lot of attention to Far Cry 3 post-release, maybe I’ll wait and see if things get better. And cheaper because fuck you Australia tax.

  13. Ramshackle Thoughts says:

    I will never, ever understand this. If you give me an open-world city, then tell me the route I’ve taken is WRONG and I have FAILED, ‘open-world’ you are not.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      Wow, damn! That’s some serious BS, alright. I hate any game that says “Failed!”, because you went off the beaten track, but it’s especially bad when it’s an open-world game. Watching the metacritic averages, one could believe it’s as critically praised as the new Wolfy, but what you described is a real deal-breaker for me. If they take away my ability to explore alternative paths, then I don’t have much reason to play their game.

      Well, it’s not like I don’t have a massive backlog, but I was still interested to get this some day. Huh, not so sure about that now, even if the price would drop to 5 euro during a sale.

      • Ramshackle Thoughts says:

        It’s not like that all the time, but it’s kinda like Graham said.
        “ESCAPE the zone! No, I meant ESCAPE towards the waypoint in the other direction! Man, now you have to go twice the distance avoiding insta-fail stealth objectives….”

        • Darth Gangrel says:

          I guess I shouldn’t have been so quick to bash it, but I really HATE! that kind of attitude, where the developers don’t let you try out things for yourself, where you absolutely have to play like they *intended to*. Well, I sure as hell never *intend to* buy a game where I can’t try out different things, but have to take the route that the developers wanted me to take or be met with a “Failed!” message. That’s not fun, that’s not my idea of a game, that’s more like a backseat driver who’ll turn off the engine if I don’t follow his instruction to the letter.

          • Premium User Badge

            deathcakes says:

            Super great sarcasm fest there, but the point you miss entirely is one of context – presenting as an open world game carries the connotation that you are an open world game and some use of open world mechanics sure would be swell.

            Otherwise thumbs up man, totally agree!!11!

          • thebigJ_A says:

            (pretty sure they weren’t being sarcastic)

    • Shooop says:

      That is exactly why I stopped playing Grand Theft Auto games. Why should I have to race this mentally unstable guy in order to get him to be my escape driver when I could do it myself? Even if you complete the challenge, you end up driving anyway because the dickhead gets shot because the script demands it.

      Saints Row games are the only sandbox open-world games I can stomach now because what they want me to do is crazy and fun enough I don’t mind doing it.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Chaz says:

    The woman in that top screen shot earns $27,200 as a dishwasher! She must be in a good union.

    As I commented on the Eurogamer review, I think Ubi’s output is starting to become very homogenised. With their IP’s now all starting to share the same set of gameplay ideas and mechanics. Which wouldn’t be so bad if they had a bit of meat and depth to them, but sadly they’re really pretty shallow with all interactivity reduced to nothing more than simple button pushes at the right prompt.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lars Westergren says:

      > I think Ubi’s output is starting to become very homogenised.

      Their big titles maybe, but on the other hand they have lately published stuff like Rocksmith 2014, the old school turn based Heroes of Might & Magix X, Rayman, Stick of Truth, Child of Light.

    • Nate says:

      >The woman in that top screen shot earns $27,200 as a dishwasher! She must be in a good union.

      Well, Uibisoft are French….

  15. Spacewalk says:

    That’s pretty infuriating having your vertical aim limited. It seems to be gripe that can be leveled at many console games and is a practice that puzzles me. Is there anyone out there who can explain this?

    • kettleton says:

      Big Al says (Watch_)dogs can’t look up.

      • Kadayi says:

        Try using the camera

        • TinaMWard says:

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  16. fatgleeson says:

    Jokes on you, chonion is my favourite flavour!
    Graham is fast becoming my favourite writer too. I find myself reading his articles when I don’t even care about the topic

    • zachforrest says:

      He’s an excellent talker too, give The Crate and Crowbar a listen

  17. Premium User Badge

    strangeloup says:

    Sounds like the best bet is to wait for the inevitable Game of the Year edition for half the cost or less, by which time the pick’n'mix selection of bugs will hopefully be fixed.

    It’s a shame really because a lot of things about this looked really promising. From what I understand, it seems like the insistence that they tell their Big Important Story the way they want to comes at the expense of fun, a problem which also marred Far Cry 3 and Assassin’s Creed III — which were both also quite impressive from a technical/audiovisual perspective.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      “the insistence that they tell their Big Important Story the way they want to comes at the expense of fun” That’s one reason why story hasn’t been all too important in games, I think. As long as the game is fun, much can be forgiven. We don’t need story to make a great game, but a focus on story can make the game better.

      However, when the developers control and restrict your actions too much, to make sure you experience their Big Important Story as intended, then fun gets compromised, as you pointed out. The game then becomes too linear and replayability decreases a lot. With so much control taken away from you, the desire to even keep playing the game might cease after a while.

      Often, the Big Important Story isn’t even that good, so they’re limiting your freedom without giving something equally good in return. That is a serious turn-off and dealbreaker for me and something that immediately made me go from enthusiastic to “at least it won’t increase my backlog”.

      • MellowKrogoth says:

        Well, the “big important story” is often the only thing that can bring me to finish a game, I get tired of the game mechanics once I’ve seen them all and they start getting repetitive. Without a good story I would never have finished Diablo II and The Witcher (ok, in the latter case the quest for all the sex cards might’ve helped :P) or even the mighty Deus Ex.

        The only exceptions so far are randomized super-challenging games such as Spelunky or games that have no story whatsoever and are not meant to be finished, such as SimCity series, Minecraft, Flight sims and 4x games.

  18. JFS says:

    AAA gaming is dead. You heard it here first, guys!

    • Lanfranc says:

      But given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which its shadow will be shown.

    • 12inchPlasticToy says:

      I don’t think that’s true at all. Having a few friends who play on consoles exclusively, and that one would not label “gamers”, they wouldn’t care about half of the issues described by Graham.

      For instance, that autotargetting issue would make them think that they themselves fucked up at that part of the game, not that the developers fucked up. And they would be attracted to all that makes the game cool, i.e. all the features listed on the box: “Be part of a digitally reconstructed Chicago!”, “Hack your way through the world!”. It’s not the depth that’s appealing, it’s the awesome wrapping.

      Being a connoisseur in a domain is both an advantage and a curse, as the more you know about it the less kinks escape your perception — and most people are not connoisseurs.
      If I was scoffing down a delicious raspberry sponge cake and the guy next to me said “This cake is abysmal, i bet there’s no essence of kumquat in it!” I would think “Who the fuck is this pretentious knob”… which is just what my friends would think that of me if I told them “this is a load of old wank, Deus Ex already did it better a decade ago.” Deus what?

      Just like some people know who Warren Spector is, some know who the chef at Maxim’s is. But for most people, Ubisoft and Pizza Express are just awesome enough at their job. And “most people” is exactly the target of AAA’s.
      I’m hungry.

      • P.Funk says:

        “Being a connoisseur in a domain is both an advantage and a curse, as the more you know about it the less kinks escape your perception”

        You’re not a connoisseur, you just not an idiot. The people you describe are idiots. Anyone who has no ability to understand how crappy something is and is sold on words on the side of a box more than whats in it is an idiot.

