Hack ‘N’ Crash: Watch_Dogs’ Exceedingly Hackable Chicago

Hack the bag! Maybe money will come out! Or food!

I’ve been to Chicago before. It was for Lollapalooza a few years ago, so I remember heat, sweat, and gibbering herds of sticky humans jammed together like uncooked hotdogs – and pretty much nothing else. I guess, then, I’ll just have to take Ubisoft’s word for it when it comes to Watch_Dogs‘ rendition of Chicago, which is apparently about as true to life as you can get while presupposing that a) it is the near future and b) the entire city can be controlled by a single magic cell phone. Apparently all the citizen AI and whatnot is quite sophisticated, though. Hack into the jungle of 1s and 0s below to for a video.

The claims made in this trailer are extremely bold, but I really want to see how things like “citizens with individual personalities” pan out. What does that actually mean? How individual? Is it just a few lines of text when you hack them, or do they really have entirely different day-to-day behaviors, reactions in the heat of the moment, etc?

Ubisoft did cite AI and general lack of city/mission variety as reasons for Watch_Dogs’ last_second delay, so maybe those things are polished to a glimmering sheen now. Or maybe they were super subpar before the delay, and now they’re just OK. For now, we can only wait, see, and hope. Also watch. But we cannot dogs. We can never dogs.


  1. sendmark says:

    As much as I applaud the ambition of what they’re offering, it does sound like something that will struggle to live up to the hype. In this era of DLC and post-release patches I’d put money on the delay being due to serious issues rather than general polish / variety of content, but we’ll see. I do love open world games, so the more good ones the better.

  2. DarkLiberator says:

    I think that’s a robot dragon at 3:27?

    • Jackablade says:

      I built some of those once. That looks more like a Truckosaurus typed guy though. I hope you can hack him and take him out into the city to stomp cars and cause mayhem like a mechanical Godzilla.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Oh right! The Truckosaurus!

        *opens Pokédex”

  3. razgon says:

    As someone who writing, I just have to say – Thank you Mr Grayson and Thank you RPS – Its pretty much always worth it reading your articles, if nothing else for the personal touches to the stories, and the amount of fun I have reading your pieces. Well done!

    • cF- says:

      As someone who binary, 101011101001100010101110101010101100101010

    • RPSRSVP says:

      Nathan, and other editors as well are awesome people. RPS is the only place I trust unconditionally. Even when I disagree with their reviews or stances on given topics, their arguments are always reasonable and it’s just different opinions, never ulterior motives or hidden agendas behind their articles. Heck, RPS randomly puts a spotlight on decade old games just because they love them and I love them for it. If that’s not the ultimate proof of pure unadulterated passion for gaming, I don’t know what is.

      As for watch dogs, I’m cautiously optimistic. I don’t think NPC individuality extends past half a dozen random parameter variations but I did my best to watch/read every piece in which devs talked about gameplay. They talked a lot about game staying interesting beyond completion of the main story, something that defeats many games. I have a feeling that in game media and NPC feedback to protagonists actions will be shallow and without real impact but I give them a pass on that because it would imply an order of magnitude game complexity increase.

  4. baby snot says:

    The best thing about this trailer is the joypad cam. Can’t wait for Hollywood blockbusters to take this to the next level. Why look up and down ever, when you can just pan left and right, and only left and right.

    • Bishop says:

      That deadzone feels absolutely horrid.

      • karthink says:

        Is there a way to tell if there’s a deadzone from watching footage? If the camera’s not moving, how do you know the stick’s being moved?

  5. Artea says:

    I’d rather remain skeptical, considering Ubisoft’s previous forays into open-world sandboxes have all featured soulless cities with uninspired side missions along the lines of ‘collect a 100 flags’ or ‘follow this person for a while’.

    • RPSRSVP says:

      That is a very valid point even for their most recent titles. While FC3 and AC4 have improved upon AC3, there was a lack of substance and repetitiveness that plagued the gameplay.

      It doesn’t help Ubisoft when Chaos Theory has more replay value than Blacklist and when they sporadically revert like they did with Conviction and Future soldier.

      Creativity with mission design and taking the next step in environment feedback and protagonist’s actions impact would help their games stand out and a better payoff for the effort they clearly put in their games.

    • tumbleworld says:

      Looks to me like a GTA IV rip-off with a quicktime-grade “Hacking” minigame and built-in online griefers.

  6. Maritz says:

    I’m sure this looked more visually impressive in trailers from last year.

    Anyway, I think I’ll be waiting for the WIT on this one – those are some pretty big claims they’re making.

