Going forwards, there is a big shift from Ubisoft to create companion apps and use them for more complex experiences within their games. I spoke recently about the tablet integration for The Division, and in many ways Watch Dogs’ companion app is taking a similar idea and applying it to a different setting and style of game.
The companion app comes as a distinct and separate entity, though it is heavily reliant on the connectivity to the main game. It was quite heavily emphasised that this is coming as a completely free addition to the brand, allowing almost any and every mobile device, including phones and tablets on both iOS and Android to play, and will let you play against both Uplay-based friends or others via matchmaking, who are playing the main console game.
At the heart of this link is a tussle between the mobile player and the generally main game’s Aiden Pearce. It pits Aiden against an agent from the Blume corporation, controlling a helicopter which flies above the city, and wants to try and track and prevent Pearce’s escape as best he can.
The tablet player can choose from a selection of challenges to play, setting Pearce the task of passing through a set number of checkpoints within a certain period of time. From his vantage point in the sky, he has to follow Pearce, directs the police forces and uses the world – so often at the console player’s disposal during the single player – against him.
It offers a good twist on the gameplay, and really sets Aiden into the situation of just needing to flee and use the world’s natural layout to his advantage, rather than relying on hacking. The helicopter can be moved around the world with simple touch inputs, but it’s not instant, so you will need to predict where your opponent is heading to keep him in the spotlight.
However, the player also has to set traps in the world for him to trigger. These would be things like setting a weak gas pipe ready to blow, or the regular road bollards, but always within a certain radius of the helicopter’s position. This in addition to being able to pick up and re-place the handful of police squad cars in an area, to intercept the fugitive console player.
The tablet app has its own character progression, allowing you to level up and gain more pervasive hacking techniques and abilities. These could extend to locking an object in a hacked state, so that Aiden can’t undo your traps or roadblocks, or repairing your helicopter, which hints at Aiden getting the ability to damage you, later on in the game.
It’s also a lot of fun on the console side of things, where I had my first taste of how the game itself will play. The vehicles are nice and simple to control, and though you start on foot, you’ll want to quickly get into a car and become a moving target before your 10 second head start is up. The faster the car, the better you’ll be able to escape, but a motorbike might also be an advantageous vehicle to grab hold of.
That would let you sneak through tighter passages, drive between bollards and hide under cover much easier. It’s important to keep moving, because the seconds are always ticking away, but you can hide from the eye in the sky under bridges, or pass through garages and find different routes.
It’s pitched as a bit of a win-win situation for the console player, too, where you’ll get experience no matter how well you do. The only difference is that you’ll earn more experience for winning a round than for losing, but this will be difficult to manage. Though I played or witnessed many attempts, nobody succeeded in getting to the fourth objective in time.
This feels like a really good addition to the main game, and one which can quite opportunistically get more people involved and interested in the console releases, by virtue of being free.