Everything You Need To Know About Watch Dogs’ Multiplayer

Cat, Mouse, and Dog.

As mentioned in yesterday’s first impressions, online multiplayer in Watch Dogs is easily one of the game’s stand-out features. It’s a secret weapon that will no doubt take many by surprise, despite being oft-touted by publisher, Ubisoft. However, it’s also something that feels shrouded in mystery as to how it actually works.

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Keeping in line with core themes from the game, multiplayer brings together “Fixers” from all over Chicago. Either working alone or in tight-knit squads, these are rogue agents with a penchant for two things: hacking and Notoriety. Think of this as your rank or experience bar. As it goes up, players will be able to access unique online perks such as a nitrous boost for vehicles. The higher you climb, the more powerful these skills get.

This isn’t your average progression system, however. Performing poorly in any of the online game modes will incur penalties, each one sapping away at your Notoriety. What this means is that only skilled and consistent players will reach their way to the top.

Another interesting aspect is how players will always have Aidan Pearce as their avatar. Everyone else will appear as generic,  gun-wielding NPCs – it’s a nice, albeit odd design choice though one that ensures continuity.

Matchmaking is a fairly straight forward in Watch Dogs and introduce part-way into the game’s first act. All players need to do is bring up an online menu and choose one of the six modes available at launch. As you wait in the server queue you are free to roam idly until teleported to a designated district of Chicago.

When playing Intrusion or Tailing, these one-on-one faceoffs will have the invading player spawn close to where their target is. Decryption, which can host up to eight fixers, will section off areas of the city into smaller arenas while, finally, Online Races transform roadways into pre-set courses.

One last point worth mentioning before we run through each game mode is that players can opt out of hacking invasions if they so choose. An option in the online menu allows you prevent other players from hacking your game session, but at a cost. First off, you won’t be able to invade enemy fixers and, more importantly, you’re Notoriety will go right down to zero. In other words, there is no “cut and run” option – if you fancy yourself Chicago’s finest hacker, be prepared to defend that title. 

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Intrusion is perhaps the one game mode Ubisoft has publicised most, and with good reason. It’s a unique approach to adversarial multiplayer and one that focuses on more than just sharp reflexes.

When circulating between missions, players will often find themselves invaded by other fixers looking to bag some Notoriety. When such instances occur it’s up to your to find who’s hacking your data and put them down for good. Each of these encounters starts with the invading player getting a bead on their target.

As mentioned before, you’ll spawn straight into their game session, after which you need to highlight them with Aidan’s Profiler. This will cause a ring to appear on the mini-map, effectively showing the target player where their enemy is hiding. To start off, the radius is fairly big, shrinking down as the clock ticks until the invader is either killed or they manage to successfully hack their target.

As soon as the process is initiated, two things happen: invaders will likely scramble to an ideal hiding spot as the other player begins to profile every single NPC. What Ubisoft has done with Intrusion is successfully replicate hide and seek within a video game, where the penalty for losing is a bullet to the face. It’s intense and evokes a unmatch sense of paranoia, regardless of whether you’re the hacker or their intended target.

Chicago’s verticality and glut of parks, alleyways, and other buildings give rise to some truly momentous faceoffs. On top of that, hacking introduces even more advanced strategies. Hid in a particularly dark spot? In that case wait until your pursuer comes close and activate the ctOS Blackout. Need help reaching a ledge? Hack a forklift to create a viable platform. There are loads of creative options available with no two games of Intrusion ever being the same.

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Tailing adopts a similar premise, though requires more legwork of the invading player. Instead of simply tracing your target and hiding, you will need to keep them in your line of sight as a observation gage starts to fill.

With the option to simply run or drive away from your invader, Tailing relieves some of the pressure found in Watch Dogs’ flagship game mode. However, this also works in favour of the other player, giving them more freedom to move without being traced on the mini-map.

It’s hard to say which is better. Intrusion truly has its nail-biting moments, though Tailing puts the invading in a position that requires more skill. Either way, they’re both plenty of fun and should be looked into straight off the bat.

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Searching further afield, Decryption is only other game mode in Watch Dogs’ arsenal which has something unique up its sleeve. Hosting up to eight players, Decryption can be played with two teams or in free-for-all, both as hectic as the other.