        For reference idiot loosely translates to the bulk of the consumer public today.

        You might as well act like being political aware and having a more sophisticated political value system than the buzzword of the week is a ruefully picky point if view.

        • pepperfez says:

          Politics/ethics and aesthetics are alike in a lot of ways, but also very different in some important ones. The biggest is that a political/ethical position is only useful if it’s right, for whatever definition of “right” you happen to use. Feeling good about your political opinion isn’t recognized as a valuable quality for it to have.
          Entertainment/art, though, can be both good and satisfying, or one or the other, and be accounted a success. So not being a connoisseur just means you’ve thoroughly separated those purposes of entertainment, while for the connoisseur the goodness or badness of a piece bleeds over into their enjoyment of it.

        • Premium User Badge

          Cinek says:

          P.Funk – you’re classical example of elitist retard that’s too dumb to understand that your way of playing games isn’t the only right way of doing so.
          People like you are a reason why gaming for years has been looked at as an entertainment of teenagers sitting in their basement, wanking to the Lara Croft posters.

  19. Wut The Melon says:

    Thank you for recognising that pressing ‘X to interact’ is in no way a revolutionary, new, next-gen game mechanic! Thank you also for recognising that Ubisoft really doesn’t want to make open-world games!

    It is possible that a more honest, self-conscious me would realise that I like this review partially just because I agree with it so much, but I’m not that me, so excellent review Graham!

    It also means I can feel vindicated in my decision to not buy any Ubisoft games until they get their heads out of their arses and give Amsterdam: 1666 back to Patrice Desilets. I don’t think I’ll even be tempted, going by their current record.

  20. Blackcompany says:

    I have long said Ubi only knows how to make one game. This pretty well proves that theory.

    Unfortunately, the one game they know how to make is usually a big, open world game whose world is fun to play around in when you are just expkloring. And then they go in and add their narrative. Which is universally terrible, with woode dialogue and walking stereotypes.

    But worse still is that narrative presentation. It has never evolved from the days of linear games. You always have only one narrative mission at a time. Many of these use one forced structure, such as the truly awful forced stealth segments where being spotted is an auto fail (I stopped reading the review at that revelation, having had enough of historical AC games and no need to play a modern one).

    With a game like this, there is no reason not to simply place narrative clues in your open world and let players go find those clues themselves. Ubi could have done something new here and blended the narrative and the open world seamlessly and organically into one whole, a la Dark Souls. They could have treated their audience with respect and assumed we were sufficikently intelligent to go out and discover that narrative on our own initiative, without their hand holding.

    And they blew it. Which just goes to show they learned nothing at all from their last round of forced stealth missions and their entire, abysmal mission structure.

    Thanks RPS for suffering through another miserable slog of Ubi missions so I do not have to.

    Typed from my tablet. Please excuse typos.

  21. Blackcompany says:

    I have long said Ubi only knows how to make one game. This pretty well proves that theory.

    Unfortunately, the one game they know how to make is usually a big, open world game whose world is fun to play around in when you are just expkloring. And then they go in and add their narrative. Which is universally terrible, with woode dialogue and walking stereotypes.

    But worse still is that narrative presentation. It has never evolved from the days of linear games. You always have only one narrative mission at a time. Many of these use one forced structure, such as the truly awful forced stealth segments where being spotted is an auto fail (I stopped reading the review at that revelation, having had enough of historical AC games and no need to play a modern one).

    With a game like this, there is no reason not to simply place narrative clues in your open world and let players go find those clues themselves. Ubi could have done something new here and blended the narrative and the open world seamlessly and organically into one whole, a la Dark Souls. They could have treated their audience with respect and assumed we were sufficikently intelligent to go out and discover that narrative on our own initiative, without their hand holding.

    And they blew it. Which just goes to show they learned nothing at all from their last round of forced stealth missions and their entire, abysmal mission structure.

    Thanks RPS for suffering through another miserable slog of Ubi missions so I do not have to.

    Typed from my tablet. Please excuse typos.

    • james.hancox says:

      Nah, they also do a fantastic job with Rayman.

      • zachforrest says:

        Ubisoft Montpellier do good stuff. BG&E, Rayman, Zombii U and that.

      • Philomelle says:

        Pretty much this.

        People at Ubisoft can make some really fun games. It’s just that their best games, such as Rayman and Child of Light, aren’t the ones being given multi-million development and marketing budgets.

    • Terragot says:

      I’m about to blow your mind but – Ubisoft is more than one studio…

      • Philomelle says:

        Ubisoft often employs multiple studios in the creation of one game. If you check out Wikipedia, they have four different studios listed for Watch_Dogs, five for FarCry 3 and nine (!!!) for Assassin’s Creed IV.

      • Premium User Badge

        RedViv says:

        Read the Edge article about the core editor team at Ubisoft HQ. That explains rather well what makes A Ubisoft Ubisoft Game sooooo Ubisoft.

        • DrollRemark says:

          Yeah, that kept coming to mind for me. Having so much centralised creative control really appears to have stifled their originality in these games.

        • Blackcompany says:

          Ok, read tehedge article. Pretty much confirms my suspicions:one team at Ubi gets to decide the content for all their ganmes. Unsurprising, since – amongst their big budget titles, at leat – they only tend to make one game.

          Yes, to clarify, there do exist exceptions to the only one game thing. Rayman. Child of Light. Sure. For the most part, however, Ubi puts money behind a retextured version of the same, or similar, games time and again. I mean…unlocks and plane upgrades in Blacklist? How much more of an immersion killer can you shove into that game? So why do it? Because players enjoy unlocks and upgrades in all their games, apparently.

          Perhaps the worst example of design by committee I have ever seen. But very informative, thanks.

  22. Rapzid says:

    This is all rather disappointing; if not surprising. I’ll admit to not REALLY reading up on this game, but the blurbs and hype were making it sound like the networking, subsequent hacking, and emergent game-play would be much deeper. I mean, didn’t they delay it because they were having trouble getting it working because it was SO complex? Oh well :|

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      This reminds me of how I felt for the movie Transcendence. It seemed so complex and deep, discussing the difference between machine and man and then merging that into one being and the consequences of that. After I read lots of reviews it didn’t seem all that good anymore and I was almost relieved, because there are so many other movies I’d like to watch and I can’t afford to watch them all. In the case of Watch_dogs, I have so many other games on my backlog and I don’t have enough time to play them all before new games arrive, so I’m kind of relieved that there’s one less I need to worry about. I find movies are easier to enjoy than games, though, so I’ll probably watch Transcendence some day. Don’t know if I’ll ever play Watch_Dogs.

  23. james.hancox says:

    Um, an NSFW warning would have been nice before the pictures of topless women.

    • Crainey says:

      haha yeah no kiding. Fortunately my window was tactically positioned and small so the picture was barely credible. .

    • drinniol says:

      I didn’t see them at first and had to have another look. They look like shop mannequins.

