Brief Impressions: Watch Dogs

This screen is proddable
I overheard a man at Ubi’s recent Digital Days event describe Watch Dogs as “not really single-player, not really multiplayer”. I’ve no idea who it was, and it might have been a ghost, but it’s a fairly good description. Watch Dogs is an odd game. An open-world game of hacking that has touches of GTA and Deus Ex. But Like Dark Souls, it allows you to let other players into your game as sneaky opponents. There are a few ways they can get involved: you can leave the door open for anyone to wander in and they can bring their character and guns and try and take you out, or there’s a versus game where you can let a friend mess with the world from the free mobile ‘ctOS’ app as you attempt to escape their attention. I had a very brief play of the latter as the tablet prodder. It’s not great, but it is interesting.

Bringing a friend into the game makes it a different experience

The tablet-wielding overlord has access to all the powers Aiden Pearce has, but they’re watching from above, and using those hacks to trip him. When they log-in to your world, after asking the owner of the main game for permission, they’re presented with a wire-frame view of the map on the tablet. On that map they generate a race: dragging the beginning, the end, and the checkpoints. It’s up to Aiden to complete it in the allotted time.

It’s like inviting a GM into your game: as you sneak through the world, the tablet-player needs to find you with his avatar, a flying police chopper with a beam light. Part of his challenge is to keep the chopper over the Aiden. With Aiden in the glare, you can see where he’s going, what direction he’s facing, and what bits of the world you can hacktivate. If he drifts away you need to reestablish contact or you won’t be able to manipulate the world.

I was watching the little arrow try to escape my glare and redirected nearby police to his location. I looked up to the player’s screen (we were sat together, me with the tablet and my unnamed journo companion fleeing my attention) and saw the cars screech around the corner. I did that! I only had indirect control over the police, guiding their presence around the map. Aiden managed to squeeze past them, though, and hopped into a car.

I looked back down to the tablet where it was now apparent how this makes things harder for me: if Aiden’s on the move, the chopper needs to be continually dragged around while you’re hurting for ways to disrupt Aiden’s journey. It’s not completely intuitive, and a bit of lag made it tough to anticipate his movement.

I managed to lock-on again and looked around. I flicked traffic lights to green, but he dodged the now freely moving traffic. I popped up some bollards and looked up to see him powerslide into them, spinning wheels and boosting away from my flipped up blockers. Then I noticed the bridge. I can’t, can I? I can. I did. The bridge began to tilt, and Aiden’s car had too much velocity to avoid it this time. Smash! I win.

All in, it was no more than a three or four minute diversion from the main game, which makes me think this is another companion app designed for toilet breaks. It wasn’t a complete success. Watching a few other games being played, I got the feeling that I probably wouldn’t allow too many people into my game. I’m a stealthy gamer by default, and this mode has no subtlety to it at all: instead of the careful hackery we’ve previously seen from Watch Dogs, escaping from the invited foe was was an all-out sprint. Playing with the tablet was fairly fiddly, because keeping up with a moving car as you attempt to set up road-blocks is a proper fumble-thon.

But I’m a big fan of games that have mobile editions that engage with the full game, and Watch Dogs is an interesting attempt at making something that has a thematic reason to bring two systems together. It’s a game where the player uses his mobile to hack the world, and that’s exactly what you have to fight against, here. I think I’d prefer it if it was more subtle, using the street cameras as a way to view the player and mess with his game, rather than using a chopper to direct set-pieces, but I’d guess the difference in power between the systems precludes that. It’s start, and the first game that takes the potential of mobile vs PC in a way that makes sense on both devices. It’s neat, and an encouraging step that shows you can have the pair interacting. It just needs a better game-mode.


  1. Gap Gen says:

    Do you have any screenshots of the dog with all the watches? Time Hound, I think it was.

    • The Dark One says:

      The answer to your questions may lie in the alt-text for the article’s images.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Ah, I’m on my phone right now and can’t read the hidden messages because apparently that’s not something you need to be able to do, and Googlebot knows best.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Also I assume that the alt text explains how one might prevent ones opponent, how that leads to you reaching their objectives, and why that might be advantageous.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Oh, and it appears you lied to me. I demand that Ubisoft break their silence concerning the entity I am now referring to as Doctor Whoof.

  2. DrScuttles says:

    A chilling vision of the future in which dispassionate security officers co-ordinate surveillance and manhunts half-heartedly while having a poo. Lag and the dreaded double flusher being the criminal of tomorrow’s best friends.

    • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

      Jeez, what happens if you need to break the back of the lurker, would make for an amusing insurance claim.

      ‘I was simultaneously trying to snap a shit in half with a toilet brush and coordinate a man hunt on the tablet when a knock on the cubicle door from my boos made me jump and I dropped the aforementioned tablet in the bowl’

  3. WinTurkey says:

    So is the mobile app something you buy from the store or is it free? Will there be a Windows version to play on the PC?

    I don’t own a smartphone or tablet, I will be so pissed off if I get the main game and have an incomplete product.

    • skyturnedred says:

      Reading the article reveals the line ” free mobile ‘ctOS’ app” which might provide some clues.

    • captainparty says:

      You best not get it in, because thats exactly what this is, an app for mobile devices.

