Just Visiting
Saturday | October 16, 2021
Watch Dogs Review

Watch Dogs Review

Watch Dogs Game Review

Watch Dogs (PC) Review

In the run up to the launch of Microsofts Xbox One and Sony’s PS4 there were a few games which were really getting gamers excited. One of those was Watch_Dogs, a brand new franchise from Ubisoft, but sadly it was delayed (on all platforms, including PC, 360 and PS3) with the publisher stating it was to allow the game time for further development and maximum quality. So 6 months on Watch_Dogs finally hits the market and today we can talk about our experience with the game.

Watch Dogs screenshotWatch Dogs screenshot

So what is Watch_Dogs? Take a bit of GTA, add some Splinter Cell, mix in a little Max Payne, finish off with some Assassins Creed and you are just about in the right place. What we have here is an open world game with a campaign which holds everything together. In that campaign we play as Aiden Pearce an elite criminal who’s skills are based very much around hacking though we do have some significant weapon and driving skills to mix things up a little. At the beginning of the game we find that a job went wrong and as a result our character suffered a tragedy which haunts them in the modern day. Events around that failed job also continue to ripple throughout life and draw a complex web of characters, each with a secretive persona or criminal background.

Watch Dogs screenshotWatch Dogs screenshot

Before we talk about the gameplay in Watch_Dogs, as this is the PC version we are reviewing, it is worth noting a few PC specific features of the game which are mainly focused on NVIDIA tech. First up we have support for streaming on the NVIDIA Shield portable android console. This means we can play the game which is installed on our PC remotely using the console style controls of the Shield (as well as watching our gameplay on its screen). For those who dont have a Shield we get the use of two performance and image quality related features, HBAO+ and TXAA. The former is an advanced version of Screen-Space Ambient Occlusion and Horizon Based Ambient Occlusion which attempts to improve the image quality of aspects such as grass and leaves while minimising any performance impact. TXAA is a film-style anti-aliasing technique which is designed to reduce crawling and flickering with minimal performance impact.
For our test system based on an i7 CPU and 2x780M GPUs we ran between 30 and 60fps at all times with maximum detail enabled at 1920×1080. NVIDIA recommend 2xGTX Titan GPUs for 4k gaming with maximum detail.

Watch Dogs screenshotWatch Dogs screenshot
Watch Dogs screenshotWatch Dogs screenshot
Watch Dogs screenshotWatch Dogs screenshot
Watch Dogs screenshotWatch Dogs screenshot

We mentioned above that the game is very much a mix of some very famous titles and in a way it plays that way too. There are some very distinct gameplay segments. We have the GTA (or Driver) based sections where we move around the world map, picking up missions on our way which are either the main Campaign (split into 5 acts of various sizes) or side quests/mini games. Everything we do earns XP and skill points which also accumulate allow us to build up aspects of our character. For example we might take on a police chase based task, stealing a car and evading the police to boost our points. Alternatively we can monitor the city, becoming a crime fighting vigilante… or we could play one of the mini games which range from basic cup and ball street betting to the quite random retro gaming based tasks where we free run (think Assassins Creed style movement) around grabbing gold coins against the clock. Elsewhere our main missions tend to be a mix of story based segments, mixed with driving and then assault on a target. Generally these are a mix of sneak and hack (Splinter Cell) mixed with puzzle mini games and blasting our way out of the situation we find our way in… very similar in feel to the original Max Payne games, even down to the skill points which allow us to slow the feel of time (and that’s before we consider the family tragedy similarities). We can of course also boost out equipment along the way, visiting the gun store or unlocking collectable weapons as we go.

Watch Dogs screenshotWatch Dogs screenshot
Watch Dogs screenshotWatch Dogs screenshot

Basing the game around tech has given Ubisoft the ability to build our gaming interface around a theme. Essentially we have a smartphone interface with various apps and those allow plenty of scope for additions to the gameplay. We can for example use an app to buy a car and have I delivered, should we find ourselves in a location where that would be beneficial but the more interesting aspect comes in the form of the online connectivity. At any point we can perform match making, as well as accept match requests from others. These pair us with another player in various battles which include races against the clock and find the other player before they can hack our kit and escape.