    • pepperfez says:

      I was more scandalized by the prostitute wearing blackface – that seems to be a rather specific clientele she’s targeting.

    • kalirion says:

      +1 for this. I was actually reading the paragraph above the screenshot for some time before noticing the pic. Glad there was nobody walking by glancing at my screen…

    • Michael Fogg says:

      LOL u are so gettin fired

  24. fish99 says:

    As well as the mission restrictions and interaction problems listed here, I also read in other reviews about poor story/characters and dodgy driving physics, and I’ve never been able to enjoy any GTA clone that didn’t have good car physics (for instance Saints Row 3, Sleeping Dogs etc).

    Put all that together and ….. I’ll wait for a sale.

  25. Crainey says:

    Your review sums up pretty much my exact thoughts, having played for a few hours. Unfortunately, I’m not able to actually play the game because my i7 4770k @ 4.4 with 770 2gb SLI (new drivers) can play the game fine on max settings but very frequently either shutters violently or grinds to a halt entirely (slideshow mode, sometimes followed by CTD). Should be said that while the game is more steady FPS on lower settings it still has the issue of stuttering and 1fps slideshow. My friend has the exact same problems with a less powerful but still decent computer.

    Some things that irritated me that you didn’t specifically mention were the bad mouse controls and driving (which is almost to be expect with mouse and k/b). The driving is a lot better with a pad, but I just can’t do aiming/shooting with a pad, it’s intolerable. I also thought the default kb/mouse controls AND pad controls were a bit weird, but I’d hardly take away from the game for that. The camera is also a bit wonky.

    Watch_Dogs’ map isn’t as large as GTA’s that’s for sure, but it is perhaps bigger in the sense that it’s a lot more dense (though I wish it was more open-ended, vertically so). The game has really nice lighting and surface effects, the wind, water and weather effects are also quite good. Things like sparks from bare wheels scrapping along the road and smoke effects are also very nice. None of these things are new but they are still worth celebrating.

    Only reason I’m not regretting my purchase (I think the game is definitely worth it) is because I have hope they’ll fix the fps issue, hopefully my faith is not misplaced.

    • james.hancox says:

      Is it any more stable if you disable SLI? Multi-card setups can often cause problems, especially on new games.

      • Crainey says:

        Disabling SLI and running with one card has no effect (other than giving me less fps). They also released SLI profiles in the latest drivers.

    • Consolidate says:

      That’s strange. I have : i5 3570k @ 4.5 w/ 7950 @ 1200/1500. I’m running 1080p max settings (ultra everything, temporal smaa, high hdao+) @ a stable 40-60 fps everywhere.

      I’ve heard that disabling the page file helps a ton with stuttering.

      • Damn Rookie says:

        From what I’ve heard, it’s a VRAM issue, which would certainly tie in with your stable running (3GB VRAM), and Crainey’s instability (2GB VRAM).

        • Crainey says:

          I would agree with you except I’ve seen a lot of people having this issue. Also, the game runs at max settings 60+ fps completely fine for an hour then seemingly just flips a switch and starts stuttering/freezing, it continue to get worse and worse until it is unplayable. I’ve seen the exact same issue with a number of people. Looks a lot like a memory leak to me, but I’m by no means an expert.

          Not sure how VRAM works but when I run SLI 2x2gb = 4gb? Also reducing my video settings to the very minimum does nothing to alleviate the problem.

  26. Consolidate says:

    Cute review.

    I’ve put a good 10-12 hours into the game and I’ve no problems with the gameplay at all. The gunplay/stealth/cover-system is very smooth and seems to be lifted straight from Splinter Cell: BL. I found the mission structure to be straightforward and accommodating. (Perhaps Graham is bad at videogames?)

    The story is campy, but the writing is very competent. The ambient noise and atmosphere is incredible. The game may very well be packed with too many trite diversions. But those can be safely ignored for the world at large, which alone, is worth the price of entry.

  27. Havalynii says:

    Um, a NSFW flag would have been nice.

    • Jenks says:

      Your boss isn’t ok with titties, but fine with video game reviews?

    • Havalynii says:

      Well on off-time, correct. It’s more that the “NSFW” tag is used as a general “this isn’t a good idea to look at when others are around.” I was actually reading the article with my kids in the room. I also am happily married and would prefer not to be exposed to those images. That being said, I DO appreciate when a game review mentions that kind of content beforehand. I ended up throwing out my disc of The Saboteur for that reason. I try to include my kids in my hobbies (we like playing Star Wars D20, for example), and it’s nice to not have to worry about indecent images. Most gaming websites do you the courtesy of warning you if there will be nudity.

      • aldo_14 says:

        I was actually reading the article with my kids in the room. I also am happily married and would prefer not to be exposed to those images. That being said, I DO appreciate when a game review mentions that kind of content beforehand. I ended up throwing out my disc of The Saboteur for that reason. I try to include my kids in my hobbies (we like playing Star Wars D20, for example), and it’s nice to not have to worry about indecent images. Most gaming websites do you the courtesy of warning you if there will be nudity.

        This may just be me, but ‘those images’ seems an unduly harsh way to refer to it… it’s not exactly more than the average baby sees when breastfeeding, and in a low enough fidelity to lack impact.

        I would be more worried about violence than nudity, frankly, unless we’re talking about actual porn activities. It’s a weird world where nudity in general is viewed as traumatizing to children; if you’re talking about chucking away Saboteur, didn’t you consider the level of violence ahead of the level of nudity?

        • gwathdring says:

          I’m confused by the attitude as well. I understand wanting to keep things away from kids that contain behavior patterns you don’t want them to follow (until they’re old enough or well socialized enough to understand exactly why that behavior is not something they should emulate) or that contain imagery that can cause trauma regardless (violent and scary things). I don’t understand where naked people fit into that.

          I would want to be extra careful to keep my kids away from things that denigrate underprivileged groups, to minimize their internalization of implicitly discriminatory attitudes, but in this particular case that has more to do with the context of the image than with the image itself–though there are certainly images that don’t need additional context to be problematic in that way.

      • Berzee says:

        My thoughts run similarly, and I too prefer that garment-deficient screenshots be prefaced with a helpful alert.

        Tangentially, perhaps you would appreciate my (hardly comprehensive, I admit) modesty mods web-site.

      • Havalynii says:

        Oops, wasn’t too clear. I don’t play games that are violent in front of my kids. I also want them to have a healthy view of sexuality, which precludes them seeing the human body as necessarily being the unrealistically “perfect” nude forms of women being sold in a sex slave market, for example. The Saboteur I threw out for myself, not for the kids, who weren’t allowed around when I played it because of the violence (I don’t have them around for every game that I play). However, we sometimes talk while I’m browsing an article, and it’s nice to know in advance whether some inappropriate content will all of a sudden be flung on-screen.

        Berzee, I DO appreciate the link and will be using. Thanks!

  28. luckystriker says:

    This review was delicious and left me hungry for more.

