Watch Dogs

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Kerberos
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Re: Watch Dogs

Post by Kerberos » Sun Jun 15, 2014 7:44 pm

So I'll just write my thoughts here, cuz Beau called me out on never writing them down. I've wanted to, but haven't gotten around to it. I haven't played in a few days, so I'm a bit foggy on it, excuse the slight inaccuracies if there are any.

So on the whole I want to like Watch_Dogs, I really do. I just can't convince myself to do it. I can see a lot of potential here, but unfortunately the game is quite messy. The game starts of with a thud when in the first action as a player you are demanded to shoot a man you know next to nothing about. They game will not let you do anything but shoot this man, you can't look away, aim for the leg, or walk away. When you pull the trigger nothing happens; your gun is unloaded. A shitty start. A forced decision, even if it is an empty one is the worst thing I could ask for in an open world game. This is the starting point of the games narrative and its only downhill from here.

I'll get this out of the way now and try not to harp on it too much, the story of the game is utter shit. Its a more the typical revenge story with characters that are flatter than the textures on inside of the cars (seriously go check those out, laughable). Aiden Pearce is a hollow character with an awful voice performance, you don't want to like him and he is generally a psychopathic bastard. Anti-hero doesn't even come close, megalomanic gets more to the heart of it. Having an irredeemable character is an odd choice to be honest, I can't really get behind it.

So outside of the story the first hour of the game is pretty awful. The stadium mission which serves as the tutorial does not have a good feedback loop, its littered with forced camera perspectives, locked in movements or events, and filled with instant fail states. It generally punishes you for doing anything other the exactly what they are prescribing through their ugly text prompts. If you try to explore or experiment the game slaps you on the wrist with a mission fail and sends you back to the start. Frustrating is a a word that I'd use, along with some others.

Saying you get past the far too long tutorial/game intro (the next few missions are all part of the tutorial process they are equally as bad). You reach the 'full' game. This is where it gets interesting. You begin to learn all the cools bits of Watch_Dogs. Hacking is fun, the shooting is good, and the world is pretty big! Then you keep playing and notice all the issues inherent to their design.

I generally refer to Watch_Dogs as a sloppy game. It is a mess of incoherent game systems and an ambiguous creative direction. My boss at work agrees with the idea of it being sloppy and has taken to referring to the game as 'Sloppy_Dogs'.

What do I mean by ambiguous direction? The game has no idea what it is. Truthfully, it can't make up its mind between open world sandbox and structured action adventure. The missions you go on are incredibly narrow, you are required to do them in a very particular manner, and only using certain mechanics will ensure success. These missions have no branching narratives, no alternative outcomes, no interesting fail states, and no real ability to improvise. These missions are simply bite sized deliveries of plot wrapped up in stiff objectives. Then we get to the open world nature of the game's direction. Its open world but traversing it is a pain in the fucking ass. You can use the trains for fast travel, but you typically need the "Stop Train" skill in order to halt a train and catch up with it. Parkouring in the game is horribly unreliable. It takes none of the cues from Assassin's Creed's refined movement system. What's better is that Aiden is basically a paper doll when it comes to fall damage. A typical outcome to engaging in the 'parkour mode' is accidentally climbing over a wall that you didn't intend to, falling 12 feet, and dying from fall damage; back to start you go! Driving feels horrible. The cars feel as though they're skating on ice. The vehicles handle and turn much like boats; that's fine though! The other cars in game will just bounce off of you when you hit them. Your damage/force modifier when hitting cars is roughly about 5x the damage they impart when colliding with you. I do not imagine this was always the case. In fact if I had to guess I imagine there was normal damage trading between cars, but this made moving about the world even more unbearable, so they changed to the new system of bumper cars.

Then we get to the ethical/moral implications of the game, oh this is a doozy. The game has no idea if you are a good guy or a bad guy, or more specifically it has no idea what a good guy does and what a bad guy does. Some missions will call for you to eliminate a gang boss, by knocking him out. No you can't kill him, that's an instant fail! You must gingerly lay him low with a baton to the face. Now other missions, they want you to KILL LITERALLY EVERYONE. Why the change of heart? Why can I kill these people, but not these others? Certainly it isn't the severity of their crimes. Because apparently in the dynamically generated "Crime Located" side quests/world events, you can kill a street thug for stealing a purse and you'll actually experience a BOOST in your good guy reputation. What the actual fuck?! You can hack and steal money from anyone (broke cancer patient and rich broker alike!) without ANY repercussions. The inconsistency goes farther that this, but I'll just stop with the fact that the game is deliberately ambivalent as to how you treat the people around you.