Watch Dogs screenshotWatch Dogs screenshot

So what did we think of Watch_Dogs? Well, the first thing which struck us about the game is that it is a little more violent that we had expected, at least based on the trailers which were much more focused on the hacking/exploration aspects of the game. The game begins in earnest with us beating an enemy quite severely and while the majority of the game stays away from blood and gore, it is clear that our main character is teetering on the edge of losing it at all times… a line many of our friends (and foes) have already well and truly crossed.

Next up is the massive scope of Watch_Dogs. This game is huge. Not just the map of Chicago but the length of the campaign and the volume of side quests which are available across the game world. We haven’t completed everything yet but based on our experience we are looking at over 100 hours of content, at least, to complete the game 100% (progress is tracked to let us know when we have).

In terms of the rest of the delivery, visually the game succeeds. There are some really nice lighting effects throughout the game world and when it rains some lovely reflections too. There are some low res textures kicking about though, which takes some of the shine off the game and then there are some very odd aspects. For example reflections in the windows of buildings don’t show what they should, you may be looking at a reflection which shows a street corner but turn round to look where it should be and there is something completely different there. It is a strange experience in a world which is otherwise filled with plenty of detail.

On the audio front the game goes down familiar routes of allowing us to choose the track which plays when driving and the city is filled with hustle and bustle with random voiceovers kicking in as we pass by NPCs in conversation with each other. Happily we were able to move around without hearing the same lines repeated, which is always a worry in a game of this style. We were also pleasantly surprised by some of the voice acting and scripting which offered some nice humour and a few stand out performances. That said Ubisoft have made an interesting decision, that being they have stayed away from a constant score. In many games there is always ambient music track playing in the background or kicking in during key conversations/scenes. That doesn’t tend to happen here and it is an interesting approach which actually adds to the immersion. Conversations, especially with our family, feel that little more real when they are not backed by someone’s interpretation of mood music.

Watch Dogs screenshotWatch Dogs screenshot

That approach also adds to the pacing of the game. This isn’t a game which tries to pack loads of action into the campaign. There are times when we can play for 30 minutes, maybe more where we are involved in a conversation/cut-scene, then travel to another location, where another cut-scene kicks in. For some this may be too much but it is worth noting that we can veer off to side missions (or online challenges) whenever we want to break up the campaign story a little.

Is there anything we would change? The driving sections are a bit arcade-ish. We can crash, crash and crash again without wrecking our car… and to begin with the police chase sections are a real pain as we try to escape, fail and get thrown back to the beginning of the chase. The driving camera could do with being a little more responsive also… for example when we completely change direction it can take a few seconds for the camera to get behind us which isn’t ideal in the heat of the action. Occasionally the controls could be a little better thought out too. Having the exit vehicle button next to the hack button is just asking for trouble. There was more than once when we were trying to escape, and accidentally threw ourselves out of a car at high speed rather than hack a gate, lights, bridge, etc.

The pacing might not be to everyones tastes, there isn’t a lot of originality here and those who like to run and gun will find themselves frustrated more often than not but overall Watch_Dogs succeeds. It offers a massive, well presented world with a huge amount to do and a storyline which keeps us interested.

Recommended Award

About Author

Stuart Davidson

It appears you have AdBlocking activated

Unfortunately AdBlockers interfere with the shopping cart process

To continue with the payment process can we ask you to

deactivate your AdBlocking plugin

or to whitelist this site. Then refresh the page

We thank you for your understanding

Hardwareheaven respect you right to employ plugins such as AdBlocker.
We would however ask you to consider whitelisting this site
We do not allow intrusive advertising and all our sponsors supply items
relevant to the content on the site.

Hardwareheaven Webmaster