Ubisoft has, for my money, had the best line up of any publisher over the past couple of years. Right from smaller downloadables like Trials HD, through From Dust and into things like the Assassin’s Creed franchise and now Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Watch Dogs and their other recently announced projects like The Crew and The Division.
They’ve been on a hot streak so I don’t really doubt them when it comes to delivering Watch Dogs for current gen consoles. But they must think that someone does because they’ve taken to their blog in order to quell any underlying anxiousness you might have about their grand-scale hack-a-thon being sub-par on your old faithful PS3 or Xbox 360.
Colin Graham, animation director, says “players are going to know they aren’t getting a bad experience if they play Watch Dogs for the current gen, but the next gen is the real HD experience”. Clearly trying to teeter precariously along that fine line between saying “Watch Dogs on PS4/One will be amazing, buy that!” and not saying “Watch Dogs will be crap on PS3/360, don’t buy that!”
They make a compelling case though. Between Colin and his colleague and Senior Producer Dominic Guay, they point out that the underlying structure and mechanics of the game will be exactly the same on current hardware. It’s all still built on the same engine – they’re calling it the Disrupt Engine (did you lights flicker when you read that?) and it will still hinge on the same three key elements of gameplay: dynamism, impact on the city and connectivity.
While the graphical prowess of the new hardware will mean things like better reflections from sodden streets but the rain still falls in all versions – the people still react to it. Likewise, citizens will tighten their coats when the cold wind blows, rippling their clothing. That’ll look amazing with the extra grunt of new hardware but it’s more important to gameplay that the citizens have noticed the wind than it is to show each ripple in their clothing in HD textures and with several lighting passes.
Like the weather, the playable character has an effect on the city too. Aiden’s actions aren’t tied to a traditional black-and-white morality meter, rather his deeds are organically reacted to by the people who witness them and that spreads throughout the city. The people will react to you and you’re more likely to be reported if they think you’re a bit of a nob.
They’ve also, obviously, built the engine around the idea that it should easily connect to other players. This connection has been a big part of the way they’ve spoken about Watch Dogs since the very first announcement and although there’s doubtless some scope for more connections with more powerful hardware, that’s not going to be a limiting factor on enjoying the game on your current console.
So, better on more powerful hardware but still great on current consoles then. And that sounds good enough for me.