  29. ebyronnelson says:

    I really think it’s time for RPS reviewers to invest in gamepads (by which I mean xbox360/one controllers) for PC. I get it: initially it was a cute show of solidarity among the much put upon PC gaming community, a way to say, “Eff u console slaves! Mouse and keyboard or die!” But for some time now the availability of fine peripherals across platforms has led to some nice gaming experiences, and meanwhile the tables have kind of turned, with diminishing returns on increasingly expensive consoles struggling to keep up with PC performance. Thus, I don’t think the mouse and keyboard commitment is much of a statement any more.

    It’s just off-putting for me when I read something like “a system that seems designed for analogue triggers more than digital buttons.” Well, yeah? This was always going to be a cross-platform release that was never going to be optimized for mouse and keyboard. I’ve owned a controller for a long time because I’ve known that going in for so many AAA games like this, and I’ve never considered it to be somehow cheating on PC.

    In other words, I want to know what the experience was like for the RPS reviewer PLAYING IT THE PROPER WAY, not playing it with a self-imposed flagellatory handicap for a reason that no longer makes sense– especially when a dang controller only costs 15$ and incredibly enhances certain experiences for owners of 2000$+ rigs.

    (Peeve rant done.)

    • Premium User Badge

      AngelTear says:

      You could have saved the rant by reading Graham’s comment that he also tried it with a controller. You could also have avoided being so haughty as to suppose the RPS staff don’t have controllers – they do, they all do, and Alec even wrote a post about joysticks a few weeks back. When it is the case, they also regularly tell you if one of the two input methods doesn’t work (See: Dark Souls 2 review).

      I like controllers a lot, especially for 3rd person games, but it’s still worth pointing out in a review if the other major input method doesn’t work. (Apparently, a lot of PC gamers just can’t use controllers because they are no good with it, or so I was told in the last comment section when this was brought up)

      • Premium User Badge

        Joshua says:

        When you already own both a joystick and a wheel, buying a controller seems rather pointless. After all, a controller is simply a “jack of all trades”, you already have all three spectra of the gaming peripheral, why would you need a weird in_between_solution?

        That is how I thought before I finally decided to buy a controller (mainly due to me owning two computers in seperate loactions and the aforementioned peripherals being quite hard to transport in between). As it turns out, the Xbox 360 controller actually feels really really good to play games with, esp. third person games and… well… any game designed with the Xbox 360 controller in mind. Which is quite a lot.

        Be sure to check out any alternatives too, though. Logitech makes excellent PS3-style controllers, and thrustmaster and Saitek have some XBOX360-but-better designs. All are distinct PC-peripheral companies, mind.

        • Slazer says:

          Feels in no way pointless because a controller is
          1) Joystic and Wheel are still best used on a table/desk surface, a gamepad doesn’t need that
          2) The twinstick combination is at least a half-close match to m+kb, a joystick can’t offer that.

          But welcome to gamepad world, I spent 90% of my playing time on the couch by now, and it will also save you from crippling your fingers if you ever play any sports games. Still, long range shooting feels like a nightmare. Games like Borderlands or Far Cry feel much less enjoyable when I can’t aim with a mouse, and I prefer it even for 3rd person cover shooters. If you sell it on a PC, have a solid mouse support

          • P.Funk says:

            After a 5 hours NHL marathon half drunk with my friends I can report plenty of finger cramping issues.

            Fact is that any repetitive use of the hands while maintaining a similar grip is going to lead to those issues. At least with a mouse you can use your arm and wrist as well. If anything the mouse is easier on the hands.

          • Premium User Badge

            Cinek says:

            1) And I don’t give a shit, cause the chair I have is very comfortable and seeing on a couch drinking beer and splitting it on a TV a’la console gamers seem completely unattractive for me.
            2) Depends what you use it for. I pick a right tool for the job – and the game with driving, running and gunning seem like something that either should work perfectly with M+K (after all – it’s very arcade, so no need to use the wheel) or M+K+W (if I’d really need a precision while driving).

            Controller is something that’s decent for platformers, sport games, and some of the action games that don’t require accurate aiming. But in any other games – it’s nothing more than in_between_solution.

      • ebyronnelson says:

        He wrote that reply after I posted. (… I don’t know why it says earlier, maybe it didn’t show up until later, but there was only the first reply of his about textures at time of post.)

        Sorry, I hadn’t seen the other article you mentioned. I just know that I’ve seen this a number of times, complaints about mouse and keyboard functionality on new AAA games by reviewers, and I’ve never seen them mention use or ownership of a controller. So it seemed like some kind of weird PC-gamer fetish pattern, maybe it isn’t.

        • Distec says:

          I think these reviews are meant to inform potential customers as well. Your average PC gamer has a mouse and keyboard. Gamepads and other controllers are less common. So if a game doesn’t control well with the primary method input of the PC, then it deserves to be criticized for it. Mouse and keyboard controls are not a “PC game fetish”; it’s how most PC gamers play games.

          Most people are looking to buy just a game. They are not going to factor in an extra controller costing X money in order to experience Watch_Dogs the “proper” way. If the controls are somehow unworkable on a kb+m, then that is what it is. But I dislike the idea that the review loses merit if you didn’t purchase another $20-50 peripheral device along with it.

        • Graham Smith says:

          My using a keyboard and mouse isn’t some political statement. I use keyboard and mouse for shooty action games because I prefer aiming that way. It’s also not contrary to the way the game was meant to be played: it has keyboard and mouse controls, relevant on-screen prompts, and a menu setting (off by default) to turn on aim-assistance if you want to start using a pad.

          In other words, Ubisoft have made an effort to support keyboard and mouse – at least enough to imply it’s on equal footing with controllers. I wish they’d gone further, but I don’t think I’m playing it wrong just because I’d rather aim my gun myself without needing to ask the game to help me out.

          (I love 360 pads, just not for games like this.),

          • ebyronnelson says:

            But would you agree that, for better or worse, it’s unreasonable to expect at this point that AAA releases like this will be designed with optimal mouse and keyboard play value in mind? And if so, wouldn’t it prudent to have a controller handy in case you find such a game easier or more fun to play that way, if such a game you indeed intend to play? That’s all I’m saying: it’s something, it seems to me, that just comes with the territory now, along with dlc bonus whatevers and online co-op somethings.

            … Ok, maybe not you in particular, but I believe there is somewhere a guy who is clutching his mouse and keyboard and mumbling to himself, “In my cold, dead hands, is the only way you’ll see me with a gamepad!”

            (I have been playing W_D, and I agree with most of what you say– a lot of it seems undercooked. But there are moments of real joy when you realize how fleshed out and detailed in a persistent, dynamic way the world is. Favorite thing I’ve done: I accidentally hit the “threaten” button when trying on coats in a store, and the poor cashier person, a Hispanic man weirdly named Bob Mathews, got freaked out and ran out the back door, so I went after him to try to explain the misunderstanding. But instead of crouching in an immovable ball or disappearing altogether, as I’ve come to expect from games like this, he was still there running down the street. I followed him for a half hour! He ran all over Chicago. Sometimes I let him run like a block ahead and he’d calm down, but when he saw me again, he remembered me and got freaked out again. I really wish this whole detailed world and the tech behind it had been put in the service of a better narrative, like a neo-noir private eye thing or something, but I guess the industry mantra is that interesting stories and characters won’t make the billions.)

