On The Hunt For Fun And Mayhem In Watch Dogs 2

Watch Dogs 2 gives one of the biggest new game series of recent times one hell of a makeover. It’s brighter, more exhuberant, more excessive, but at its heart, it’s still the same game that the eternally grumpy Aiden Pierce trudged his way through two years ago.

That’s not a bad thing. There’s little wrong with the core gameplay of Watch Dogs, the pervasive ability to hack people and things in the world, to remotely trigger car alarms as you casually walk by the distracted guards. It’s just that it was a bit too dour, when that core gameplay is so much better suited to messing around and playing with the world around you. Watch Dogs 2 channels those technological abilities in a much better way than the original did, building upon them and making them more intuitive and flexible in the process.

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Hacking is no longer a binary choice. You no longer just hack a car and trigger its alarm, but can actually take control in a limited way. I’m sure many of you remember the James Bond film where Pierce Brosnan pulls out a Nokia clamshell phone and races around a carpark in the back of a BMW he was controlling remotely. It’s not that flexible, but it hints at that kind of possibility, as you pull a shoulder button to open the hacking menu and then select from four options to make the car drive, reverse, or turn left or right.

Mapped to the face buttons, these are easy to learn, and will doubtless come in very handy as you play the main game. Of course, with the emphasis more firmly on the side of fun and tomfoolery, there’s plenty of opportunity to explore the new hacking possibilities online. Invasions will still feature in the game, but the core idea of having the hunter and the hunted is built upon in the four player Bounty Hunter mode.

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Whether playing solo or cooperatively, if you cause enough indiscriminate mayhem, a bounty gets placed on your head – you can also call to have a bounty put on you through the smartphone menu – and other hackers can then be brought in to help the police try and hunt you down. Up to four players can take part at once, but it could be one player scampering away from three hunters or two against two, which naturally shifts the balance of power as the hunted player has an escort trying to assist them.

The ultimate aim for the player with the price on their head is to get away and escape those chasing them, but that’s not how you’ll earn the most points. Turning to fight nets you much greater rewards. So you have this interesting interplay, this risk and reward can push you to be just that little bit more daring and see what you can get away with.

The first step is going to be to get moving. The hunters have a marker pointing straight to you, so you’re a bit of a sitting duck unless you hop into a car, possibly with your buddy riding shotgun and trying to cover your rear with gunfire. The vehicles really do handle much better, but they’re also more distinct. White vans have the turning circle of a cruise ship, but they’re not exactly great to drive in real life either. Supercars, on the other hand are nippier, more responsive and a lot more fun. With hunters hot on your tail, a little hacking war can break out, with the extended possibilities coming to the fore.

The target can, for example, make use of the infamous exploding manholes, but with the twist of setting them only to explode when someone runs them over. Sure, it might be a hapless civilian AI that triggers it, but it might also put your pursuers out of action. Both sides will also want to be hacking one another’s cars, forcing them to change direction, applying the brakes so that they can’t chase or escape for a few seconds.

WatchDogs2-BH-IL1 There’s a vindictive glee to the frantic panic you can induce in an opponent as they try to escape you, and on the other hand, there’s the delight of narrowly escaping or turning the tables for a few moments and standing to fight. My particular highlights came as I ran a target over in a car in one round, having spent a good few moments trying to figure out where they were heading from the minimap. I can’t really claim that my other kill was quite as glorious, even if my button mashing did manage to throw a remote bomb and explode it in my target’s face…

Evolving from the multiplayer invasions into a mode like Bounty Hunt is in many ways a microcosm of how Watch Dogs 2 has grown out of the first game. The original was a solid open world game with a clever trick, but it’s with the sequel that Ubisoft can really build on what worked well, fix what didn’t, making a game that’s more obviously fun and makes the most of the ability to hack practically everything you can see.

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5 Comments

  1. I enjoyed the first game and this looks and sounds great. The online aspect doesn’t interest me so much but it looks like they’ve expanded it to provide a similar/alternative experience to GTA online.

  2. Can’t wait! Really enjoyed the first one. My only criticism was the soundtrack. With Chicago’s rich history of Blues, Soul, Jazz, Hip Hop, House and more recently Footwork and Juke, it was a hugely missed opportunity to celebrate this culture and help emerse you into Chicago’s identity. GTA always been experts at this, but then Rockstar’s attention to detail is just incredible.

  3. The first game was pretty good but this looks tons be. I’m liking the new gadgets and having limited control of vehicles looks like it could be fun.

  4. Looks great. 9 weeks or so to go.

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