Preview: Watch Dogs

I take a quick peek into the hacking near-future world of Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs, for SquareGowatch_dogs-HD

It’s a digital age.  Every day huge swathes of the world’s population connect themselves to a cybernetic interface of CPUs, telephone wires and wirelessly up-linked gadgets.

Our personal computers can render images to almost photogenic reality, our mobile phones are more powerful than the computers used to send the first men to the moon.  Every day more parts of our lives become connected and controlled by systems linked into a web of circuits and electronic signals. And amongst us there walk those who could turn these devices against us, to meet their own ends.

This is not the future.  It is now.  Feeling paranoid yet?

It’s an intriguing idea, and usually intriguing ideas make it into videogames. Yet surprisingly, relatively few games have ever capitalised on this idea to build a fully fledged game. Classics such as Uplink and the System Shock and Deus Ex series’are the best known examples of what probably ought to be a more widly spread concept. Time for a new roll of the dice in hacking land?  Ubisoft Montreal certainly seem to think so. You know the pedigree, Prince of Persia, Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry.  Admit it, you’re intrigued as well.

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Black Hat

Watch Dogs is the story of Aiden Pierce, a normal looking everyman with a normal sounding name enough sounding name. The kind of chap you could imagine pushing a trolley in a supermarket, or buying smokes in the local corner shop.  You wouldn’t pay him a second glance, and that’s his power. Aiden isn’t a superhero, or a bio-mech soldier. He’s a super-skilled hacker for hire.  In this near-future universe, entire cities are linked into a central Operating System (ctOS for short), a digital super-mainframe which Pierce can hack into at any time to access information, subvert systems, even stop traffic lights and cut power to city blocks. His battlefield is in the air around him, although naturally he still carries a gun, this is a Ubisoft game after all.

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Labyrinth of Reflections

Aside from the initial screenshots and the E3 video released of Watch Dogs, there isn’t a huge amount of information to go on.  The gameplay hinted at shows the game to fix in a mold similar to that of Assassin’s Creed, with characters entering ‘mission areas’  from a larger sandbox style open world.  Then using a interface to hack various ingame items, from mobile phones, alarms, cars even to Traffic lights.  From the short mission shown in the footage, it’s still unclear to what extent the missions will be open plan.  Although Aiden hacks a phone to get past a bouncer, then later causes a pile-up by changing traffic lights, would he have been able to effect his surroundings in an entirely different manner? It’s hard to say, but the smart money would be on ‘yes’.

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The Digital Age of Heroes

It’s certainly one of the most interesting and potentially rewarding new properties rearing it’s head this year, what with the possibility of it combining Deus Ex, Assassins Creed,  Uplink, Hitman and all this within a drop-in multiplayer, GTA style open world? There’s every chance that Watch Dogs will be the game to look forwards to in 2013

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