Playing Watch Dogs’ companion app – sabotaging your friends on PS4
The good thing about the proliferation of companion apps for mobiles, iPads and the like is that they lend themselves to a whole bunch of truly hilarious puns. Think ‘what’s app-ening’, ‘app-y go lucky’, and – my personal favourite – ‘app where we belong’. So now I’ve ruined the use of those for everybody else, let’s discuss Watch Dogs’ second-screen experience.
As with everything from the Ubisoft stable these days this open-world cyber-crime caper doesn’t begin and end when you settle down on your rocking horse, cup of Bovril in hand (just us?), for a session in front of the TV. The game says connection is power, and Wi-Fi certainly makes that so. When jacked in to that there internet you’ll be able to directly influence, and actually appear in, a friend’s game world. Much like Budgie, you take the form of a helicopter. However unlike that helpful scamp, here your goal is to stop Aiden from completing his.
It plays out like a race: the console player is Mr Pearce inside virtual Chicago, given a time limit inside which he has to pass through a set number of checkpoints littered about the city. And, taking control as he attempts to do exactly that, it all looks straightforward – just a leisurely drive across town. However the tablet player is very much the hornet in the ointment, as soon becomes clear.
As we move towards the first checkpoint the path seems unimpeded, but we’ve gone little more than a couple of hundred yards before the car we’ve just politely stolen is blown to smithereens by an exploding gas pipe beneath the road. A gas pipe that was exploded at the behest of the nearby tablet player prodding a sadistic finger at his screen.
The console player is Mr Pearce inside virtual Chicago, given a time limit to pass through a number of checkpoints. The tablet player is
very much the hornet in the ointment
And this continues as we make (slow) progress: bollards popping up from the road in order to block our route, traffic lights changing colour, junctions immediately flooding with cars from all directions, and even an overly excited bridge that starts to raise as we approach. And while we’d like to say we jumped it with the style and panache of the Blues Brothers, that would be a lie. And we’d never lie to you.
Thankfully it’s not too long until we get to take sweet, touchscreen-controlled revenge. The tablet display is reminiscent of the in-game minimap, with an isometric wireframe outline of the surrounding buildings. You have to keep the car within the helicopter’s range in order to set off the various pitfalls, so you need to drag ol’ whirlybird around with your finger. Which is slightly fiddly, and sometimes you get the sense that the pilot might’ve gone rogue.
But it’s doable, and when you’re near enough you can set off those booby traps, as well as dispatching police units to chase down Aiden’s speeding car. When it all works, and you manage to sabotage a clean run just in time to keep the console player from reaching their objective, it’s hard not to crack a smile/release an almighty sadistic laugh.
Whether the satisfaction will be the same when you’re playing remotely and can’t see the rage aneurysm that you’ve just caused seems doubtful, but we all like indulging in a little schadenfreude from time to time, especially when friends and loved ones are involved.
The key selling point for Watch Dogs’ second-screen offering is that, unlike those that simply let you manage inventories or dispatch never-to-be-seen troops to fight imaginary wars, the interactions appear on-screen. You can see the dastardly helicopter swooping about above your head, just biding its time before it impales you on a bollard. Or, if you’re the handheld player, you know the consequences of your actions are playing out in real time, rather than awaiting you when you next fire up the PS3. App’s all, folks.