Watch Dogs PS4 hands-on – sinning in the city at Gamescom
I’m pretty sure Watch Dogs doesn’t want me to be this violent. Or, more specifically, the game’s Chicago police don’t want me to. And, even more specifically, that Good Samaritan who grassed me up. All I’ve done is pull a pistol in a heavily populated urban area and point it about a bit. I haven’t even fired the thing. Still, mere seconds into the first-hands on with Ubisoft’s ambitious next-gen sandbox, the fuzz are all over me.
Watch Dogs PS4 hands-on at Gamescom
It’s all a big mistake anyway – a mere misplaced finger which has meant that instead of inspecting the weapon radial menu I’ve gone and whipped my shooter out. And one of the conscientious citizens nearby clearly isn’t an NRA member, because she’s almost immediately on the phone to the local law. But, as in most cases with Watch Dogs, I still have options. I could, for instance, gun the caller down in cold blood. But that seems slightly over the top, and will probably just lead to more heat. I can leg it, getting out of sight before the report can be fully dialled in, absconding down a back alley into the loving arms of anonymity. Or I can wander over and, with a press of circle, tear the phone from the woman’s hand and give her a stern word, stopping her do-gooding in its tracks.
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As it happens I don’t do any of these things, because I’m too busy gazing around my environment, excited to finally be in control of the game that has been topping ‘most wanted’ lists since last year’s E3 reveal. But just as I’m starting to appreciate the level of detail, the array of civilians wandering the street, the slightly threatening gang eyeing me with suspicion… up rocks Johnny Law. And so begins the kind of epic chase that hasn’t been showcased in any of the game’s demos or trailers up to now. We’re talking 10 police cars, a helicopter, and the draining of Chicago’s entire annual construction budget as I tear along highways, through side streets, across bridges, and even down staircases that clearly weren’t designed with cars in mind. I switch traffic signals in order to create pile-ups with which to halt my 5-0 friends. I spring bollards out of the ground, stopping them dead in their tracks. I total cars, I run, I shoot, I hide…I eventually get nicked. But not without putting up a hell of a fight.
Thankfully the only punishment for death or arrest in Watch Dogs is a restart, no stripping of assets or stints of community service. So now it’s time to turn my attention to the actual task at hand: hacking the nearby cTOS base. See, I’m currently without my smartphone powers, and only by infiltrating and jacking in to the local mainframe will I be able to pry in people’s private lives and manipulate the world around me.
Sadly this is a bit more complex than guessing at the wi-fi password (WatchDogs01?) or pushing a button on a router. It involves breaking into a compound patrolled by more than half a dozen armed guards, retrieving a data key from one of them, and then using that to access a local terminal. Step one: get inside. This is actually remarkably simple, as using Aiden’s agility (sprint with R2, hurdle obstacles with triangle) I’m able to hop over an electronic gate and crouch, unseen, behind some crates. Ever reliable crates. The next thing to do is discover who I’m up against, and how many. I’m able to take control of a nearby camera (although I’m not quite sure how, given that I’m yet to complete my hack…) and move it about, marking enemies (which then show up in my mini-map) as I go. Jumping from one camera to another – the square button is used for all such activities – I can case the whole joint, seeing not only who’s where, but also discovering exactly which goon has the data key I need.
What actually happens is that I bumble out of cover accidentally, directly into the sightline of a bemused guard. It’s shoot-gun o’clock.
I’m even able to prise the info from him remotely (this hi-tech CCTV really is something), leaving me with the seemingly simple task of proceeding to the terminal and getting my mitts on its electronic innards. However those rent-a-cops really don’t look like the friendly sort, and there’s a whole lot of them, so discretion is key. Luckily those same CCTV cameras let me toy with the environment, setting off car alarms or controlling forklift trucks to act as distractions while I move undetected.
At least that’s the plan. What actually happens is that I bumble out of cover accidentally, directly into the sightline of a bemused guard. It’s shoot-gun o’clock. Luckily Aiden is a dab hand with the firearms, and he also packs a bullet time ability (activated by pressing down the right stick). Using my assault rifle and some duck-and-cover tactics I’m able to take down the opposition with minimal difficulty, and get myself piped into the mainframe. The city is mine.
Feeling like I’ve caused enough trouble in this particular neighbourhood, I decide to take my leave. A nearby muscle car is ripe for the jacking, and I’m soon careening through the open-world in familiar style. The cars are weighty yet responsive – not as heavy as those from GTA IV, but certainly not as easy to control as Sleeping Dogs’ rides – and different models handle distinctly: I make a couple of stop-offs on my route when I see something sleeker or shinier drive by.
I eventually arrive, via even more property destruction and scratched paintwork, at a more upmarket business district – the kind of place filled with Fairtrade coffee shops and yuppies eating quinoa salads on their lunch breaks. But this iGeneration idyll is interrupted by a notice that tells me that another player has entered my game and is hacking me. The nerve! Immediately a green circle pops up on my minimap, and I’m tasked with discovering who the culprit is. I start the search on foot, with suspects being crossed off one by one as I pass my gaze over them. But it soon becomes clear that pathetic old eyes aren’t going to do the job here, so it’s back into the city’s camera network. Panning with these makes things much easier, and soon I’ve got my man.
From here, things can play out a number of ways. The basic premise is that he has to escape, and I have to stop him. He could leg it, hop into a vehicle, get on a train, fly away using a magic umbrella (maybe…), and things would unfold dramatically from there. What actually happens is…I pull out my gun and shoot him dead on the spot. Hard lines, wannabe-Anonymous-member.