Have You Played… Watch_Dogs?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I’d forgive you if you haven’t. My review of Watch underscore Dogs found plenty of reasons to criticise the game, from its action to its mission and level design and its piss poor characters. But then I kept playing it, because the multiplayer was really good.

Borrowing the idea of unknowingly invading other people’s singleplayer games from Dark Souls, Watch_Dogs had two interesting modes: one, in which you had to hack another player by remaining within a certain area for a period of time; and another, in which you had to tail a player across the world without them spotting you.

Both modes are tense and force you to consider your environment in new ways. Is this intersection the right place to initiate your hack, when you know that by doing so you’ll need to hide within that area for a few minutes while your opponent hunts for you? Or is it better to wait a few more blocks, hope the opposing player crosses a bridge and gives you two levels upon which to hide?

It’s no less tense if you’re the person being hacked, especially if you happen to try to initiate a singleplayer mission while the invasion is in progress. Do this and the game tells you that you can’t, because you’re being invaded, which turns the tables on your attacker: they don’t know that you know. The modes ride the ambiguity between a situation being hostile and not, similar to the unknown strangers you come across in DayZ.

I imagine it’s more difficult to get a game of this going today, when the community has likely dwindled, but I hope it makes a return in future Watch underscore Dogs.


  1. gbrading says:

    I want to play it but it’s still been too expensive; even at the recent Steam sale it’s still £10 (I’m a cheapskate). Sub-£7.50 is what I’m looking for.

    • Creeping Death says:

      Lower your price range. I picked it up for around £3 a few months ago, played it for about an hour and a half and still feel like I wasted my money :P

    • Abndn says:

      I’ll play it when they pay *me*.

    • ffordesoon says:

      Don’t buy it, ever. There are better and more interesting games that use the same formula, and they’re either newer or cost less money. There is no reason to waste your time on this irredeemable garbage when you can buy Black Flag for less than WD is currently worth, and Dying Light for just a little more. Even for your proposed price of £7.50, you can get three or four games more worthy of your time than Watch Dogs. There are freeware games more worth your time.

      Watch Dogs is mediocre junk so hateful and lazily assembled that it fails even at mediocrity. If you really, really, really like these sorts of icon-tidying games, it’s a 5/10 shading downwards. If you could go either way on them, it vacillates between a 2/10 and a 4/10. If you hate them, it’s a 1/10.

    • Henke says:

      If you like open world GTA-alikes with stealth-action and guys in cool trenchcoats slo-mo headshotting dudes I would definitely recommend it, even at the £10.

      Hell, I bought it full price on release and I’ve played through it roughly one and a half times since, and spent a good while in the multiplayer. The online hacking and tailing missions mentioned above are fun, but the racing is also great, and when I replayed it last summer there were still plenty of people playing online.

  2. DarkLiberator says:

    Didn’t like the story very much but the multiplayer was a blast. Pretending to be a pedestrian in plain sight hacking a guy is so intense. So many fun strategies to use. I would sometimes quickly park random cars that look out of place as a distraction before making my attempt.

  3. teppic says:

    I bought it ages ago but still have never played it.

  4. Jane Doe says:

    This game cured me of hypes and pre-orders. It was the last game I ever paid full price for. Played it for 3-4 hours, really trying to like it, then gave up. Horrible. Just horrible.

  5. haldolium says:

    Didn’t care and still don’t about the MP, so W_D remains one of the worst games ever to me. Had to quit half-way through (or earlier probably), since the story and characters were so repelling and horrible.

  6. Deano2099 says:

    Played it over summer and multiplayer was still active, got plenty of invasions and could get into one within a couple of minutes. Great fun.

    The campaign and open world stuff is fine too. Not brilliant but certainly enjoyable.

  7. StarkeRealm says:

    Unfortunately? Yes. God that writing was horrible.

  8. danimuriel says:

    There were other things that Watch Dogs did well; they were able to create a social landscape (even if they didn’t link that to the story and the mechanics properly): link to the3headedmonkey.blogspot.com

  9. MadMinstrel says:

    I have played Watch Dogs. It wasn’t fun.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    I got decent entertainment out of W_D, even if it was much less than the sum of its parts.

    As already mentioned, the multiplayer bits were probably the best stuff the game had to offer.

    • Morlock says:

      Yes, the gameplay is pretty shallow, and the story is confused when it’s not downright insulting. It is still an enjoyable game which gave you the feeling that you were doing something new by giving familiar mechanisms a new coating. Some of the areas were also very pretty.