    • Consolidate says:

      I second this rant.

      Even though I played ‘better’ with a mouse and keyboard, the game is simply a lot more fun (driving first-person especially) on a gamepad.

      Driving around the city on Kb+M feels to goddamn clunky and tedious. But with a controller, you just become completely immersed.

      • Premium User Badge

        Cinek says:

        “Driving with controller” and “immersed” shouldn’t stand so close to each other. If you want to be immersed – buy a driving wheel. Otherwise stop talking BS.

    • kael13 says:

      Driving and flying, sure you’ve got a point. But there’s no way that aiming a gun is better with a controller.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      Head of Ubisoft says PC is going to be lead platform for Watch Dogs. Reviewer implies primary input device for PC users isn’t handled well.

      I see nothing strange here.

      • qrter says:

        This. If part of your game’s hype campaign is that the PC is supposed to be the “leading platform”, surely a more than properly functioning mouse+keyboard setup should be expected?

    • clumsyandshy says:

      I prefer to play all third-person games that have anything to do with aiming with mouse & kb since THAT IS THE PROPER WAY OF PLAYING THEM!

      See, we both have opinions. And they happen to be different. Let’s all calm down :)

    • fish99 says:

      I would agree with you, but for the fact that all the GTA games work flawlessly on mouse and keyboard, so this isn’t a genre where mouse/keyboard is known to be inferior (like say fighting games). If it works fine in GTA4 it should work fine in Watch Dogs.

    • Arglebargle says:

      If you are going to suppor an interface, it should be done well. I’ve spent years working on my M&K reflexes. UI matters. If you’re going to require an alternate controller for reasonable gameplay, say so from the beginning.

  30. altum videtur says:

    “Fuck underscore that.”

    Words to live by.

  31. stonetoes says:

    The best part of the game so far for me has been using the environmental hacking to escape pursuers while driving. Raising a bridge just as you reach it then performing a massive jump over the river, leaving the cops in a pile behind you, is absolutely glorious. There’s a real satisfaction that comes from succesfully looking behind you to raise some bollards so a chasing enemy smashes into them while you’re also barreling along at 90mph and dodging civilians. It’s also interesting when you try to take out enemy hackers, who can simply lower those bridges/bollards/spikes, leaving you without your usual arsenal and having to rethink your ambush.

    Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the areas on foot. At most you wait for an enemy to wander close to a magically exploding pipe, or very occasionally drop a crate on him, but there’s no real skill in it. Headshoting enemies also gives twice the experience that exploding them does, giving another disincentive to using the environment. Plus the fact that there aren’t any hacking-related enemy takedowns that are stealthy so if you want to take out enemies quietly you have to do it the same way you would in countless other games, hacking be damned.

    I agree that this game is infuriating sometimes, I have rage-quit out of it more than any other in recent memory.

    • Nenjin says:

      Gah, I hate it when developers do that!

      Deus EX HR did essentially the same thing. Sure you can play it your way….you’re also going to make less XP for playing it your way, because the devs arbitrarily decided that stealth/no-kill should be the most rewarding course of action.

      If you tell me a game is about the freedom to choose my approach, don’t suddenly make mechanical value statements by rewarding one activity more than another.

      • Premium User Badge

        Cinek says:

        DX:HR plays just fine in full-rambo mode. I went through the whole game this way and it was really fun.

  32. Megakoresh says:

    Hmm. One has to wonder what the fuck was the point in the delay of this game, as all the issues you describe are the ones belonging more or less to the “polish and UX improvement” department. So they set the game back half a year and it comes out half-assed? What the fuck is wrong with them? I am not particularly surprised about the horrendous controls: it’s a Ubisoft game; but optimization? Stability? Balancing and checkpoint placement? What the hell?!

    I am also disappointed with how there’s no complex hacking. I am fine with just using traffic lights and ATMs or civilians with one button, but I was hoping for more complex and in-depth hacking mini-games for the more advanced things like datacenters or some side missions. In a game about hacking, it’s pretty lame when Deus Ex: Human Revolution does the actual hacking minigame better.

    On the other hand, in Dark Souls when you die you are set back behind a ton of mobs you have killed a ton of times so they could be killed over and over again, yet I don’t see them complaining about that. And the obvious implication of the game supposedly deliberately undermining women’s roles in it because it’s sexist is also dragging the quality of the review down significantly.

    RPS reviews are always to be taken with a grain of salt, but the performance, stability and balancing problems are something that can not be dismissed. This is half-assed and unacceptable for a AAA game that was hyped beyond all virtual and physical realms.

    • Philomelle says:

      “On the other hand, in Dark Souls when you die you are set back behind a ton of mobs you have killed a ton of times so they could be killed over and over again, yet I don’t see them complaining about that.”

      That might be an indicator that combat is fun in Dark Souls, but is a chore in Watch_Dogs. That means it’s fun to repeat in the first game (I know I tackled the same location multiple times because it was fun trying to perfect it), but isn’t worth so much as attempting in the second.

      “And the obvious implication of the game supposedly deliberately undermining women’s roles in it because it’s sexist is also dragging the quality of the review down significantly.”

      He doesn’t say it’s deliberate. He says it’s the same kind of lazy writing we’ve seen in a million Hollywood blockbusters written by young starry-eyed scriptwriters who think “former criminal/mercenary/some other unsavory profession that involves bloodletting and toothgnashing turns into vigilante” is still cool and hasn’t ever been done in the exact same way a hundred times before.

      Which is, y’know, valid. The “gritty guild-ridden loser dude who is trying to do right” and “mature and responsible female relative who is magically rendered useless by being grabbed by the shoulder or some other body part that magically induces total helplessness” couple are a Hollywood stereotype that I would’ve loved to see less of.

      • Megakoresh says:

        He doesn’t say it is or isnt deliberate, he implies it’s deliberate. Such is the idiotic tradition the RPS seem to have invented for themseleves recently. Most of the time it’s bullshit, so I just ignore it. And noone was expecting a narrative masterpiece from this. In fact if he was to put out any proper storyline critique in your area, he would have noted the cliche “sadface kid on a birthday party” and family drama, as well as incredibly predictable underlining plot and uninspired and stereotypical storyline setting, where “the heart of all evil” could be seen a mile away. He doesn’t mention any of that. He instead tries to imply the game being sexist. It’s RPS. It’s just one of those things I simply ignore. Whatever.

        As far as combat goes, Watch Dogs combat is a lot more enjoyable than in Dark Souls (not including boss battles of course). The AI in this game is smart and has pretty good tactical awareness. It can also use a variety of tools and guns effectively, true to their nature. That doesn’t excuse terrible checkpoint. Even if the AI is good and combat has enough depth, in a game that does not have random generation, doing the same thing over and over again is never fun and is boring.

