We go hands-on with Watch Dogs at Gamescom 2013, and find that charging in like a hero is a great way to get yourself shot.
By Joab Gilroy on September 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm
Those worried that Aiden Pearce is a half-hearted Neo clone need not fear – the vigilante at the centre of the Watch Dogs story dies faster than made-up enemies in Ice Cube songs.
During my hands-on I directed our anti-hero to take over a CtOS centre — doing so would unveil a large portion of the map, in a similar way to synchronising with View Points in the Assassin’s Creed series.
Doing it the obvious way — guns blazing through the front door — ended quickly, despite liberal use of the Focus feature, which allows Aiden to slow down time. Slowing down time and charging at your enemies means you still get shot. It just takes longer.
Unlike Neo, this hacker hero benefits from a hidden approach. I started by finding a quiet spot with line-of-sight to a camera and hacking into it. Once inside the camera I started tagging guards, a process as simple as centring the camera on them.
I bounce from camera to camera tagging guards around the CtOS building, eventually making it to the head of security — a man who happens to have an access code which will let me fully unlock the building. Without moving I hack his phone from the camera and get the code.
It reminds me a little of Prototype, except without the gore or the threat of being spotted. Instead of being a shape-changing monster I am an ethereal being, seemingly capable of going wherever I like as long as a camera is nearby.
After tagging all the guards I sneak into the centre’s off-limits area, silently take out a guard and raise a forklift (using hacking, because Aiden doesn’t do anything by hand) to get to the roof. With Focus and the positional advantage I quickly dispatch of the guards and take over the centre, unlocking the map as I do.
I scoffed when I first heard that Aiden Pearce would take advantage of a Max Payne-esque Focus because it separated the hacker hero from reality. Irrational, as I know hacking involves quite a bit more than pressing a single button on a phone, but my bias is my bias.
Then I put Aiden behind the wheel of a fast car and mentally processed the traffic, the car’s particular handling, the pedestrians and the fact that I’m approaching a red light. When I looked for the ‘Hack’ symbol and turned the lights green — all without slowing down time — I believed in Aiden’s capacity for pointed concentration.
It might be an artificial conceit but Focus mode is just a tool, like the all-purpose Hack button, that Aiden uses to bring out the best from the player. The more I played of Watch Dogs, the more I felt that Aiden – like Batman – is a man using the right tool at the right time.
Obviously for my hands-on I was given late-game level hacking abilities, but I was surprised to see just how much you’d eventually be able to affect in the game world. Hacking cameras and traffic lights is one thing, but after taking over the CtOS centre I was able to lock onto passerby’s mobile phones and access their personal details – bank accounts, rap sheets, social networking information and all.
That said, there was one thing I thought the game could have been better at. I found it awkward to work out exactly where to look to bring up a hack option – especially when multiple hackable items were close by. While trying to hack some car alarms I found myself occasionally locking on and hacking a pedestrian by mistake.
It wasn’t a problem when I was hacking traffic lights at 100km/h, and I’m sure it will be even less of a problem with a keyboard and mouse in hand (I was playing with a PS4 controller) but I definitely hope they fix that small inconsistency, because Watch Dogs is one of the most exciting games I’ve played this year.
Watch Dogs launches in Australia on November 21.