  11. yogibbear says:

    I haven’t played it because your review told me it wasn’t worth my time or money.

    • slerbal says:

      Heh, yeah that’s true.

    • Cyrus says:

      Precisely, it’s kind of odd to be recommended to play it now.
      It is illogical damn you!

      • Premium User Badge

        Graham Smith says:

        I said in the review that the multiplayer was good, and expanded on it more in a specific article a couple of days later.

  12. anHorse says:

    The game itself is quite fun but christ the writing and grey colour scheme drag it down.

    It’s a bit like Far Cry 3 in that Ubisoft had a story concept that was potentially interesting but they went and wrote it in the most muddy and dull way possible.

  13. airtekh says:

    I actually found the multiplayer to be a bit annoying, so much so I ended up turning it off.

    I remember one bit where I had to make my way up a building to start a mission, which took a couple of minutes, only to discover at the top that I was being hacked and had to come all the way back down again. Frustrating.

    The mobile app integration was superb though. It’s like playing Grand Theft Auto only instead of the police being controlled by the AI, it’s another player in charge of hunting you down.

  14. Solidstate89 says:

    The game has one hell of a particle/physics engine. I never got so much enjoyment out of launching grenades from the grenade launcher at parked, empty cars just to look at the spray of glass, debris, smoke and concussive force.

    It was the most realistic I’ve ever seen in an open world game like this. Especially when you compare it to the “Hollywood explosions” of the GTA universe. I thought in that aspect it was great.

    But that’s all I’ve really got the say about what I enjoyed in W_D.

  15. Crafter says:

    played it.
    The story is horribly bad. The tropes are so out of control that it is not even ridiculous anymore.
    The gameplay is meh. The hacking is a one button affair : when you press it, the closest hackable element becomes hacked, period, which kills almost all opportunities or emergent or interesting gameplay.

    The multiplayer is truly great though. I hope that more (and mostly better) games will also borrow Dark Souls’ invasion mechanic, it does wonders. It is not enough to make me replay this game, but the only good memories I have from it come from the multiplayer.

  16. Llewyn says:

    I only read this because of the sidebar image of the woman interacting with a black, white & tan collie.

    Now, disappointment. Where are the _dogs!?

    • SanguineAngel says:

      HAH! Superb spot

    • golem09 says:

      I came to this comment section to make this exact joke. Then I got lazy and hoped somebody already made it, and I could lazy reply. Well done.

  17. Shazbut says:

    What a lovely screenshot. There is genuinely complex emotion in her expression.

    Chances are, my empathy with her will be scattered to the winds if I actually play the game, but I haven’t. And now I don’t want to.

    Thank you Graham for this experience.

  18. melnificent says:

    Only turned the multiplayer on when my friend was playing so I could continually invade his game and vice versa.

    When a stranger “hacked in” it felt personal.

  19. piesmagicos says:

    Man…i really enjoyed this game. The “game” portion of it that is. Ya it was silly in many parts and the protagonist wasnt that great and it relied on a ton of tropes and what not…but frankly none of that mattered when hopping around in a really well done playground. The multiplayer portions on top of that made it so much better. I dont understand how people can play something for an hour or two and call it horrible etc, thats barely past the point of the intro and not all the concepts are even introduced yet! eh…maybe im just more forgiving than most.

  20. slerbal says:

    In answer to the article: no. Because it sounds incredibly dull, because it uses uPlay (that system has caused me nothing but grief) and because I’m done with the AC-style open world games. They make bland, uninteresting (to me) games.

    To end on an upbeat note though: there are games companies that do make awesome games, and there is even an AC-style open world games I have enjoyed: Shadows of Mordor. It was my last hurrah I think for that type of game. I’ll leave playing those to others now.

  21. Premium User Badge

    basilisk says:

    Yes, I played it and enjoyed it quite a bit. One of the victims of the hype machine, if you ask me, killed by all the backlash from people who for some inexplicable reason expected the second coming just because it was the New Console Generation (TM).

    It’s a very professionally produced game, even though often somewhat dull, with great potential that it never developed fully. As I always keep saying, if Ubi manages to pull of an AC2-style quality leap with this series, the sequel will be amazing. The foundations for creating lovely emergent system-driven chaos absolutely are there.

    And the multiplayer was indeed great. I particularly love that my game was almost certainly invaded and followed for several minutes by someone else, and I never knew. Which is very fitting, considering the whole (admittedly mishandled) surveillance theme.