The main objective here is to locate a file and then keep hold of it until it can be decrypted. Imagine it as a game of hot potato with the winner being the player(s) with the file as the decryption gauge hits one hundred percent. It’s a smart game mode and one that makes sense considering how poorly capture the flag would suit such big, diverse environments.

One of the great things about Decryption, and all of Watch Dogs’ online modes, is that they take place in the same open world, populated with pedestrians and motorists. Similar to what’s already been said about Intrusion and Tailing, this means that no two rounds are ever likely to be the same. Players will constantly be on the move, either on-foot or in a vehicle, occasionally switching things up with heated gunfights.

Another nice touch is that the file doesn’t have to be retrieved from a player’s dead body. Instead it can be stolen wirelessly, as long as an enemy player stays close to the carrier. Again, this introduces another bonus tactical element, keeping everyone on their toes.

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For Online Races, they are almost exactly what you’d expect. Instead of being as free-form as the likes of Need for Speed: Rivals, they are structured with predefined routes.

How much you enjoy these will hinge on how much you rate Watch Dogs’ vehicle handling. It feels a bit lighter compared to other open world games, though it’s also far more forgiving, despite the awkward drifting.

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Free Roam, again, does what it says on the tin. A maximum of eight players can jump into a server and cause all sorts of shenanigans as they tear up Chicago. An adversarial mode can be toggled to enable player versus player encounters, though most will likely just want to mess around in the world.

To me, Free Roam seems like the go-to mode for groups of friends. For randoms, there isn’t much on offer considering how the game removes all side content, bar a spread of mini games.


It’s safe to say that multiplayer is certainly worth checking out in Watch Dogs. A few added modes and additional options would have been nice but, as it stands, it’s still unique and refreshing, making a perfect change from your everyday modern military shooter.

Watch Dogs’ sixth online game mode isn’t covered in this article, as the official ctOS Watch Dogs iOS and Android app was not released at the time of writing. It’s set to go live some time today alongside the game’s release.

21 Comments

  1. I’m pretty excited about this game now that it’s (finally) out. I just have to many games in my back catalogue to justify purchasing another one. Definitely will be picking this up though. Hopefully people won’t be too advanced on the MP by the time I get it.

    I’m looking the way developers seem to be trying different forms of multiplayer. They could’ve just shoe horned in a standard third person short death match mode but instead we get something that looks really interesting.

  2. It’s this online that makes me interested. It could’ve just been a bog standard single player experience but these modes seem like a game changer. Well done Ubi!

  3. Are we going to be getting a full tsa review at any point? It’d be great if we did, my most trusted reviews.

    • At some point, yes, but a couple of factors meant that we weren’t able to get one done for today.

  4. I dunno… It sounds all too similar to some of the multiplayer modes of Assassins Creed IV, which I couldn’t stand. That, coupled with people complaining that you need to stay online where others can interrupt you (unless I’ve got that wrong), is really putting me off. I’ve not looked at the trophy list but I’m guessing there’s a few multiplayer trophies in there too – after the horrors of ACIV I’m very wary :-S

    I was given enough money for my birthday to buy two games. Mario Kart 8 was always going to be a certainty, but that left me torn between Watch Dogs and Wolfenstein… I bought Wolfenstein yesterday and am thoroughly enjoying it at the mo. Hope I’ve made the right choice!

    • You can completely disable online invasions. In doing so, you will reset your Notoriety to 0 and won’t be able to hack other players’ sessions.

      In all honesty, Invasions aren’t that intrusive. You will probably encounter one to three every hour of play. I for one enjoy them; after the first few it becomes quite easy to pick out invaders from NPCs.

      • That’s interesting, cheers Jim.

        So does that mean if I were to disable online invasions from the outset it wouldn’t have any negative affect on my single player progress? If so that’s a big relief :-)

  5. The trick is to act natural. One followed me into a parking house, and he made a lot of noice following me up the floors. Easy to shoot him before he hacked me.

    • Precisely. I’ve yet to be successfully hacked after 15 attempts by enemy fixers. Some will drive along the pavement to establish a line of sight whereas others adopt the most blatant of hiding spots.

      That’s not to say there haven’t been any close calls. Vehicle hopping and hiding on rooftops are great ways to outwit an opponent. So is moving from an area to one that the defender has searched thoroughly.