      Not that this companion app makes the game complete in any way shape or form, and if you don’t have a tablet or smart phone (in 2013), then you won’t miss it from the main game.

  4. LarsBR says:

    Gosh, I hope you can turn it off completely. I didn’t enjoy at all when someone joined my Dead Island sessions. Sometimes I just want to play a game at my own pace; if I want to play with others, I know where Gun Monkeys is.

      • Kadayi says:

        Seems like an interesting idea and all, but at the same time baby steps towards better things.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I was surprised the first time I started a campaign battle in Shogun 2 and a real human was playing the enemy. Luckily I had way more men and he was rubbish, but was polite and graceful in the face of leaving his hilltop defence and being rightfully cut down.

      I turned off the feature immediately after, mind.

  5. sinister agent says:

    “not really single-player, not really multiplayer”.

    “Every hour,” answered the Princess, “confirms my prejudice in favour of the position so often uttered by the mouth of Imlac, that ‘Nature sets her gifts on the right hand and on the left.’ Those conditions which flatter hope and attract desire are so constituted that as we approach one we recede from another. There are goods so opposed that we cannot seize both, but by too much prudence may pass between them at too great a distance to reach either. This is often the fate of long consideration; he does nothing who endeavours to do more than is allowed to humanity. Flatter not yourself with contrarieties of pleasure. Of the blessings set before you make your choice, and be content. No man can taste the fruits of autumn while he is delighting his scent with the flowers of the spring; no man can at the same time fill his cup from the source and from the mouth of the Nile.”

    • finalfanatik says:

      Words are so damn cool sometimes.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Princess never had produce shipped from the other side of the planet in ships the size of the town she grew up in, or indeed quantum entangled cake that is in a superposed state of eaten and had.

      • LionsPhil says:

        But what if the calories of that cake were literally the only thing keeping me alive, and then suddenly the waveform collapsed into the “had” state? Would I quantum-die? Would I end up stuck jumping through events within the span of my past lifetime trying to put right what had once gone wrong?

        • Gap Gen says:

          Given that quantum physics experiments usually involve killing cats, I wouldn’t trust particle physicists to consider that an ethical problem.

  6. BobbyDylan says:

    I’m not a fan of the idea of twats logging into my game and causing mayhem.

    • Craig Pearson says:

      It’s invite only.

    • Llewyn says:

      When they log-in to your world, after asking the owner of the main game for permission…

      If only there were some way to stop them! If only Craig had told us about it!

      Edit: I would have beaten Craig to the reply, but I was slowed down by someone raising traffic bollards on my keyboard *glares at Craig*

    • SominiTheCommenter says:

      Don’t worry, I won’t invite you.
      *only mildly joking*

  7. AshRolls says:

    These new generation games that are blurring the lines between single and multi-player really interest me. ‘Destiny’ will break these type of mechanics into the mainstream. I guess we will see a glut of new releases over the next few years that use it. Can’t wait.

    • Blue_Lemming says:

      but sometimes you just want to play with yourself…
      Sorry couldn’t resist, agreed it’s an interesting twist, I would love to see this more but always with the option to switch it off. Maybe a few different scenarios other than “race”, I’d like to see a hide and seek option where you could get a rough idea of their whereabouts and give the player an amount of time to remain undetected.

  8. Field Marshal Wildboar-Smith says:

    Is it known at this point what kinds of tablet can be prodded to produce ingame prodding?

  9. lara11 says:

    my Aunty Brianna got an almost new red Jeep Cherokee
    SUV from only working part time on a computer… go to this website….. pick85.ℂℴℳ/

  10. lara11 says:

    my Aunty Brianna got an almost new red Jeep Cherokee
    SUV from only working part time on a computer… go to this website…..

  11. lara11 says:

    my Aunty Brianna got an almost new red Jeep Cherokee
    SUV from only working part time on a computer… go to this website…..

  12. Contrafibularity says:

    I want Watch Dogs to be good, but something tells me it will be another shitty generic console game with beautiful visuals ported badly to PC and featuring 5-minute long unskippable nonsense cutscenes every 30 seconds. Probably that Ubisoft logo. Not to jump to conclusions but damn it Ubi, I want to like (some of) your games, why do you make it so hard just because I want to _play_ a game and I do not press an X to start?

  13. Turkey says:

    Dear Sir or Madam

    Would you please grant me permisson to hack you.

    Best regards,

    -a tablet user

  14. P.M. Gleason says:

    Not something I would use but it certainly sounds interesting.

  15. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    This is really starting to sound how I hoped. I want systems, not scripted events. It seems like everything that’s hackable is always hackable, that is promising. My concern is that this game will have mission specific hacks… you have to finish the mission by hacking the bridge. You can’t hack the bridge if it isn’t during that mission, and you can’t complete the mission without hacking the bridge. I don’t think this will be the case…

  16. aliksy says:

    More games need to have multiplayer like Dark Souls did.

  17. Ogun says:

    “Prevent your opponent to reach his objectives within the time limit” :(

    I hope they’re going to hire an English speaker to work on this before it’s released.

  18. welverin says:

    What’s the benefit of letting people enter your game to annoy you?