    • Harlander says:

      I’m sure I remember something about the initial demo being some kind of all-stops-pulled out deal on a high-end PC, and later videos use the somewhat more constrained console hardware. Can’t point to a source, though

      • derbefrier says:

        I read on gamespot(I think) they admitted to downgrading the graphics for consoles. What you see here may be the result of that. No word on whether it will affect PC though as far as I have seen.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          It looks like the footage is from the PC version though, it seems 1080p with at least Anysotropic filtering in it, AA looks on the weak side but then again the console edition would be able to muster none of what i mentioned.

          Then again, can’t really say it looks like shit either, i suppose. If only they knew a big delay was needed, maybe they could have gone big from the start and designed it only for the new gen and PC.

          • Monkeh says:

            Actually PS4 can run in both 1080p and with AA (though not comparable to say Nvidia’s TXAA), so this is most likely the PS4 version.

    • fish99 says:

      Yup, blurry textures everywhere and the amount of people on the streets is about a third of what was on show in the previous trailers. Glad I’m not the only one who noticed. Hopefully this is the 360/PS3 version they’re showing, but I can’t think of any reason why they’d put an inferior version in a trailer.

      Honestly it looks little better than GTAV now. I guess they had to scale everything back to get it running decent. Shame. Maybe a good PC will be able to get somewhere close to the old trailers, who knows.

  7. Viroso says:

    Uh oh, one of those Rockstar car commercial style trailers. Hope it doesn’t catch on.

    • kdz says:

      I hope it does, for open-world games. I always liked those Rockstar trailers, somehow they do a good job of getting me excited for the game.

  8. Reapy says:

    Have a feeling it is going to be gta like in that a limited set of random events will be applied randomly to citizens as they are generated. Might have a global db it pulls from perhaps for names and jobs etc but I have a dfeeling after a few hours all the variation will be spotted.

    Still looks like a fun game though.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      There’s also the risk of trying too hard, afterall a good chunk of the citizens should have a pretty average personality.

    • tumbleworld says:

      Yeah. Very GTA indeed, and not necessarily even up to V’s quality.

  9. Fontan says:

    Did Ubisoft hire the marketing team from Rockstar? Before they mentioned the game, it could have been a trailer for any GTA game.

  10. ScottTFrazer says:

    They’ve definitely nailed some of the major landmarks. (Source: I live in the Loop).

    Curious that they renamed the Chicago Theater to the “A” (0:37), but I think they are very protective of that sign. In an earlier trailer there was a shootout at a gas station on the corner opposite that theater… even though there’s no gas station for about 8 blocks in any direction from there.

    at 0:39 there’s a sign for “Underground” and “Mad Mile” which aren’t things. That should probably be “Lower Wacker Dr” and “Michigan Ave” (aka The Magnificent Mile)

    the Salvatore’s Italy restaurant is almost certainly a Giordano’s Pizza.

    They’ve absolutely nailed the look of the lampposts, bus shelters, CTA entrances and street planters along the major downtown areas.

    The game could probably suck horribly and I’ll still get my money’s worth just riding around pointing out the things they got wrong :-)

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      I think it would be easier to get the things you mentioned RIGHT, rather than the opposite, especially the gas station thing, by just going for a very “dry” representation spamming google street view and other means for two years of development.

      As long as what they changed is decently instrumental to the game and not too shockingly wrong, it should work.

      Eitherway it feels great when your city is chosen for a game that strives to some decent level of fidelity, i know i had a lot of fun trying to find the ancient version of my previous house near Santa Croce’s chapel in AC2’s Florence.

    • Runty McTall says:

      Man, “I live in the Loop,” – how awesome and Matrix-y does that sound? :)

      I’m gonna look it up now and probably find out it’s a rundown and incredibly mundane neighbourhood or something but it sounds like it comes straight out of a neon drenched cyber distopia. Or maybe a Netrunner card.

      • gregly says:

        The Loop is just the name for downtown Chicago, called that because it is surrounded by a loop of L tracks. So, no, it’s not a mundane, run-down neighborhood, but rather the most flashy, dense and modern part of the city — perfect for a near-future cyberpunk-style setting.

        I do wonder just how much of the city they plan to include in the game. Some of those trailer shots look like they could be on the near south or west side.

    • Mark says:

      Hey I’m an environment artist that has worked on a couple of AAA games set in real American cities.

      One thing worth noting is some landmarks/buildings are actually trademarked or whatever to some extent and often we can’t actually reproduce them exactly without permission. This is why you may often see landmarks in a slightly modified form rather than being an exact replica. This even goes for the names of some streets/districts of various cities which have to be renamed.

      Although it’s not my department getting permission from a company/city legal department to use their thing in your commercial videogame in a culture as litigious as the US is probably about as long and painful a process as you might imagine. Multiply that by how many buildings there are in the area reproduced in the game and you see why lot of the time we just revert to making something similar rather than trying to reproduce the real thing. Just thought I’d add that, carry on.