Then we get into the actual systems implementations. This is where you'd hope the game to find its footing, but sadly it does not. Most of the games systems to do not work together well, if at all. The primary issue with Watch_Dogs is that most of the essential gameplay functions are tied to contextual prompts. These prompts will appear whenever the game deems you might want to access them. These prompts are everything: Hacking terminals, phones, street obstacles, cameras, entering cover, vaulting over cover, climbing, and just about anything gameplay related. This creates some serious problems, it seems that there is a fairly complex system of interlocks that prioritizes or de-prioritizes these interactions. Some actions can't be done in certain states. For instance, Street Hacks (Bridges, Traffic Lights, Steam Pipes, etc) cannot be performed in a stationary car. You MUST be in motion. So for missions where you might want to lie in wait, activate the obstacles, then spring into action; you would NEED to have the car you are in be constantly in motion (I usually go for slight acceleration then slight reversing). Similarly these obstacles can only be activated on foot when you are DIRECTLY next to them, not exactly the best hiding spot wouldn't you say? It seems that the game uses a combination of proximity, orientation (aim), and player state to determine which prompts to show. (Don't even get me started on how difficult it is to hack helicopters because of the camera angles, fucking A). And on any given street there may be about 5-6 different things Aiden could hack. Effectively what you get is a game where it does not do what you want it do when it is absolutely critical. I could go deeper into this, but suffice to say, the designers either fell short of implementing their many systems, or they are just forcing you to play the game a certain (and quite annoying) way.

I found multiplayer to be very frustrating, it's extraordinarily unclear how to play it when you are first taught how this works. Also the idea that you can move outside of the hack zone and the enemy can keep hacking in the backend is insane. I think the whole cat and mouse thing could be interesting, but this is ultimately boring. Truthfully the best way to defend against people in MP is to just start shooting. Civvies will run in fear, and if you happen to get lucky on the first few shots, you might accidentally pick the hacker! Overall it's pretty annoying and intrusive. If you happen to turn off MP and block players from entering your game, it will reset your progression stats.

The UI of the game makes me want to scrap out my eyes with a rusty spoon, that or murder the UI designer with a rusty spoon; not sure. The idea of having your Phone be the menu system is cool. But they immediately abstract you away from that the moment you leave the surface menu, defeating the purpose of the immersion and bringing with it only inconvenience. Also the Radial wheel design for dropping in skill points, talk about unreadable. It breaks a lot of normal conventions of how to message info to the player. It is good for showing you at times what you have the ability to unlock but generally is visually confusing. The skills in the progression system are, as some have pointed out, pretty cool and open up new ways to play. While others are seemingly useless, protecting me against things that never seem to happen in the first place, or giving me a gameplay ability I'll never understand or use.

There are some good bits. I enjoy the maze-like challenge of intruding on the ctOS hubs via camera hacks. This is a kind of cool adventure to safely move through a secured site and complete an objective. You can even do it from the safety of your parked car around the block, very fucking neat. Thought the hacking mini-game that you use when you do the final intrusion leaves something to be desired. Nothing wrong with the mini-game itself, but the 3D/camera view of it is awful. If they had just made them 2D schematic-like it would have been fine. Really all that mini-game is to me is the developers trying TOO had to be COOL and 'next-gen'.

Shooting is actually pretty good. The weapons feel somewhat unique between them. They are cheap and easy to find, which makes buying them pretty useless actually. I always had tens of thousands of dollars to spare when playing.

Crafting is an interesting system, but they are typically only good for evading enemies; which is necessary since evading enemies in the game is nearly impossible. Due to the fact that you can't shoot from vehicles, traffic obstacles often times impede you as much as your enemies, and hitting vehicles while visually impactful does little to damage the cars themselves.

Overall after reaching Act 3 in the games (roughly 8-10 hours maybe), I can honestly say I'm done. I can't really carry on playing Watch_Dogs, it asks too much of my patience and rewards me too little with its broken gameplay and boring story.

It feels like a game that tries to be all of the other Ubi IPs mashed into one. It tries to drive like Driver. It tries to run and move like AssCreed. It tries to stealth like Splinter Cell. It tries to shoot like Rainbow Six. It does none of these things, and it doesn't have much soul to it. Watch_Dogs is Ubi's attempt at making a one-stop-shop for all your AAA game needs. Instead its a grab bag of broken goods.
Last edited by Kerberos on Mon Jun 16, 2014 1:38 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Watch Dogs

Post by Sharp » Sun Jun 15, 2014 9:26 pm

^ what he said.. LOL

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Kerberos
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Re: Watch Dogs

Post by Kerberos » Sun Jun 15, 2014 10:05 pm

One final thought:

The city has no personality, like at all. Its empty. The different zones on the map have no character or neighborhood vibe.

