SHORT REVIEW: PC VERSION
The following article was originally a comparison piece between Mafia III and Watchdogs 2, but that was about as interesting as the game Mafia III. Man, that got old quick.
My scrapped article had a great intro too, as I was standing on an incredibly cheap box, dishevelled in rags, screaming at passersby’s.
On to a standard ol’ review, this time with a light show!
Total freedom ensures a comprised story. You can’t have a virtuous hero when he’s able to squish the homeless with a crane. Ok… Unless that homeless man is a homeless zombie, or if he’s plotting to build a death ray. Ok… Yes… He’s not real and it doesn’t really matter, good point. Fine.
What i’m trying to say is…
When you’re offered a playground, how long will it take before the Nitro gets the better of you and pedestrian meets bonnet? It’s impossible isn’t it. The world is yours and most open worlds riff on this Scarface motif, as you gobble up everything around you.
The best way to combat this is to make the whole thing a bit silly. A knowing wink here, an admittance that it’s just a computer game there. Watch Dogs 2 never stops winking (careful – Ed), and you soon forget to question the magical hacking powers. Much like best-in-stupidity Saints Row, these powers exist for the sole purpose of fun. The Mafia III’s of this world struggle with this simple concept. How can you make it fun when we’re grounding this on tedious reality? How do we guide a sensitive politicised commentary when the story’s out your hand? You’ll find that a difficult task as I’m reversing into an orphanage, whilst listening to 1960’s lute Megadeth.
Beyond tone, the biggest problem with most open world games?
So you’ve just blown the budget on a replica of an entire town, countryside and cheese shops, filled it with dithering Ai, and now you’ve got to figure out all the fun things to do? Luckily, we live in a time were it’s no longer acceptable to collect thousands of feathers, phew. I’m pleased to report the missions are varied, interesting and take full advantage of our characters magic powers. There are upgrade points to collect, but found these were mostly optional. The level design encourages exploration and the use of gadgets. Do you try to ghost in and out, cause some minor explosions or both?
Watch Dogs 2 has a fine selection of distractions, and I’m surprised to admit I quite enjoyed taking selfies at oddball landmarks. Saying that, I’m glad I’m not beholden to the sideshow as I’ve not gone out of my way to hunt these things down. The surprisingly small cast are a bunch of none-relatable outcasts with an honourable goal, relying on memes and popular culture to fill gaps of character. They work fine and surprisingly, didn’t grate. Not even a moral main character. Character upgrades are meaningful and are well designed as they fit neatly with the expanding mission structure. You’re encouraged to never ever turn the game off. Just round the corner is a drone race… an upgrade point above me… what happens in the next series of missions… can’t finish point… must stretch out this… sentence.
Watch Dogs 2 has been criticised for its weighty gun arsenal, but to be honest, that’s your problem. You never need to equip a gun and the gameplay’s focused on using your selection of RC toys and gadgets. If you’re coming to this game with the intention of popping mo-fo’s, it will get old fast. To sneak in and out of a google building using your wits alone is the premium Watch Dogs experience. Of course, when it all goes wrong that’s also enjoyable, as you’re treated to an exciting car chase and remember, we are capable of changing the traffic lights with a flick of our phone.
Open world games tend to rely on setting, and overcoming your own challenges. Whilst you can easily shotgun your way to victory, you will be ruining the game for yourself.
Being a game about hacking you can use your magic Sauron phone to peek into the lives of everyday mooks. There is an impressive amount of additional dialogue to find, although the greater world doesn’t feel quite right. Nothing annoys me more than jumpy pedestrians. You’ll slowly drive round a corner to have them leaping, action hero style, to avoid my safe none-pavement bound vehicle. You’ll find them swearing at you for reasons I can’t discern. An open world game needs a strong illusion, and crap Ai moments reminds you it’s fine to test the ragdoll physics.
The online jiggery-pokery is good, if you like that sort of thing, as other players enter your world to hack or murder you. A technological cat and mouse game.
Graphics are rapidly becoming a moot point. The game looks nice, sunsets look adorable, fog effects are great, nothing looks out of place. We might be entering the next stage in gaming evolution were you would only mention the graphics, if it’s all gone wrong, or the artistic directions lacking. The framerates have been smooth and in my experience I’ve not come across any serious bugs. The worse I’ve had is the odd occasion of broken stealth and a few stutters. To compliment its good looks the sound design and voiceover work is excellent. The DJ also need complimenting, as I searched out a few of the featured musical artists. Drink all the booze, hack all the things indeed.
“Fun” is a nebulous concept, how do you define it? If “fun” is shooting Cyril Pedestrian in the leg than attempting to run the limping escapee over, you could argue every open world game does that pretty well. The best “fun” in these sandboxes allow for the unexpected. Calling in a murderous gang to take care of a troublesome guard may or may not allow for that smooth entry, as the police join the fray and it all kicks off, but you will enjoy watching the fallout from the safety of a drone.
Fun in a sandbox is throwing sand around and not knowing what’s underneath. Watch Dogs 2 is capable of unexpected surprises.
A very fine world, with very fine characters, with very fine stories.
A very fine game.
Does it really push the open world genre? Nah. It is fun though.
Abandoned ex-article quotes: –
It’s like going into a carvery, chucking gravy all over the curry and complaining to the manager when it tastes like shit.
With Mafia III you’ve only so much choice. Do you shoot the bloke, run him over or employ terrible stealth. Over and over and over and over and over….
C’mon guys, let down your hair and lets talk about the open world. By talk imagine me standing on an incredibly cheap box, dishevelled, possibly in rags as people walk by, occasionally spitting at me…