      • I go the game early (came in the post on friday), have put about 35 hours into it, completing the main story. I’ve only been invaded 4 time and hacked 2 other players.

        I’ve spent the past 30 mins freeroaming trying to connect to any players and nothing, not even public races or freeroam lobbies.

        I think Ubi’s servers hate me or maybe they just don’t like PC gamers.

  6. Have I got this right then? You can have all the MP stuff and make progress there, if you want other people invading your game, or you can just enjoy the single player game without being invaded, but you then lose all progress in all the MP modes?

    It’s a neat idea, having real people invade your game. But it’s been done before, and it didn’t turn out great then. Just completely takes you out of the game, suddenly having a real person turn up and (probably) acting strange.

    I guess it’s the thing these days though. Have to have some multiplayer mode crammed in there somehow. How else will you sell hats? Or extra maps (that were already there in the singleplayer game). And it rarely works well. The MP mode in AC4 finally managed to get me interested (after not really being much fun in the earlier games), but wouldn’t really have missed it. And let’s not talk about the horrible MP mode in TLoU (which, admittedly, was at a disadvantage due to the disappointing but shiny gameplay in the main game)

    I’m thinking it might be a case of wait a while for Watch Dogs, turn off the MP stuff, enjoy the game that way and then possibly turn it on to get whatever trophies might need it (which looks like half a dozen fairly simple sounding trophies)

    • What have you got against tlou? How would you have improved the ‘shiny’ gameplay in the main story?

      • To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what my problem with it is. It just really didn’t do much for me. It looks and sounds great, with a story that, while lacking in originality, gets the job done and gives somewhere to put some well acted and interesting characters.

        Just the actual gameplay didn’t do much for me. Found it a bit tedious and lacking in something. Just a personal opinion, of course. Let’s not get into an argument about why that opinion is wrong (it’s not, and neither is any contrary opinion).

      • hah didn’t say you’re opinion was wrong, I’ve just never seen you give reasons why you didn’t like the gameplay. Nothing to disagree with!

    • I love TLoU mp and still play it to this day but it is an aquired taste i guess.You just have to manage the parts you earn carefully and take smart shots plus having a team thats working together makes a big difference as with all mp shooters.It did have some bugs but most have been fixed 4 a while so if you just got frustrated with it try again with a mic’d up team cuz imo its unique and very satisfying.

  7. Sounds brilliant, Watch Dogs is definitely going on my Christmas list! Stupid question, how will the persistent sounding Online Invasion work for someone without Plus, are you completely cut off from all online features in all games? And if you let your Plus subscription lapse and therefor don’t go online, do you lose notoriety? I’ll probably get Plus when I invest in a PS4, but just curious for now.

  8. Sounds good, i grabbed my copy on the way to work this morning and i’ll probably play mostly offline but might check out the intrusion mode at some point.

  9. I’m really struggling to like this game. I’ve watched quite a few hours of various sp/mp streams and it really doesn’t grab me, some missions were good to watch but I’ve also seen a few generic stocking fillers. For the most part it looks boring. On a positive note this streaming games lark has saved me a fortune on impulse buys so far.

    • How can you struggle to like it without even trying it? Lol.

      I do agree with your comment on streaming though. I watched a few Twitch streams of this which left me feeling pretty ambivalent… An awful lot of ideas borrowed from other games that I’ve enjoyed but nothing truly unique to it and exciting. The whole hacking premise seems to have been overlooked in favour of traditional open world elements. Seems like a wasted opportunity…

      On the other hand, I watched some people playing Wolfenstein on Twitch and felt compelled to buy it – and am really enjoying it so far :-)

      • Watching the streams I know it’s not a game that I will love. That’s not to say I won’t borrow or buy it when it’s cheap as chips in a few months but as a day one… no thanks. I may be getting old and cynical but I’m fed up with buying day/week one only to have been taken in on the hype machine and left feeling hollow.

        I bought AC4 on the back of watching a few streams. Unsurprisingly no one streamed the awful MP which may have swayed me again.

  10. Well hello there …i am pretty stupid so if anyone can help me out that would be awesome!!
    Let’s say that I killed a person in online free roam..will this affect my single player reputation or is the single player a different “world” than the multi player????
    Pls help me out guys !!

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