by Lisa Thrasher
previewed on PC
Something new from E3
If you saw or read anything about E3, you probably noticed that there was practically nothing new or exciting there this year. There were more trailers and gameplay demos of games that everyone had already been hearing about than anything revolutionary. Assassin’s Creed III, Last of Us, and Black Ops 2 were all prominent features of the show, making some attendees consider this year’s E3 a competitor for the title of the worst E3 to date.
But then, something incredible was revealed. A brand new, open world action IP where technology reigned supreme and all the information you could want was achieved by the click of a button. There were fire fights, eavesdropping and the ability to remotely lower drawbridges. The government watched every move of every person, you included. That’s the world of Watch Dogs, and the scariest part about the scenario is that all this technology already exists in modern times.
You, the watch dog
You are Aiden Pearce, a hacker with control and influence over the entire city through a grid running on high powered computers. Everything from power lines to data records is connected, and you have access to it. When you zone in on a person you can invade their phone and see their criminal record, medical history and essentially every bit of information about them that has been stored through a bank, court, doctor or library computer.
Watch Dogs does not put you in the shoes of a criminal who is picking up seedy jobs and causing havoc. Instead, you are calculating and unafraid to take your enemies down by more than just brute force. Instead of a shotgun to the face, Pearce invades his target’s privacy, discovers all their confidential information and exploit it for blackmail until the enemy does what the hacker wants.
Some might say that this paints a pretty bad picture of our main character, but Aiden follows a staunch code of vigilantism. People he is close to have been hurt in the past and he is attempting to prevent that from happening again. Aiden is obsessed with surveillance and protection; he knows he needs a better offense than the people he’s fighting, and he uses the city as his weapon. He is not inherently good or bad, but rests solidly in the gray area of anti-heroism.
Tools of the trade
One prominent tool that Aiden uses is called the Profiler. This is what allows Aiden to remotely find out information about individuals without interacting with them and is helpful in beginning side quests. For instance, you could pass a man on the street with a rap sheet full of rape convictions and witness him walking down a dark alley after a woman. You can then choose to either continue with your primary objective while ignoring the peril that the woman is in or you can pursue the man and kill him. But then you must decide if you’re willing to take the risk of being caught committing cold-blooded murder based on a suspicion.
Aiden can also wipe out cell phone reception in an area, causing guards and bouncers to move away from doorways as they try to communicate. Or toss an EMP to short out all the stop lights, creating a massive car crash as well as cover for you to hide behind in the impending shoot out. Or you can be a little less reliant on technology and simply pummel an attacker with a baton, Aiden’s close-range weapon of choice. Perhaps it’s not very subtle, but it does provide a non-linear experience for each situation.
Clear and present danger
All the abilities that Aiden has are available now to a frightening degree. The game is set in Chicago roughly during the year of 2012, and the information that the player can access and the technology that can be tapped into are all modern possibilities. Aiden hacks into the CTOS network which is basically Ubisoft’s version of the Skynet computer system from The Terminator. All of the hacks that Aiden can do have either been done before or are worries of the current population, making the situation even more realistic. The truth is that Chicago has over 10,000 cameras and one citizen can be tracked from camera to camera, and some even have the ability to read the letters on your name badge.
If hacking and blackmailing from afar isn’t really your thing, don’t be discouraged. There are plenty of car driving, gun shooting and explosive action sequences permeating the experience, but it isn’t as reckless and crazy as a game like Grand Theft Auto. You drive at realistic speeds and fire realistic guns, but you can still manipulate the environment while you’re driving and shooting in order to make every light turn green or knock out communications with the enemy’s commander and leaving the group is disarray.
As for objectives, there is no mastermind telling you what to do. Aiden is obsessed with control and will get whatever information he needs on his own. There is an overarching storyline and primary missions, but there are plenty of side quests that you gain just by stumbling upon the seedy operations that are going on in the city while you play. You might begin uncovering clues about a human trafficking ring that will lead to other information in a different location that ultimately helps Aiden discover the whole truth of the situation. Then you must decide what to do with the newfound knowledge, and that choice may lead to another mission.
No information is safe in Watch Dogs. If you can accomplish all of this, chances are someone else can as well. Who is watching you?