Title: Watch Dogs 2
Platform: PC/PS4/Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Bucharest, Ubisoft Reflections, Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft Toronto
Release date: Out now
tl;dr: South West Trains runs smoother than this shit.
Price: PS4: £40/$60
Xbox One: £50/$60
Family Focus: Click here for more information.
Any game that uses obnoxious, pop art bags and lolspeak to promote themselves is never going to be anything but cringey. I used to work for GAME. I teased people when I gave out the promo bags, because they all looked vaguely confused, or horrified. That was my initial expectation of Watch Dogs 2, and while it’s not a complete shitshow, it’s pretty damn bad. And if there was even a hint of self awareness, I might have actually enjoyed myself.
Let’s start this by saying that the in game graphics look nothing like the trailer. I was actually surprised when I started playing, because isn’t motion capture the norm now? This looks like a PS3 game and is going to age badly, facial modelling wise. The environments look lovely, but the people don’t. It’s apparently a pretty good representation of San Francisco; it reminds me a bit of inFamous 2’s New Marais with the open world, bustling with people, but at least Sucker Punch aren’t lying about what their graphic specs are. I’d heard of the Ubisoft visual downgrade before, but this is just ridiculous.
With the dull faces comes a garnish of bright neon spray paint and memes that are both eye catching and eye rolling. Watch Dogs 2’s entire theme is the young and the “cool,” crowd: it’s set in San Francisco, there’s tons of slang, and all of the main five look to be under 30. This kind of genre is always a tricky one, because it’s been done to death in bad sci fi novels, and it conjures up images of edgy 12 year olds on 4Chan in a V for Vendetta mask. This could have been done well if the game had an ounce of self awareness and tried to take the piss a bit, or even aged up the cast, but it really doesn’t work. It’s going to date the game badly, because ten years from now, who’s going to remember what all these memes were?
Like, c’mon. It’s an 18 rated game, yet resorts to using internet memes and, I swear to God, phrases like “We’re going to hit him where it gigahertz,” and many other crimes? Who on earth is this trying to appeal to, because the 12 year olds surely aren’t the ones buying it. It’s very much got the “Hello, fellow kids,” vibe to it, and if you’re any older than the aforementioned 12 year olds, or have any modicum of dignity, this is cringe city all the way down. Wrench’s mask uses emojis for the eyes, for God’s sake! How does that even work?! WHY?!
Okay, I may be the wrong target audience for this. It may well be for the twelve year olds, but it’s a weird trench to straddle – remember all the fuss with Breaking Dawn’s rating being an 18 and true to the book, but alienating the kids who were undoubtedly reading it, or a watered down 15? It’s kind of like that. Watch Dogs 2 deals with some heavy themes (they’re essentially living in a glammed up version of Orwell’s 1984 by this point), yet the sheer amount of “Oh God why,” makes it more than a little hard to take seriously. Or I’ve become cynical in my old age.
They do get some points for livening up the cast a little, as a contrast from the bland Aiden Pierce, and it’s cool to see an autistic guy and a trans woman not reduced to their conditions, simply presented as people, without fanfare, but the dialogue is so honest to God cheesy, it’s impossible to take it seriously. The game is fun to play – driving and climbing over stuff is fluid and fun, and the stealth is a neat mechanic if you can do it properly. The driving, on the other hand, feels far too sensitive, and far too fast. If you hold down the accelerator, you’re soon speeding out of control, and if you smash into the maybe smashable object (lamp posts, yes, trees, no), your car becomes increasingly hard to control as it takes damage.
But dear God, the police chases were a pain in the ass. Seriously, they will not leave you alone, and combined with the shitty driving mechanics, it makes them nigh impossible to evade in a car. I had a little more luck with a motorbike, but then I smashed into a tree and promptly died, because I zoomed off at 90mph. It’s the same whenever you break in somewhere – kill one guard, and the rest all call for backup, and they don’t stop swarming the place. This was on Easy mode, too, so what the hell’s Hard mode like? It’s not fun and honestly downright frustrating, and when you’re zooming away at hundreds of miles per hour, concentrating enough to hack is nigh impossible. On the ground, sure. I could steal hundreds of dollars and snoop into chats to my heart’s content, but not on the road.
But I could have dealt with all that if I’d actually been able to play the damn game. I know Ubisoft has a godawful track record with buggy games, but I’d assumed slight exaggeration about Assassin’s Creed: Unity. I was dead wrong.
I am forgiving of bugs. I love Fallout to pieces, and that game is buggy as shit, but Watch Dogs 2 takes this to a whole new level. Was it just bad luck on my part? I don’t know, but this is pretty much unplayable for me. On a console, to boot. That’s not on. I spend hours trying to get the Sims 3 to work, because it’s made by EA and running on my outdated PC, and I expect that. Certainly not for a AAA release. Framerate drops, lag, freezing and crashing to dashboard – you name it, this game does it.
It’s also insistent on having you play online all the time, even if you don’t take on any of the multiplayer missions. Maybe that was the problem, since it somehow managed to drop my Xbox Live Connection, despite the wi fi on my laptop being fine. But the second I saw that message, boom, the game would freeze. Every. Single. Time. That, or it would crash to dashboard, and after a while, I gave up. This level of bad should be thoroughly unacceptable in modern day gaming. I finally found my solution on r/watchdogs, which told me to switch off all online multiplayer, and lo and behold, it worked. So I just have to play my game in complete isolation, and miss out on several missions.
So this may not feel like much of a review, but that’s because I couldn’t get it to actually run for long enough. Sorry, rich hipster kids who are 1337 hackers, I couldn’t get to know you better, because your game doesn’t actually work.
- It’s a lot of fun to play, when it actually works.
- A bit more of a diverse cast than usual.
- The UI and map features are very fluid and intuitive.
- It doesn’t fucking work.
- The slang is the cringiest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.
- The police are apparently magically attracted to Marcus and you can’t escape them without far too much effort.
It’s 18 rated for violence, swearing, and godawful 1337 hipster slang that no one deserves to be subjected to.
This review is based on a code provided by Xbox UK.