Take note, publishers. There is value in surprising the media at E3. Out of nowhere, during Ubisoft’s press conference, came Watch Dogs. The premise is timely in an age where our digital shadow, the imprint we leave on the internet, is growing by leaps and bounds. Taking that concept even further, this new intellectual property takes place in a Chicago managed by the ctOS, the Central Operating System
The developer walkthrough was an extended version of what was shown during the press conference. We got a greater sense of understanding of the world Aidan Pierce, the game’s anti-hero, resides in. Through his smartphone, Pierce can hack anything: ATMs, cell phones, security cameras, traffic lights. Anything on the grid can be manipulated
We watched Aidan stalk and, eventually, murder his target, all while being led through the proceedings by two members of the team. Kevin Shortt, Lead Story Designer, and Danny Belanger, Lead Game Designer. talked us through the most important points, many of which leave me hopeful and excited for the game’s eventual release
One of the biggest criticisms of open world games is that they only feel realistic outside. Watch Dogs will attempt to rectify the problem with fully realized interiors for many buildings beyond those that are mission specific. In many ways, this is akin to The Elder Scrolls series, which has always featured dungeons and interiors that have no relevance to the core story or even side quests.
In the demo, Aidan uses one of a number of infiltration tactics to enter a club in order to lure out his prey. Rather than overtly confront the bouncer, the developers chose to have the protagonist black out the cellular service, luring the guard away from the door in search of a signal. Sneaking in, Pierce meets up with his friend Geordie to secure a firearm, make himself known (subtly) to the mark’s assistant and then lay a trap.
After listening in on a call to make sure that the target is on the way, Aidan laid a trap using traffic signals to cause a huge collision. From there, the brutality of the game comes through. Whether baton or firearm, Pierce is proficient in combat. The firefight showed off some amazing rain, meaty-sounding gunshots and a bullet time effect.
As Aidan escaped the scene, he was able to steal a car and still manipulate technology while on the move. The game will have a “see and go” mentality, meaning that anything you see in the distance is reachable. Additionally, there will be social integration with challenges that can be levied against friends.
Should they accept, you’ll be able to use a companion mobile app to confound their efforts, monitor their progress and more. The app will be a complete map of Chicago, providing any information on characters you’ve investigated through hacking. Doing so to random NPCs will yield side missions and opportunities to earn money and further information. For instance, if you find an NPC to have a hidden bank account, you’ll be able to track it down and plunder it.
Watch Dogs is shaping up to be an innovative take on stealth shooters, playing on our fear of identity theft and invasion of privacy. Ubisoft is boldly taking on a current social issue with engaging gameplay and a unique mechanic that will leave playstyle up to the individual at the controls. We know for sure that the game is coming for PC, and our hope is that console releases will be announced once a more definitive time frame for release is confirmed. The lack of commitment to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 strongly hints at a next-generation release.