Ubisoft aiming to make Watch Dogs all about stealth: Our thoughts from E3


By on June 17, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Players in the world of Watch Dogs will not only be able to hack into traffic lights, wi-fi hotspots, cameras and even trains – they’ll be able to hack into other players’ games.

Ubisoft has teased the game’s always-on gameplay, but in a behind-closed-doors demo shown to games.on.net on the E3 show floor last week, we were able to see the extent of how this hacking system will work.

At various intervals, the player will be sent a notification they are being hacked. This means a player has entered their world – motivated by a contract for money – and is focused on hacking your details from your phone.

In response, the player needs to quickly find the perpetrator, by searching in an area highlighted by a blue circle on the game’s mini-map. (Very much like the way Assassin’s Creed games highlight an area of the map for particular targets).

Players can then catch the perpetrator and stop them from stealing their data. Watch Dogs producer Dominic Guay also explained neither player will recognise the other as Aiden Pearce – they will look like a complete stranger.

(Guay pulled back a curtain in our little booth to reveal the other player in question – indeed, both players saw themselves as the Aiden Pearce, and the other character as a complete stranger).

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This feature is welcome, especially as the game deals with such murky moral territory. Ubisoft is keen to point out here that while the game allows you a ridiculous amount of power to find and control information, you’re just as vulnerable as anyone else.

The demo shown to games.on.net was not scripted. We saw Aiden attempt to infiltrate a control point, from which he can hack that region’s mobile phone towers in order to access the city’s main crime prediction system.

This system uses cameras and facial recognition technology to detect when a crime is about to happen (more on that below).

The control point is used like the towers in Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry 3. Once Aiden infiltrates them and hacks his way into the system, that area of the city is now penetrable. Each of these fortresses is guarded, and players can use different methods to attack them however they wish.

At one point, our demo player was successfully navigating through the guarded area completely stealthily, before accidentally noting a guard’s attention. Then all hell broke loose, and shooting was underway. Aiden was able to hack into cameras to detonate some grenades, and even manipulate machinery to give himself cover.

At this point, we noticed something strange: there is no health bar on the screen at all. Guay confirmed this point with us twice.

In addition, Pearce’s default weapon is a baton, not a gun. By default, he doesn’t kill. Combined with the fact there is no health bar at all, does this mean Ubisoft wants players to be taking stealth routes as often as possible?

“It’s true,” he said. “It’s always a way of keeping the player immersed.”

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This is also kept in check by a reputation system. The more crazy things you do to draw attention to yourself, the more the media will talk about you. Our player walked into a gun store and was shopping when a media report about Pearce’s actions flashed on the television – the owner reached for a silent alarm and the player was forced to leave.

Last year, when games.on.net was shown another demo, we were told Pearce would have access to information about random strangers. “Former crack dealer”, a summary might say, while others we’ve seen included “made a porn film in college” or “uses a fake degree”.

Guay told games.on.net this information can actually be used to find in-game content.

“So there are cases where you might see someone who is a known criminal, and they might be texting, and you can read those texts and it may lead to a mission.”

This power shows itself in other ways. The player can hack through cameras, laptops and phones to find bank account information from strangers and use it. Seems easy enough, except those information summaries also serve a moral purpose – do you really want to be taking money from a single mother with barely enough to get by?

Of course, the opposite is true. The city’s crime prediction system – which uses facial recognition technology and other cameras to detect crimes just minutes away from occurring – is accessed through your phone. You can come across a crime about to occur, and then intervene.  Doing so can boost your reputation across the city.

In our demo, while the player caught a criminal, he then bolted off across town in a high-speed police chase. However, he was able to show off his hacking abilities by using traffic lights to cause accidents, along with road spikes and other obstacles.

“He could even now go to the train station, and catch a train to get away from the police,” Guay said.

This looks to be a truly open-world adventure, and the amount of power given to the player here is enough to keep one entertained for a significant amount of time.

Ubisoft’s claims that it isn’t making a statement about surveillance culture are difficult to believe. But the game itself offers plenty of choice to players about how they want to wield that power – which is a promising move indeed.

15 comments (Leave your own)

Please tell me this feature is optional, i.e., they aren’t taking a single player game and shoe-horning in a multiplayer mini-game as an excuse for giving it always on DRM?


Multiplayer can be completely disabled, or set to friends-only.


Sweet, good to hear – I am really looking forward to this game but I am also very wary of Ubisoft.


Yeah I think I’d switch it off myself. I’m not entirely interesting in interfering or having my game interfered with to be honest. It was one of my peeves with Dark Souls: trundling along to get to where you want to go, all of a sudden your game is invaded. No thanks. <_<


Sweet, good to hear – I am really looking forward to this game but I am also very wary of Ubisoft.

Ubisoft make great games.


Is the game PC friendly, any options and enhancements for PC etc?
Did the world seems as believable and realistic as GTA IV or not as good?

For example, Sleeping Dogs city/world was very good but was not as advanced as GTA IV, probably only 85% of the GTA IV world.

Features such as AI NPC reactions to guns showing, stealing cars, talking on phones etc etc


matty: Ubisoft make great games.

No-one said they didn’t.


caitsith01: No-one said they didn’t.

Why so wary?


Their DRM can be … shaky at best. You can tell when a new Assassin’s creed comes out, because their uplay servers usually nose dive.


matty: Why so wary?

They haven’t had a good track record since Ass Creed 1…

They current lineup is the best they’ve shown in years.


matty: Why so wary?

1. Uplay

2. Always-on DRM for single player games


caitsith01: 1. Uplay

2. Always-on DRM for single player games

You have hope that these wont be on there?


RSOblivion: They haven’t had a good track record since Ass Creed 1…

They current lineup is the best they’ve shown in years.

AC 2 and Brother hood were great.
As was Driver: San Fansisco, FC3, FC3 Blood Dragon, Vegas2, Call of Juarez.


matty: AC 2 and Brother hood were great.
As was Driver: San Fansisco, FC3, FC3 Blood Dragon, Vegas2, Call of Juarez.

AC2 and Bro were not great, they were dull and repetitive. Too similar to 1 in that respect. The only thing 1 had was that nothing had been done like it before.

Driver SF was passable, not great.
FC3 was a rough gem. However with better writing and more thought it could also have been great. Fun in short bursts, but not really great. Blood Dragon improved in some ways but again didn’t hit the spot IMO.

Vegas 2 was meh as was Call of Juarez. Both again stifled by fear of innovation.

Which is why I’m actually impressed by some of their upcoming titles. They are innovative from what’s been shown, to the point where they gained a lot of interest at E3 compared to what peeps expected ;)


matty: You have hope that these wont be on there?

I am just going to wait until I know for sure that it doesn’t have any idiotic requirements like an always-on internet connection before I spend actual money on it.

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