The people are flat. They offer no interaction with Aiden and nor he with them.

You play the game in a vacuum. You are not in the world, or impacting it, just simply passing through it. Its one of the least immersive experiences I've ever had.
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Re: Watch Dogs

Post by purebeau69 » Mon Jun 16, 2014 7:43 am

I agree with a lot of what you said, Kerb. One thing though...you can hack things while stationary in a vehicle. I've done it quite a bit during the Criminal Convoy missions to setup an ambush.

I think one of my biggest complaints is the lack of risk/reward for hacking random NPC's. Shaping the world you play in based on who you choose to invade and who you choose to leave alone would have helped immersion. Ubisoft basically relies on the player to make moral choices but doesn't tell them that whatever they decide holds no penalty or reward. The cat was out of the bag on that one once the game was released though.

The only system that shapes how the world reacts to you is the reputation system which measures how many random crimes you pacify. Do good things and your reputation bar moves up to Vigilante; citizens will be reluctant to call the cops on you when you do bad things or when you are buying stuff. Do bad things and your bar moves the other way and NPC's might call the cops when they recognize you running down the street.
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Kerberos
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Re: Watch Dogs

Post by Kerberos » Mon Jun 16, 2014 11:34 am

purebeau69 wrote:I agree with a lot of what you said, Kerb. One thing though...you can hack things while stationary in a vehicle. I've done it quite a bit during the Criminal Convoy missions to setup an ambush.
You are correct; I was able to do this with mixed success. At first I thought it was flat out not possible. I once found that I could do it! Unfortunately I cannot do it reliably due to the complex context prioritization I mentioned. There is certainly logic in the game that makes accessing Traffic Hacks easier when the car is in motion. The moment I realized that I could hack these while parked, but that I couldn't do it reliably, it was effectively not a feature to me...
purebeau69 wrote: I think one of my biggest complaints is the lack of risk/reward for hacking random NPC's. Shaping the world you play in based on who you choose to invade and who you choose to leave alone would have helped immersion. Ubisoft basically relies on the player to make moral choices but doesn't tell them that whatever they decide holds no penalty or reward. The cat was out of the bag on that one once the game was released though.
Yeah, but in a game so wrapped up in a narrative of right and wrong, this sort of moral ambivalence and weak direction just makes my skin crawl. A missed opportunity. Which is how I read most of watchdogs, a series of missed opportunities.
purebeau69 wrote:The only system that shapes how the world reacts to you is the reputation system which measures how many random crimes you pacify. Do good things and your reputation bar moves up to Vigilante; citizens will be reluctant to call the cops on you when you do bad things or when you are buying stuff. Do bad things and your bar moves the other way and NPC's might call the cops when they recognize you running down the street.
Yup. You're totally right. Toyed with this when I first started playing and realized there is no benefit or trade off to being bad or good. The game will just heckle and hassle you into being good. I doubt any player in this game has a real intrinsic or extrinsic motivation to be GOOD, they simply couldn't be bothered to deal with being BAD. It like working just hard enough not to get fired. Truly painful experience.
Do this. Don't do that. Stay back in line. Where's tax receipt? Fill out form. Let's see license. Submit six copies. Exit only. No left turn. No right turn. Queue up and pay fine. Take back and get stamped. Drop dead— but first get permit.

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Kerberos
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Re: Watch Dogs

Post by Kerberos » Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:52 pm

Do this. Don't do that. Stay back in line. Where's tax receipt? Fill out form. Let's see license. Submit six copies. Exit only. No left turn. No right turn. Queue up and pay fine. Take back and get stamped. Drop dead— but first get permit.

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Re: Watch Dogs

Post by purebeau69 » Tue Jun 17, 2014 7:36 am

I tended to try and do good things so I wouldn't be forced into a police chase. Another big complaint is the lack of ability to outrun cops; no matter what vehicle you are using. I was in the fastest car in the game and the cops were still right on my ass the entire time. The game forces you to use hacks to evade them which further complicates it's methodology of being an open world game giving players choice.

There was one instance where I was able to evade cops on a motorcycle without using a single hack but I think it was dumb luck as the cruisers chasing me ran into random traffic while I was going top speed and lost sight of me.
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Re: Watch Dogs

Post by igloo » Fri Jun 20, 2014 8:56 am

I lol'd at the review.

Despite the inconsistencies you've noted, I've really enjoyed the game (played on the computer, with a Xbox controller). There are certainly areas where this game could've been stellar, and they certainly missed those things. The game is fun, not FUNtastic. :P
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