    • LacSlyer says:

      To be fair, the majority of the hype was caused my Ubisoft themselves and not player expectations. They hyped up this game to be what it wasn’t and when people realized that it fell hard.

      You’re right in that it has a decent base for a good game, especially with the multiplayer uniqueness even though it’s vaguely similar to the Souls series, but they really need to improve upon the overly simplistic mechanics and add some complexity to the game overall. Being able to go in and blow everything up by pushing a single button gets extremely repetitive and dull after a while.

  22. Major Seventy Six says:

    I haven’t payed Watch Dogs. early reports of the game’s performance on Radeon hardware got me to back off. As I did any Ubisoft open world game for quite a while.

  23. Lightbringer says:

    The game was a decent open world whatever game clone, the writing was piss poor. And I turned off the MP the first time somebody interrupted my SP game. I’m really happy that I got it from the local library and didn’t have to pay money for it.

  24. Hyena Grin says:

    Sounds like I was one of the minority who played and enjoyed the single player. Yeah it was a bit of a trope-fest, but whatever. Tropes don’t necessarily make a bad story, just a predictable one. It wasn’t my favorite game that year (either for presentation/story nor game mechanics), but I played it to the end and I can increasingly say that doesn’t happen terribly often anymore. It’s not a game I’m in a rush to go back to, but I am, however, quite looking forward to a sequel. Hopefully Ubisoft raises the bar a little, because they have an excellent concept for a world/game in Watch_Dogs.

  25. RedViv says:

    More like We_put_your_Use_Key_on_a_timer_dogs

  26. Chaoslord AJ says:

    It’s cheap at the moment and I like to try the social hacking part but it’s rated so low and they say controls are awful so I really never want to buy it, sorry.

  27. caff says:

    Awesome multiplayer, terrible UI and mediocre single player (but I still completed it). A game with many varied qualities.

  28. ffordesoon says:

    No, the multiplayer was unique and interesting as an idea. In actuality, it was as fucking boring and weightless and hatefully designed as anything else in Watch Dogs (I refuse to use that fucking underscore), the worst game of 2014 bar none.

    And yes, it’s technically not the worst game of 2014 in purely objective terms. It’s polished, it controls fairly well, the mechanics work adequately, isolated bits are kind of interesting, and it’s even kind of fun sometimes. I played it for somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty hours, and I wouldn’t have done that if the game hadn’t been doing something to keep me playing. The reason why I feel visceral anger at the mere mention of the game’s name is because I didn’t enjoy those fifty hours. I didn’t even find them interesting. I spent my first few hours with it trying to find the good game inside the Ubicrap, and then found myself in the grip of genuine (if relatively mild) addiction, a feeling I’ve never experienced with a game before or since.

    When I say “genuine addiction,” I mean exactly that: I wanted to stop playing the game, and yet I couldn’t. I kept coming back to make the numbers go up so that I could unlock shit I didn’t care about so that I could make numbers go up so that I could unlock shit I didn’t care about so that etc. And when I wasn’t playing, I felt this weird obligation to turn it back on and continue playing instead of doing shit I wanted to do more, because the numbers weren’t going up when I wasn’t playing and I needed to unlock more bullshit I didn’t care about in order to progress in this shitty game I didn’t like and wanted to stop playing. I’ve never felt that before, and I hate Watch Dogs for doing that to me.

    Also, it’s just a profoundly stupid and hateful game, and I agree with everything Chris Franklin said on the subject.

  29. BannerThief says:

    I actually ended up mildly enjoying Watch_Dogs; the gunplay felt better than I thought it would, and the hacking was a genuinely neat idea, even if it ultimately failed to live up to its promise. The main failing of the game for me was the miserably-told story and the awful protagonist; I would have much rather played as the cool hacker-chick character rather than the Mr. Robot-wannabe shitbag you’re forced to play as.

    Also the driving was flimsy. Also the performance on my more-than-decent gaming rig was not up to snuff. Also its depiction of Chicago is hilariously awful and inaccurate. Also…yeah, maybe it did have way too many problems. I genuinely wonder if it’ll get a sequel.

    • piesmagicos says:

      Really? I thought it did Chicago pretty well…admittedly from my only brief encounters with the city. What did it get so wrong?

  30. go4brendon says:

    This game felt like miss-sold PPI insurance. Paid for one thing got another. Game mechanics where mediocre. Weapons limited. Hacking 50% pointless. And dont get me started on the exclusive ubisoft vehicle that has anti-track but doesnt work in the last mission.

