Watch Dogs (stylized as WATCH_DOGS) is a 2014 action adventure game developed and published by Ubisoft for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U and Microsoft Windows. The game was massively hyped as Ubisoft's answer to Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row.
After a bank heist goes wrong, part-time vigilante and professional hacker Aiden Pearce's niece is killed in a car crash caused by a hitman hired by mysterious figures associated with the bank. Aiden proceeds to use computers in unrealistic and impossible ways to hack into the citywide surveillance system CTOS, in order to find out who is responsible, and make them pay.
- The player character, Aiden Pearce, is considered to be one of the most poorly-written video game protagonists ever created. He is hard to describe in non-abusive terms: he is like Prototype's Alex Mercer only without the excuse the latter character has for his behaviour. He talks in a trying-to-sound-worldly grizzled mumble, acts like a jerk to just about everyone, walks around the city randomly robbing people, and spends most of his time ignoring the problems he's causing for himself and everyone around him (which in the end understands it if you choose a decision in the ending of the game) while he takes the most confusing and convoluted route to any given goal.
- It also appears the story was rewritten to have Aiden be the uncle of the dead child rather than the father as one might expect, presumably because suggesting Aiden is capable of loving another human being would compromise his edginess.
- It cannot be emphasized enough that the entire plot occurs because Aiden and his buddy were too stupid to check if they were robbing a hotel that was well-known to belong to the kingpin of the local mob.
- The story is a disjointed mess, with characters drifting in and out with very little reason and events happening simply because the script says they do. There are so many digressions and dead-end side-stories it is actually fairly easy to forget what the current events have to do with Aiden's overall objective.
- The game acts like it's set in an alternate present-day, but due to weirdness involving the timeline of the death of Aiden's niece (the game takes place eleven months after her death in October 2012) and the fact that the game's release was delayed by six months, it actually ended up being set before it was released.
- It is a major plot hole that nobody knows who the "Vigilante" is, but random NPCs will walk up to Aiden in the street and go "Wow, it's the Vigilante!" throughout the game if you have the Vigilante reputation rank.
- The game's tone is inconsistent: it seems to want to be a grim and gritty story of a violent man fighting an encroaching police state, but repeatedly lapses into GTA-style goofiness.
- Perhaps the best example of this is when Aiden has a nightmare about the death of his niece, wakes up, laments what happened, and then for no reason at all, you get a notification that the Spec Ops 1911, a Silenced Pistol is unlocked.
- The grimness is at its height in the ultra-edgy "privacy invasions," where Aiden can hack into some random camera in a house and watch a little in-engine cutscene. Most of these are of miserable couples and singles and people dying or/and killing themselves, but the result is that they very quickly get dull and repetitive.
- Aiden is also extremely overpowered for a player character: Not only is he a walking arsenal capable of carrying every weapon in the game and a preposterous amount of ammunition (something GTA does), he can also use hacks to disable enemies or kill them by blowing up random objects, craft explosives instantaneously, has access to Bullet Time (also known as Focus in the game), and once he gets all of the game's upgrades (Hacking, Driving, Crafted Items and Combat), he is a very overpowered protagonist, to the point where any sense of challenge from the game is gone.
- The game sells itself on the fact that you can choose between stealth and open combat in missions, but Aiden's overpowered abilities and the fact that combat is extremely easy to mean that there is little point in playing stealthily.
- If you do want to try stealth you don't actually have to be stealthy, since enemies have to see Aiden until a warning sign fills up to start an alert: if you're doing something subtle like, say, detonating IEDs or firing an anti-materiel rifle repeatedly, they'll only ever get as far as starting to look for him.
- The central "hacking" mechanic was criticized as being a glorified use key. Everything in this game like combat, car chases and missions require you to use Hacking as your main weapon to progress.
- Some of the things you can hack are also more than a little bizarre: who would put Wi-Fi access in an underground steam pipe or a hand grenade? Most bizarrely of all, why in the world would a mob boss tie his pacemaker to a security system operated by the local police?
- Its mechanics are basically every bad element of every other franchise Ubisoft had going at the time bulldozed into a heap and with all their redeeming qualities removed.
- The game copies the overly weighty driving controls from GTA IV, and makes them a thousand times worse. Even if you barely push the gas button it instantly makes the vehicle rev up to almost maximum speed and takes off like a rocket. Because of this, it's very easy to accidentally kill civilians, which causes penalties to your Reputation meter.
- Police are incredibly persistent and ridiculously hard to shake without exploiting the hilarious gaps in their capabilities (eg being unable to attack you on a train or pursue you on the water at all). As a sign of Ubisoft forgetting they're not making another Far Cry game, the police can't actually arrest you, they just shoot at you until you either die or escape and lose sight of them, which is made worse by the fact that you can't kill them without taking a hit to your Reputation stat.