        The difference here is purely in perception and convincing oneself that the same thing is acceptable in one game and not acceptable in another because their defined featuresets are differently described. Watch Dogs didn’t boast about it’s checkpoints being “so hardcore and challenging”, ergo we are gonna recognize them as being terrible. It’s very typical, I would say corporate propaganda, but it’s way too big a word for something so insignificant.

        I am interested in whether or not they will fix these issues. It by no means is acceptable that the game goes out in such a state, but at least if they fix it, it might imply they care about the game a little more than it just being a way to make a profit.

        • DrollRemark says:

          And noone was expecting a narrative masterpiece from this.

          Oh well, that’s ok then.

        • Premium User Badge

          Cinek says:

          “in a game that does not have random generation, doing the same thing over and over again is never fun and is boring. ” – I laughed. Games with random, or even procedural, generation still force you to do the same over and over again – only instead of seeing missions you see “bricks” this missions are build from – and they get boring just as well.

        • Graham Smith says:

          The game is sexist.

          Being sexist is not predicated on whether it was deliberate.

          I am not calling the people who made the game sexist. I am saying that the values expressed through the game, separate from authorial intent, are sexist.

          I didn’t want to linger too much on the story – I prefer talking about mechanics, and the review is already 2600 words long – but your assessment there is correct. However, sexism – or denigrating or dismissive portrayals of any group – is both worse and less obvious than a story simply being boring or rote or cliché. Therefore I’d spend the time to call that out and ward people away first, before I’d spend time to point out the predictable plot twists.

          Also, as for “no one expected.” Er, well. Obviously that’s a problematic dismissal of any criticism, but Ubisoft have been yelling about their commitment to story for a while now. They’ve done press around their team of editors, and their supergroup of writers who work across projects to make sure everything is tip-top. On those grounds, you might be forgiven for thinking Watch_Dogs might star a main character whose personality could be described beyond his role and his clothing. Or more than four female characters in the entire game. Or for any of those female characters to ever talk to each other, or to ever do anything beyond be kidnapped or be prostitutes.

          Or or or.

          • Megakoresh says:

            Ubisoft have never in the recent, what, decade, delivered a good unique and intricate storyline. “Commitment” can mean many things. Voice acting in the game is great, maybe they meant that?

            And I don’t like the “critique” of game’s being sexist or discriminating because it does not “involve women enough”, because it results in shittier storylines if being listened to too much. In almost all the cases when the game is being called “sexist” on this site it’s a case of writers just… well, failing to come up with a story such that it is more balanced in terms of genders. The way they are going, it just so happens that there aren’t many women and they aren’t being given too important roles.

            It’s WAY better than shoving them down your throat just for the sake of there BEING a woman that is somehow important. It’s fucking infuriating when the games do that and they do that often. Bioware is a prime example with their “Femshep” who literally has nothing feminine about her whatsoever, it’s a man in a woman’s body and feels so contrived and forced, it’s awkward to play. That’s just one of the more extreme examples. All of their same sex romance options is all growing from this as well. Compromising the quality of the narrative due to friggin politics. And you are encouraging that.

            And when it comes to that: How is GTA isn’t called sexist? Sleeping Dogs? Dishonored? I am not going to convince you of course, but here’s my point: being sexist implies a deliberate choice based on opinion that a certain gender is inferior to the other. Not at any point during Watch Dogs did I encounter such an implication. And placement of female characters is tied into the story in a completely natural way, without any indication that it was deliberately done this way because they were women. Absence of female characters in different roles is explained simply by the writers not envisioning a character with that genre in one of those roles.

            These accusations do way more damage than good to future titles and storylines.

          • DrollRemark says:

            Bioware is a prime example with their “Femshep” who literally has nothing feminine about her whatsoever, it’s a man in a woman’s body and feels so contrived and forced, it’s awkward to play.

            Not all women fit into your apparent definition of “feminine”.

          • Philomelle says:

            “I am not going to convince you of course, but here’s my point: being sexist implies a deliberate choice based on opinion that a certain gender is inferior to the other.”

            Bzzt. Wrong. It’s perfectly possible to be bigoted out of ignorance rather than deliberate intent. Try reading Adventures of Huckleberry Finn sometime. It’s about a different sort of bigotry, but it does explore and satirize the idea of entrenched attitudes.

            “Bioware is a prime example with their “Femshep” who literally has nothing feminine about her whatsoever, it’s a man in a woman’s body and feels so contrived and forced, it’s awkward to play.”

            BZZT! Wrong again, embarrassingly and humiliatingly so. Bioware’s creative team is in fact 50% female. It has been decided early into Mass Effect’s development that it’s set in a world where racism and sexism have long atrophied out of human behavior, so there are no more prejudices or misconceptions about how a person of any gender should act. Or have you somehow missed that Ashley and other women in the series carry themselves exactly the same as Femshep?

            Incidentally, that very complaint about Mass Effect – that a woman should act in some specific way that calls attention to her “femaleness” rather than carry herself just like every other human being in the game – is an expectation born out of entrenched sexism, which is something that occurs in a society where such an attitude is subconsciously expected.

            I hope that bringing your ignorance-driven sexism to your attention will make you a better person in the long term.

        • P.Funk says:

          So apparently sexism or racism, or any of the isms that were at one point relevant in the apparently distant past of our culture’s era of self examination are to be ignored and not perceived as significant when they exist benignly in the background. The only ism that matters is the kind that is promoted deliberately and loudly as a cause by some extremist idiot who doesn’t even exist.

          Its attitudes like this which cause these issues to persist. Its passive acceptance of something insidious like this that creates the millions of small seemingly benign dribs and draps in a culture that quietly sustain regressive attitudes over time.

          Its this attitude that basically means nothing changes quickly because people get bored when someone mentions the presence of an ism and if they hear the comment on the ism often enough they get cranky and start resisting it. You invalidate the entire concern with the ism by acting like its find, leave it be, doesn’t matter.

          Its thinking like this that means we have to reach for broad strokes of revolutionary heroism, big statements and radical portrayals that shock us and make us take notice. We can’t make small changes by incorporating more varied and realistic portrayals of women, no we need to have them have their own games with their own cahracters and write women’s equal treatment all over it like some big statement.

          Progress is only had in a war of dichotomies apparently. Everyone else just wants to go about day to day enjoying their AAA games which reside passively in the as yet unchanged status quo.

          I’m happy RPS calls a spade a spade. The only reason most people don’t is because people react poorly to the truth. That however is a general truth that pervades all life everywhere. Sexism is sexism, but calling it that apparently sets people off. For most people the more appropriate term is “not a masterpiece”.

        • Philomelle says:

          “And noone was expecting a narrative masterpiece from this.”

          You seem to struggle at thinking in terms other than absolutes. What you don’t seem to realize that a story doesn’t have to be good or bad. It can also be varying degrees of enjoyable, some of them less so, some of them more so.

          Graham’s description of sexism in the game does, in fact, pertain to the sort of proper storyline critique I described. The image he paints of women’s participation in the story is very particular and 100% related to the Hollywood stereotypes in my post. You see, those particular writing devices have been used for the last 30 years in every single action movie starring Bruce Willis or someone whose acting style can vaguely pass off for Bruce Willis, and they have grown utterly tiresome both because they are sexist and because they are predictable.

