Game Column: “Watch Dogs 2” lets players hack a virtual San FranciscoBy Aaron Bonner | 11/20/2016 5:05pm
CW / Jake Stevens
With more and more devices becoming a part of “the Internet of things,” personal data is flowing freely, ready for the taking.
“Watch Dogs 2” paints a grim alternate reality where organizations are stealing data while hackers are fighting for the freedom of the public. The first “Watch Dogs” had a decent premise – a hacker known as Aiden Pearce is let loose in a realistic depiction of Chicago where you can hack objects with the push of a button to make a clean getaway.
Unfortunately, the game’s idea didn’t match its scope.
Almost all of Pearce’s hacking abilities were available within the first hour and the game never felt like it had a good reason to use them outside of a few environment puzzles. Most encounters were easily solved with a few bullets rather than setting things up using your abilities, and Pearce himself felt like he didn’t have much of a personality.
“Watch Dogs 2” takes nearly every criticism from the first game and solves them with a cast of characters and a whole new range of hacking abilities to play with. You play as Marcus Holloway, a new recruit to a hacker group known as DedSec that has found a new home in San Francisco.
Much like the first game, you’re tasked with taking down Blume, an evil corporation using personal data collected through the city’s network infrastructure to ruin people’s lives. Along the way, you’ll break into networks to expose the company to the public and make DedSec the biggest hacker group in the world.
Holloway has an arsenal of tools at his disposal, from 3D printed guns, drones and even remotely hacking vehicles. There’s nothing quite like being chased by the police, only to send a car flying backwards, causing a massive pile-up on a freeway.
In the first game, I felt like I had no other choice than to shoot my way through encounters. Now, guns feel like a last resort.
When faced with breaking into a facility during a mission, I piloted a drone to steal an access key to the gates, triggered junction boxes to explode, remotely drove cars into security guards and hired gang members for drive-by shootings. Once the guards had been eliminated, I simply walked in, stole the truck containing the tech I needed for the mission and left.
The game’s satiric depiction of San Francisco and the surrounding area makes the world feel alive compared to the dull streets of Chicago from the first game. One side mission early in the game has your team putting together a soundboard of a famous rapper to trick a Martin Shkreli-esque billionaire into donating to leukemia research after raising the price of medication. Another mission has Holloway hacking ATMs to give out thousands of dollars to those in need while emptying the bank accounts of the pretentious upper class.
Each side mission is its own exciting activity and I keep finding myself exploring the city for new opportunities. From breaking into Ubisoft to leak a game trailer to helping a college student race go-karts in a competition, “Watch Dogs 2” provides a ton of variety that the first game lacked.
If you’re looking for a new way to experience an open world, “Watch Dogs 2” offers a ton of freedom in its gameplay. The game is available now for PS4, Xbox One and soon on PC.