    • SillyWizard says:

      Having spent the holidays in Chicago, I’d say the primary thing that they failed to properly reflect in this footage is that this virtual version of the city is missing a layer or three of grime.

      Also: rats that could beat the shit out of my cat in a fair fight.

  11. Krazen says:

    This is Ubisoft we are talking about here. It’ll be the same scripted events, limited or fixed gameplay options and inflexible AI just like Assassins Creed & Far Cry.

  12. strangeloup says:

    My favourite thing about the trailer is that if you didn’t know anything else about the game, you’d think it was about some random dickhead fucking things up for shits and giggles.

    Okay, I lied, my actual favourite thing is that for maybe a second or two, you can see someone playing on a FC3 Blood Dragon arcade machine.

  13. skyturnedred says:

    I still have no idea if you are a good or a bad guy in this game. You can prevent crimes, but “infiltrating private homes” seems encouraged.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      You’ll almost surely end up doing far more damage than most hyper criminals, but hey! It’s for the greater good! ( …i think )

      • rikvanoostende says:

        Car salesmen and construction workers unanimously agree he’s a good guy.

    • basilisk says:

      From my understanding, you’re playing a vigilante. Fighting for justice and protecting the rights of individuals, but showing a total disregard for the law and collateral damage. So pretty much halfway between good and bad, depending on how you look at it.

      Which is a pretty good position for a videogame protagonist in a sandbox to be in, I think. Sleeping Dogs tried walking that line and it never quite worked, but it is a way to address the weird dissonance these games always end up having.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        I agree, with Niko probably being the worst case possible.

      • Wisq says:

        “True Crime: Streets of LA” pulled it off a lot better than Sleeping Dogs, IMO. I actually felt like a cop in that game; whereas in SD, I felt a lot more like I was just a thug informant.

    • Wisq says:

      Not much different than how you’re supposed to be the hero in most fantasy RPGs, yet in most cases nobody has any trouble with you sneaking into homes and looting all their stuff, and the game mechanics generally encourage it.

      (Or in the case of TES games, it’s fine so long as nobody sees you physically doing it, and the penalties are magically confiscating everything you ever stole and not caring how much you already sold. Which is actually kinda worse than the above in some ways.)

      Still waiting for a game where the AI manages to make the connection between “stranger shows up in town” and “all our stuff starts going missing” without pulling the whole “psychic police” thing. I’m not saying it should be impossible, it should just be risky if done wrong and tricky to do right. And not immediately obvious if you actually pulled it off. Think, bank hacks in Uplink.

  14. BLACKOUT-MK2 says:

    I have just, infact, managed to dogs. Am I doing something wrong?

  15. Frank says:

    I like how all the recommended/advertised stories “from the web” are about dogs!

    I hate soulless open-world games, but real-world locations (as in AssCreed) are always a draw, even if the rest of the game doesn’t elevate its genre.

  16. gregly says:

    Whether or not the game turns out to be great, I’m just excited to have an open-world game set in Chicago. I’ll attest to the fact that the windows on L trains are nowhere near as shiny as the ones depicted in the trailer.

  17. Stevostin says:

    This trailer makes first person view a mandatory option.

  18. Turkey says:

    I just wish the game was called “Hotdogs” now.

  19. xaphoo says:

    Having lived 8 years in Chicago, I have to say that their rendition of the city looks alright. Those neighborhoods of red-brick apartment buildings, which is the vast majority of the city (a brick labyrinth, like London), seem true to life.

    But what were those things that looked like hills? Chicago’s utter flatness is a major part of its ambiance.

    Also, the game should have more Mexicans. Chicago is almost one third Mexican-(American) now.

  20. Harlander says:

    Dammit, Ubisoft, that’s not what it does to the question

  21. Werthead says:

    I’m going to Chicago in a month for C2E2. I wasn’t planning to use the trailer to get around though :)

  22. eclipse mattaru says:

    They’ve been promising this kind of nonsense for every new console generation, pretty much since the dawn of gaming. Remember J. Allard talking about the original X-Box’s hard drive?

    Imagine games which have no “loading…” screens and simply stream data from the drive without having discreet levels… Imagine games with real interactive music and true-to-life, non-repetitive commentary. Imagine levels 20x the size of a typical console game.

    And then we had Thief 3’s magical doors of level-dividing bullshit. Hell, one whole generation later we had Dishonored’s guards repeating the same 4 lines over and over, Skyrim’s “arrow to the knee” or New Vegas’ “Patrolling the Mojave almost makes you wish for a nuclear winter” mantra.

    So, yeah, you’ll excuse me if I proceed to roll my eyes most dramatically.