Ubisoft has just released a nearly twenty-minute video highlighting Watch Dogs 2’s gameplay and Dark Souls-like multiplayer.
There’s a lot to unpack from this video, but the main takeaway is that they conscientiously improved on every aspect of Watch Dogs– except maybe this games tone, which we’ll get to a bit later.
“Hacking” (besides being said in the video at a rate of at least once every ten seconds) has seen some massive improvements. The options for hacking weren’t particularly varied in this video, but you now have a multitude of options to go about it. On foot, a tap on L1 (on a PS4 controller) performs a “quick hack”, while holding L1 brings up a quick-select wheel of the most useful hacks you have for each object. Hopefully, this wheel’s options will be customizable. You can also send out a quadcopter or RC “Jumper” to scout and perform minor tasks. For a telling example, the RC Jumper “can launch foul-mouthed taunts” like “Up yours!”
The world-building has taken a step up. San Francisco is impressive in its realism, and conversation with friendly “DedSec” NPCs has some actually quite human and funny moments. That said, the game is more impressive for its ability to see the world in different ways. “Nudlemaps” essentially gives you Google Maps in game, and you always have NetHack view, which is just Eagle Vision from Assassins Creed, but for hacking. The UI for this game is also a thing of beauty. Your cell phone makes every menu look like a properly curated website, although the DedSec UI looks like a punk bar’s gif-pocalyptic webpage. You use your phone to take pictures and log progress, which gets you followers, which progresses the game.
Driving looks better, but not perfect. The entire time the gameplay’s presenter tells us how much work went into improving the driving, we see the player’s car make half-a-dozen juddering turns instead of one smooth one. We don’t take part in gunplay directly, a bad sign, although we do tase someone. Supposedly, guns aren’t necessary, which is likely to the game’s benefit.
Teaming up with people who enter your world, you can tackle two-person missions, which looks to generally involve one scout and one soldier, so to speak. And if you leave multiplayer on and rack up a felony, one to three people can invade your world and kill you for fun and profit, a favor you can return. There’s some interesting but ultimately shallow creativity on display here, with traps set, or a bomb being stuck on a car and remotely driven into a line of cars near an enemy.
The main problem is tone, and I’m not just talking about the video’s presenter saying things like, “There’s some nice normcore hoodies in here, but I think we should go with the shirt with the giant skull on it.” The game is too nonchalant about its violence, and not in the intentionally tasteless Grand Theft Auto way. They casually mention that your assault rifles are 3D-printed by DedSec, a horrific implication, just as you trick a rival gang into starting a gang war to ease your escape from a gang’s compound. Unless the game speaks to this gamer-like removal from violence within the story, it feels a little gross to have the game address social media followers in the same breath as a hacker terrorist-cell causing a mass shooting.
Hopefully, this all adds up to a fun game that’s either as mindlessly free as GTA, or a little more self-aware. Watch Dogs 2 releases November 15th.