- As mentioned before, Aiden can go around hacking other people's bank accounts, but to actually collect the money, you have to go to an ATM and pick it up. Not only is this little more than an inconvenience since Aiden is practically tripping over ATMs anywhere in the city, it is also stupid since it makes no sense that Aiden can remotely empty people's bank accounts but can't hack an ATM to give him free money.
- Uselessly limited crafting system that is only used to make a few types of hacks and throwable devices, which shows that it was clearly added just to check off the "crafting system" box on the feature list.
- The game is very poorly structured: it ramps up the action extremely quickly early on, then runs out of ideas entirely and meanders around doing more or less the same thing until the final mission.
- In addition, there is almost no gating system for unlocking weapons, and it only takes a half-hour session sitting on a security camera or walk around and hacking anyone unfortunate enough to walk by to get enough hacked accounts in order to get the money on an ATM, buy all top-level guns and done. You managed to cheat and break the game, making it much easier. Though the only power weapon that cannot be acquired this way is the machine gun.
- A lot of in-mission car chases and Criminal Convoy missions are heavily scripted, not allowing the chase to end until you manage to take down your target, make the target reach his destination or lose sight of them (applies only during In-Mission chases) and get a mission failure. This is also enforced with Aiden's curious inability to use weapons while driving, which (as we said in WIS #11) glorifies the hacking mechanic even more.
- The clothing options are just re-colours of Aiden's basic outfit. Said outfit looks like an alien's idea of a human trying to be inconspicuous.
- Aiden has the power to hack road signs and make them display extremely dated, and not at all dank memes.
- The hubris of the game was astonishing: before it was even released, Ubisoft was already referring to Aiden's hat as his "iconic cap" as if he was the star of a well-established franchise.
- The game's version of Chicago is only really like Chicago in terms of where the landmarks are in relation to each other: the actual geography is a complete mess, and more like New York than anything.
- False advertising: this game is one of the most infamous examples of recent years, with the 2012 demo looking markedly better than the final game. Ubisoft even went on record claiming it had not been downgraded, apparently forgetting that gamers have eyes.
- Strangely enough, details that were shown at E3 ARE in the PC version, they had just been turned off. You can enable these with the use of mods.
- All versions of the game were extremely glitchy on launch, with the Wii U version being the worst.
- The joypad controls use L3/Left Analog Stick to reload, which is extremely awkward.
- Poor-quality, horribly optimized PC port with graphics and framerate gimped for parity with consoles. It also requires Uplay.
- Another case of false advertising is that they said they were working for Nvidia to ensure the PC version was "the best as possible".
- Ubisoft's disdain for the Wii U was such that, at the time, they were known to be sitting on completed games they couldn't be bothered to release: in the end, it took another six months for the Wii U version to be released.
- The morality system (AKA the reputation system) is so rarely utilized that it's like it wasn't even there. It also restricts players by only allowing them to kill enemies and not civilians.
- The shooting mechanics are solid (aside from the reload button), and there's a decent variety of weaponry to offer, even if some of the models are recycled from Far Cry 3 and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.
- Several of the mini-games (known as the Digital Trips) that were added during the production delay are actually pretty fun: Spider Tank in particular has more right to be a full game than Watch_Dogs itself does.
- The online invasions can be entertaining, though you are fairly likely to go up against a player with an anti-materiel rifle that kills you in one hit.
- Patches did eventually remove the more memorable glitches, as well as the much-mocked ability of el-trains to instantly stop if Aiden was on the track in front of them.
- The game is enjoyable, despite its flaws (which are mostly confined to the story and some gameplay elements).
- Good voice acting.
- T-Bone is a likeable character.
- Its DLC, Bad Blood is somewhat an improvement.
- Decent soundtrack.
- There are mods to bring back E3 graphics or features, such as The Revival mod or TheWorse mod.
- The sequel released in 2016 is a huge improvement.
- The concept behind the game is pretty good, even though it fails in execution.
- Despite that the game ramps up the action at the very beginning and loses it, it starts getting it back near half of Act 4 and Act 5.
The game received mixed to positive reviews, but coming in at the height of the popularity of Ubisoft's photocopied open-world games, it was a massive financial success and broke several records for Ubisoft, going on to sell an estimated 10 million copies by the end of 2014.
On release, the game was relentlessly mocked with countless videos going up on YouTube of physics glitches and other bugs and weird behaviours. It also won Giant Bomb's "most disappointing game of the year" award for 2014.
- Ubisoft managed a publicity stunt worthy of Acclaim when they decided to send nine.com.au's review copy of the game inside a safe which was delivered to their Sydney office along with a voicemail explaining what it was. The office missed the voicemail, heard a beep from the safe and promptly called out a police bomb disposal squad.
- They were also heavily criticized for giving the press a release-day review embargo.