  31. Phantom_Renegade says:

    Worth it for a fiver I guess. It’s better then you think, but not good enough to endorse with money is how I’d describe it. What worked was the hacking stuff. What didn’t was everything else. Stealth was horrible and mandatory. Gunplay was bad and mandatory. Driving was okay I guess. Story was a cliché wrapped in bad dialogue and misogyny.

  32. wombat191 says:

    i liked it but it got pretty samey after a while. would of loved the option to add money to peoples accounts and make a difference

  33. Stone_Crow says:

    Grrr. Aiden Pierce. The most self entitled wank-laden bell-end in video games since Rosh from Jedi Academy. An entire fuck-tuple of arseholes merged into a single character by a mad genius scientist bombarding him with weaponised dickheadium rays filtered though a tri-prsmatic douche filter.

    Fuck you Aiden Peirce, and the horse you rode in on!

    … phew… sorry… that’s clearly been building up for a while.

  34. poliovaccine says:

    To be fair, I got some good fun out of Watch Dogs (I do refuse to write the stupid underscore though). I hadn’t heard of it til the second before I took a chance on it though, based purely on the paragraph-long blurb explaining the premise, so I wasn’t poisoned by any hype. What simplified hacking there was just registered with me as a pleasing new addition.

    I enjoyed it most because I played it for stealth, even if maybe just going guns blazing would have won me the objective faster, because that’s just more boring and why play a game if not for fun. I also enjoyed that it wound up getting me to play it differently from Grand Theft Auto, both in that plucking hacked loot from pedestrians incentivized being on foot (which allows more appreciation of open world cities/worldbuilding details) and also that many of the side missions have equal places for vehicular or on-foot approaches.

    Here’s the thing though – to date, I haven’t even unlocked all the upgrades cus I have stalled so much on the story missions. Just don’t care – I enjoy getting distracted by the other stuff, especially cruising around looking for random unmarked crime events to spawn. Ironically, I like that the soundtrack is so godawful, cus it keeps me from overreliance on cars… I also liked that the police were genuinely difficult to outrun, and usually environmental hacks were necessary to shake them.

    …but yeah, I just play the side missions and the minigames and muck around in the open world and multiplayer and I have a great time with it, and at near-full price I feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth in terms of hours enjoyed already, and I still play it to this day as well – it’s my Chicago simulator too.

    I just have almost zero experience with the story missions, which is likely why I haven’t soured too much on its protagonist yet – yes he dresses like a jerk, but I’m used to that in my game avatars by now. See, you guys on the large part seem to be able to swallow stuff like Batman… I’m not, not on the same level anyway. As far as Watch Dogs’ protagonist goes, I’ve just hardly had to hear him speak. So I still don’t hate his very face (though I appreciate how bad writing can do that – part of why I’ve avoided the story missions, to be honest, having read the reviews only after buying the game).

    Also – for what it’s worth, re: the writing – I’m quite sure it’s awful, no doubt of that from what little of the story missions I *have* seen already. But I find the focus a little misplaced in the bulk of assessments I’ve seen – mainly since game writing is almost *never* any good. Even games which are supposed to be well-written according to their critical reception are still not very good, often only being the best example in games to date.

    If I only played games I considered well-written I wouldn’t allow myself to play much… I mean, I read books and watch movies, and even the worst of those tend to top the best of games writing. There are rare exceptions, games which achieve literary or cinematic quality, but generally writing isn’t the first, second, or third thing I worry about in a game. I don’t think I’d ever get to play a single Assassin’s Creed game if I did.

    Anyway, you can’t tell me this game has poor writing but then go and praise something like Max Payne – which was universally lauded at the time for its writing, and still is in nostalgia… But I was embarrassed for all the reviewers and gamers who praised that game’s writing in particular – much as I adored the game and its sequels and played them to death, with mods, and everything. It’s just that the “noir” writing was laughable, full of confused, compound metaphors, poor sentence structure, and even routine mistakes in spelling and grammar. Some cringeworthy turns of phrase, and some hilariously bent “movie” logic. Anyone who compared it to Raymond Chandler can’t have actually *read* any Raymond Chandler… by god they’d better not have.

    Watch Dogs is actually one of the few games in my current play rotation right now. I go between it and Far Cry 3, AC Black Flag, Dead Island, and Fallout. I find myself choosing it from the 60-some games I own because it’s, apparently, my go-to open world city-simulator crime game these days – which makes sense, since I’m kind of sick of GTA… Watch Dogs is enough the same and enough different. And I’m not sold on others like Sleeping Dogs either… melee isn’t as big a draw to me as stealth.