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Watch Dogs 2 Review: Sprinkle Me

/ Nov 28th, 2016 No Comments

Watch Dogs 2 Review

Sequels are always met with skepticism, and it’s worse if the game before failed to live up to its hype. Watch Dogs 2 was always going to be met with bemusement because the first game left a foul taste in people’s mouth.

It is regrettable that the game has such an uphill battle because it completely fixes the issues that plagued Watch Dogs. Watch Dogs 2 is an exercise in addressing fan issues. The result is a game that is fun, inviting and addicting.

Laptops, Slappers and Garlic Fries

Cases of people being convicted of crimes they haven’t committed happen too frequently. It is a travesty, but what if you were convicted for a crime you haven’t committed yet?

Marcus Holloway found himself in the precarious position of being labeled a high-risk threat by Blume’s cTOS 2.0 software, deployed recently in San Francisco and its surrounding areas. The pervasiveness of information sharing between tech companies and Blume allowed cTOS 2.0’s predictive crime software to make Marcus a criminal without having committed a crime.

This isn’t justice, it is profiling.
 

Watch Dogs 2 Review

Marcus isn’t some dude with a magic cellphone. He’s down to code.

Instead of letting cTOS 2.0 mark him a criminal, it’s time to take action. Marcus, being a hacker of some profile, decides to join up with Dedsec, but to get in, he’ll have to do the impossible: erase himself from Blume’s cTOS 2.0. Dedsec thought it was impossible, and yet Marcus does it. He went from one step away from a cell to invisible.

Erasing himself isn’t enough, though. While he was in the system, Marcus got a peek at what Blume is up to, and it isn’t good. Dedsec has to do more.

With Marcus as a guiding figure, Dedsec is out to take down Blume and all its tech cronies profiting from profiling and information selling of cTOS 2.0.

Marcus’ story is also of revenge, but instead of feeling like empty rage, his vendetta feels personal and palpable. This isn’t Marcus’ story alone though. It is also Dedsec San Francisco’s story because without this colorful supporting cast, Marcus wouldn’t get anywhere. While Marcus provides them direction and purpose, Dedsec gives him the means to fulfill his vendetta.
 

Watch Dogs 2 Review

What makes Watch Dogs 2 great is the deep character relationships.

Since the game isn’t solely about Marcus, it hinges on the relationships Marcus builds with the members of Dedsec: Sitara, Josh, Wrench, and Horatio. Their friendship grows and flourishes the closer they get to Blume.

It isn’t without hardships, though. One particular moment hits you in the gut like a rubber bullet from a riot-suppressing super robot. You feel for them because the characters are so likable and sympathetic that they defy you not to laugh or commiserate with them, to revel in their success and to lament their failures.

The narrative itself builds in a complex way. There isn’t one straight line to Blume, but rather many different avenues to go down before getting to the root of the problem. Its mission structure helps to highlight how pervasive and insidious the network Blume is building actually is. It isn’t just tech — it goes into some uncomfortable directions as tends to happen when you follow the money. Video games aren’t reactionary by nature since development cycles take a long time, but Watch Dogs 2 feels vital at this moment in time.

Say Hello to My Little Friends…

Too often in Watch Dogs missions devolved into protracted fire fights with hacking taking a back seat. When you used hacking heavily to set traps and stay hidden, it was a ponderous and boring process. The game also had too many filler missions that made it feel like a modern day Assassin’s Creed. It wasn’t surprising that the game as a whole felt underwhelming.

Watch Dogs 2 doesn’t fall into the same traps and pitfalls. It took what worked and was interesting about the first game, expanded upon it and cut out all the chaff. Not only are missions more compelling in gameplay and story, but there are many different routes you can take to complete them. It isn’t simply about brute force this time around. Marcus has a heavy bag of tricks for his enemies.

Hacking takes center stage in Watch Dogs 2. It isn’t some parlor trick this time around. Marcus’ main weapon is hacking, whether it is different municipal features or an individual’s comm device. The best offense is a strong line of code. To help ensure that hacking plays a vital part in gameplay, Marcus has some new tools.
 

Watch Dogs 2 Review

The RC Jumper is your best friend.

The most obvious way to hack in missions comes in the form of cameras. You can hack the numerous cameras across the world to get a better tactical view and to set traps. However, as was clear in the original game, cameras are limiting and can only help to a point. That’s where Marcus’ RC Jumper and Drone copter come into play.

These two devices are truly what make a stealthier, hack-centric approach possible in the game. The Drone copter is the best scouting device you have. It can move in places where cameras can’t reach, and can mark enemies with incredible precision and speed. The only drawback to it is that it can’t perform physical hacks.

That’s where the RC Jumper comes into play. While it is much less maneuverable than the Drone copter, it is able to perform physical hacks. This is important in missions that require a more hands-on approach. It keeps Marcus from getting his hands dirty, but also allows him to obtain valuable information. Using the RC Jumper is like using Snatcher in MGS 4, but better.
 

hacknet

You can’t always be hands-off in missions.

Both the Drone and the RC Jumper can hack, set up traps and mark enemies. But unlike cameras, these devices can be spotted by enemies, meaning if you aren’t careful, enemies will go on high alert and search the area. Since both the Drone and RC Jumper are fragile, if an enemy spots one of these devices, it can be taken out with a single hit. Being stealthy is important when utilizing these tools.

Speaking of stealth, Marcus is able to use stealth infiltration to tackle missions. This is accomplished largely due to a better cover system. It is also augmented by hacknet, which allows Marcus to scope out enemy placements.

Every aspect of Watch Dogs 2 improves upon the gameplay model from the first Watch Dogs, and this results in more compelling missions, smoother gameplay and better hacking. The game is hard to put down.

Overall

Where the first game was bland and forgettable, Watch Dogs 2 is full of memorable moments. This is a game where you can blackmail a pharmaceutical monster, blow up tampered voting machines to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” compete in go-kart races in Silicon Valley, and that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what makes this game cool.

Watch Dogs 2 is a blueprint for how to create a sequel that makes good on the promise that the original game failed to fulfill. The gameplay works out what makes hacking exciting and exploits those quirks to give you a lot of power and choice when tackling missions.

Watch Dogs 2 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a code for the game provided by the publisher.

 

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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WATCH DOGS 2 REVIEW: SPRINKLE ME

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall91%

GAMEPLAY9

Watch Dogs 2 figures out what made the first game’s hacking gameplay intriguing and expands upon it. The result is gameplay that rewards choice and varied gameplay styles.

GRAPHICS9

Watch Dogs 2’s Bay Area is beautiful with gorgeous views and a vibrant city life.

SOUND9.5

The music is fantastic with great song selections across multiple genres, and the vocal performances are top notch. The game also has two of the best musical cues in a video game during “Power to the Sheeple” mission.

STORY9

The story in Watch Dogs 2 is highly compelling thanks to its charming and likable characters.

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