          Example: that Aiden has a mature and responsible sister who attempted to move on with her life and build something new automatically tells me that she will be grabbed by the shoulder later into the game, at which point she will be rendered completely helpless and spend much of the remaining story staring at Aiden with haunted desperate eyes that will scream “I’m so sorry my loser of a brother that I ever doubted your intentions, look at how noble and heroic you are, I have new respect for you, go and save and the world pls.”

          It’s a typical juvenile fantasy where a loser protagonist ruins his own and his close ones’ lives, but in the end prevails against their expectations of him growing up, changing for the better and getting a real job. After all, if he stopped being a loser back then, he wouldn’t be able to be a hero right now!

          This kind of storyline can also be summarized as “BUT YOU’RE NOT MY REAL MOM!”. It sucks and you shouldn’t be defending its existence by claiming that nobody expected the game to be a masterpiece. It’s not about it being a masterpiece, it’s about it not being utter schlock.

          “Even if the AI is good and combat has enough depth, in a game that does not have random generation, doing the same thing over and over again is never fun and is boring.”

          Not to be harsh, but if I gave you a program that randomly generated turds, would you have fun with it forever because it generates a new turd every time?

  33. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    Heh. Is that the exact same poker minigame as the one in Far Cry 3?

  34. Baffle Mint says:

    I wonder if something has to happen to change open world games at some point, because I knew almost exactly how this was going to review just from seeing ads for the game plastered on game sites, because every open-world game reviews this way:

    “AAA Open World is gorgeous, let’s get that out of the way first. Exploring the streets and alleyways of this painstaking recreation of Waterloo, Iowa provides some of the best experiences in game.

    The story, unfortunately, is utter garbage, starring a gruff yet bland caricature of masculinity who is forced to tackle a labyrinthine conspiracy which you won’t care about at all. All the women in the game are there to serve as props to spur our hero into action, and they have no purpose besides this.

    As for the mechanics and missions, the game uses a variety of tried-but-true game mechanics, which are executed competently but not brilliantly. At their best, missions provide many options to make you feel like a badass, but most missions have overly constrained objectives that never really bother to make use of the open world or all of your character’s powers, and often you’re locked into completing missions only in the single way the developers wanted you to.”

    There.

    Now you know how every single open world game since and including GTA III plays.

    I’m not trying to slight Mr. Smith; these games review the same because they are the same. What’s left to say?

    • quintesse says:

      Unfortunately you’re right. There was a time I had hope for this game, which was lessened greatly when I learned it wouldn’t come out on Steam, but when I read that it was a GTA-like I lost all interest. Even as one who liked Far Cry 3…. in the end it’s all the same stuff. Nice while you’re still exploring and figuring out what all the mini games are for, but after that it’s just boring, ticking off the list of items, it becomes work instead of play.
      The same as I have lost hope for MMORPGs I’ve lost hope for GTA-like “open world” games. I still have *some^* hope left for Skyrim-like open worlds that let you do almost anything and whose missions don’t seem to be copy&pasted (although in the end even they don’t display much variety).

      • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

        In all fairness, Morrowind was a lot better than Skyrim in that respect (and almost every other respect, indeed!). I can’t recall another RPG-type game that fused narrative with exploration and personal goals as well as MW, but developers (not least Bethesda) seem reticent to copy the formula. In recent years, I can think of only New Vegas that really made the effort to make open world gameplay a bit more varied and non-trivial than “grind for 300 hours kthx”

      • Premium User Badge

        Cinek says:

        Skyrim was a nightmare really. Main plot was a joke and only thing that happened after completing it was that the game turned into an easy mode. And the missions…. let’s not get started about that…. most of them were the same thing over and over again: Get into a super-linear dungeon, kill everything inside, pick the award, get back. After 40th dungeon build on the same scheme I gave up and never installed it again.

      • Slazer says:

        The Witcher 3 seems to have some ideas there, like the next plot point depending on where you go next instead of the main story being on hold until go to the big X. Also areas changing (wiped out and burned down?) based on your decisions.

        We’ll see how it turns out, but so far you’re right that games are rather taking a step backwards instead of getting the genre forward.

        The archetypes today are basically Bethesda-Modbox (big, full of dungeons, script bugs), GTA style (stand on X to trigger event) and AssCreed (pseudo open world with limited areas during missions).

        • Premium User Badge

          Cinek says:

          We’ll see. I’m being super-careful about my hype for W3, cause from what they said so far – this game looks like a true breakthrough in a genre, possibly be-all-end-all of open-world RPGs…. but again: hype. We’ll see, we’ll see… my biggest issue with W2 was lack of side-quests and I’m really worried that W3 will have the same problem.

          • Slazer says:

            See your point, though I am actually not a big sidequest fan. It feels weird when you have to save the town quickly, but some guy asks you to collect potatoes from a farm 50 miles away, so you just walk off for the next hours. TW2 sidequests rather appeared when you had some spare time or it was more or less on your path anyway.

            I prefer 30 (x3 so far) hours tight Witcher narrative to 100 hours generic running through Skyrim (had my 20, won’t come back), but that discussion is getting old.

            Of course you should be careful about such ambitious projects, but it’s something to keep your eyes out for. I’m a sucker for the story anyway, just making my 3rd run through the books and owning each game several time^^

            Never even think about watching the movie

          • Premium User Badge

            Cinek says:

            Well, there are moments when you’re saving a town, and there are moments when you don’t know where to go next, or you simply need to earn cash in order to get prepared for a next battle – that’s when side-quests step in. But overall – I totally agree, and I’d definitely swap countless hours of Skyrim-style game for a few hours of W2-style game.

    • playtech1 says:

      With the next-gen consoles looking like they have failed to bring a quantum leap in graphics, it’s going to take some serious innovations in gameplay to freshen up this and many other genres. But when a AAA game can be a $50m+ investment, it’s perhaps not surprising you see the same reliable mechanics time after time. I’m reasonably happy playing Assassin’s Creed: Chicago (which 4 hours in is what this seems to be), but I suspect could be much happier if the story telling was better. Why haven’t I cried at a game since Aeris?

  35. Surgeon says:

    Won’t_Buy

  36. vegeta1998 says:

    Fuck Watchdogs.

    • Sleepymatt says:

      Watch Fuckdogs.

      Shit, that’s an entirely different game.

      • Spacewalk says:

        That’s how my classmate’s step-mother makes 83$ an hour.

      • The Random One says:

        Watch Dogs Fuck, the thrilling breeding simulator.

  37. WinTurkey says:

    This is just classic Ubisoft, their new open-world games always have a bunch of interesting ideas which never get properly developed because the devs get scared to experiment.

    Look at Far Cry 2
    Look at Assassins Creed 1

    I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ll do with Watch Dogs 2, I expect it to be an improvement.

    • qrter says:

      I disagree on Far Cry 2 – whether you liked the game or not, there was a certain amount of experimentation in the game’s openworldness and its narrative.

      Far Cry 3, however..

    • InternetBatman says:

      I would actually argue with you about Far Cry 2. The devs were perfectly willing to experiment, they just picked an atmosphere and genre that were in complete conflict with each other. The fact that in some places the experiment didn’t work still argues that there was experimentation.

  38. qrter says:

    This part from the (lukewarm) review over at Giant Bomb hits on a particular good point, I thought:

    The visual implementation of hacking is pretty good at making the HUD and information you learn about nearby civilians seem like it’s coming in via some kind of augmented reality setup–which actually makes the whole game feel weirdly dated, since Pearce spends much of the game staring down at his phone like a bored kid trying to ignore his parents.

    Given that we live in an era where people are out there paying way-too-much money for Google Glass and anticipating other head-mounted setups, going phone-only (and all the hilarious animations that come along with a man holding a pistol in one hand and a phone in the other) seems out of touch for a game that’s trying to represent the dark future of technology. That dark future is already here, and Watch Dogs gets that wrong.

    http://www.giantbomb.com/reviews/watch-dogs-review/1900-644/

    • Premium User Badge

      Rizlar says:

      Computer game tries to make walking everywhere while staring at your phone look cool, fails.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      I’m not sure I agree with that bit, whilst I see what’s being said I think I (and possibly most people) will relate better to idea of the mobile phone. Sure, there’s tech like the glass out there but it’s actually still a little way off and it’s certainly not an every day piece of hardware.

      The UI does indeed feel like a Augmented Reality and I suppose in a way it is, augmenting the reality of the Watch_Dogs world with information that we the player need. But it is aesthetically fitting i think

      • Premium User Badge

        Gap Gen says:

        I guess that’s also why TV shows liked flip phones so much; it demonstrated that someone was using the phone far more than just lifting up an unmoving cuboid. Glass would make it harder to demonstrate that someone was interacting with technology.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cinek says:

      “Pearce spends much of the game staring down at his phone like a bored kid trying to ignore his parents. ”

      ^ Mark my words: That’s how the world will look like in 30 years or so, when majority of population will spend their childhood with smartphones. In that respect: Watch Dogs is incredibly realistic.

      • LionsPhil says:

        What do you mean, “in 30 years”? It already does.

        • Premium User Badge

          Cinek says:

          You should really stop going where you go. There’s a whole beautiful world out there, full of normal people.

      • unit 3000-21 says:

        Yeah, I remember a time when hitting a lull in a conversation at a party meant you had to try to say something interesting or funny. Now most people see it as a sign to check facebook or sth.

  39. Ernesto says:

    They introduced a secondary ‘use’ key. How innovative. Not that I was expecting anything else from the videos, really. It would be something different when there were some preparation necessary before triggering the ‘hack’…

  40. erzilie says:

    is it internet-edgy enough of me to say that ubisoft has literally never released a game that has impressed, engaged, or interested me on any level? i want that badge. i really do.

    it came for free with my graphics card though so i might as well fuck around in its attic for a little while. i will write stories in my head about the civilians i walk by, like the valedictorian prostitute whose dreams were gutted by the economy (see: screenshot!), or the elderly frotteur ambling down the street. what is his life, if this is his most defining, humanizing characteristic? how sore is his junk? these are the real mysteries.

    i will write stories in my head about aiden pearce writing stories in his head about the people he walks by. it will be more interesting than anything the narrative itself can deliver in its elias toufexis knockoff growl. at some point he’ll think, “that’s a nihilist employed as a human billboard, waving a pharmacy sign claiming ‘we care’. this is absurd. is this life?” he panics. what if it isn’t? why do the people he comes across seem so randomly generated? so cobbled together with a mix-and-match pool of traits, spat out like a slurry? he can’t sleep at night.

    why does she only have a hundred dollars to her name? she’s a banker. is she making snow angels in her piles of cocaine? his phone won’t tell him. why won’t his phone tell him?

    why has he seen that person before? they aren’t the same person. his phone says they aren’t the same person.

    they’re calling the police. his hand twitches for his gun, for his phone. do they deserve to die for running a puppy mill? or do they deserve to die for calling the police?

    he wakes up on division, wedged under the L supports. the world shimmies and sways and rattles with the trains above him. he vomits. the bottle clatters down the storm drain.

    WATCH_DOGS

    • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

      I wouldn’t say you’re being edgy at all, indeed it is rapidly approaching a consensus. Lack of depth is becoming a real problem in open world games.

      Dare I say that I hope the Witcher 3 is better in this regard? Cyberpunk 2077 may well turn out to be the game Watch_Dogs should have been.

      • Premium User Badge

        Cinek says:

        Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t want to be the type of a game that Watch Dogs is.

    • Wulfram says:

      Thanks for making me google “frotteur”

    • The Random One says:

      *tearful standing ovation*

  41. Jason Moyer says:

    It’s Assassin’s Creed without the parts where you go back and relive an ancestor’s memories. I’m still not entirely sure why people were so excited about this.

  42. poetsmoke says:

    Can we now get a series of chip reviews? Next up “Wot I Think: Chicken_Chips”

  43. Dave Tosser says:

    Using a food analogy to describe a video game. For shame, Graham. It’s almost as bad as comparing computers to cars.

  44. Premium User Badge

    golem09 says:

    Watching underdogs score.

  45. marbled says:

    Man, this was the first game that my (5 year old) rig can’t play (I’ve still got a GTX 260 + Quad Core 2.66 with 4gb RAM), and I was toying with the question of whether I should think about upgrading. Based on this review, I’ll wait 6 more months before upgrading for Arkham Knight and Witcher 3….

  46. Geebs says:

    Um, so if I read things correctly, the screenshots imply that Graham has both the “iconic cap” and the “iconic jacket”, meaning that RPS was given at least two different special editions.

    VIRTUAL_CLOTHES_GATE

    The public must know!

  47. CookPassBabtridge says:

    So, Assassins Cry Dogs then?

  48. Dawngreeter says:

    This is more or less what I expected, and I pre-ordered the game (yeah, I know, never pre order, etc. But it saved me 20 euro). Although I’m yet to sit down and play it. I love AssCreed and I had little doubt about loving Watch Dogs (Wags?). I guess the main thing is, do you like roaming around a huge map with a ton of stuff and be ok with the central gameplay not being notably deep.

    There are days I wish basic AssCreed gameplay had more depth, certainly. And I’m sure it’ll be the same with Wags (watch me coin the word!). But overall, the Ubi template is very pleasing to my OCD. And I have so far loved the stories they tell. Sure, there are better games out there, strictly speaking. But for my money, AssCreed and Wags (!) are the best high budget spectacles on offer.

  49. Zulthar says:

    I still think the title of this game is hilarious. Isn’t the correct word supposed to be Watchdogs? As in, a single word? Watch Dogs sounds like a game where you watch dogs.

  50. Groove says:

    It’s sad that no-one says ‘what a shame’ any more. What a shame. I was so excited by Watch Dogs last year.