Features & News

Developer Session: Watch_Dogs

October 1, 2013, Author: Matt Parker

Let me clear something up. That ‘_’ I used in the title? It’s not a mistake. Well, at least it’s not my mistake. You see, Ubisoft are keen on people using an underscore in the middle of the title of their new open-world game.

However you want to spell it, Watch_Dogs has been getting all sorts of attention since it was announced 2 E3’s ago. After sitting in on a developer session, I can confirm this attention is fully deserved.

The presentation started off with the player’s character, named Aiden Pierce, hanging about outside a weapons store. To get some easy money Aiden hacks into a nearby CCTV camera and as a result, the view changes. From the camera’s perspective, the screen’s overlay changes somewhat. Whilst hacked into cameras anyone you focus on causes a new overlay to pop-up. This pop-up displays all kinds of details about random civilians, including their name, age and personal information like bank details. With some new bank account details acquired, money is transferred to the player and we enter the weapon store.

A huge range of weapons though stealth looks much more fun. To me at least...

A huge range of weapons though stealth looks much more fun. To me at least…

What’s immediately impressive is the range of weapons available. It’s clear that Watch_Dogs will be approachable in a number of ways just from the weapon select screen. Grenade launchers are next to silenced pistols and loud shotguns are adjacent to gadgets designed to distract guards. After buying a grenade launcher (clearly this missions about to ‘go loud’) Aiden jumps in a car and sets off to the waypoint of the mission.

Whilst driving, the chances to ‘hack’ are still present. It looks so easy to alter the world around you as prompts are clear and require nothing more than pressing the ‘Square’ button. A bridge in front of us, for a laugh, is raised up just so we can do a cool looking jump. Practically, this could be used in a chase to our advantage as could the ability to raise bollards and change the colour of the traffic lights.

Hacking looks as easy as pressing the square button. Because it is...

Hacking looks as easy as pressing the square button. Because it is…

After a fairly uneventful drive to our marker, it’s clear that Jordi, the guy who’s got work for us, is in an apartment somewhere. Whilst stairs exist in the world of Watch_Dogs, it’s much more fun to do a bit of climbing up the side of some walls. It wouldn’t be a Ubisoft game without a bit of climbing, would it? A cutscene occurs in which, out of all context, we’re asked to go find a man in charge of something or other and Jordi will help us by sniping people that we draw out of cover.

What struck me at this point was how questionable these ‘good guys’ seemed to be. I couldn’t make out if Aiden was some kind of terrorist or if Jordi was just a nasty piece of work.

Anyway, mission given, jump on a boat and go to some sort of work yard. Forklift trucks and chain-link fences are all around as well as some pesky guards. Playing like an open-world Splinter Cell, Aiden hides behind some conveniently placed waist-high walls and can switch from cover to cover. The guy in charge of showing us the game throws out some home-made gadgets which emit a noise. This being a video-game, the guard wanders over to find out what the noise is all about and gets taken out by our friend with the sniper rifle.

Interestingly, Aiden is capable of taking down enemies himself and the silent approach seems to be paying off. Hacking cameras gives us a great vantage point so we can easily see where the enemies are as well as point out the guards capable of calling for back-up. Naturally, they’re the first to go.

Jordi seems like kind of a jerk. So does Aiden. In fact, no-one looked like a good guy at all.

Jordi seems like kind of a jerk. So does Aiden. In fact, no-one looked like a good guy at all.

After a few more guards are taken down Aiden makes his way to the target and a cut-scene takes place. As mentioned before, everything’s taken out of context of the final game, but it’s hard to see Aiden and his team-mate as ‘good’. Following the cutscene, everything goes to hell and more guards turn up. Time to use the grenade launcher it seems.

On top of using the large selection of gadgets and weapons Aiden also made use of the environment at large. Forklift trucks were hacked to provide cover or to crush enemies and other items were rigged to explode.

After taking care of business, and by that I mean slaughtering 20 to 30 people, the demo was over.

It all seemed incredibly fluid and the idea of an open-world game with Splinter Cell-esque stealth elements excites me a whole lot. Watch_Dogs is out in only a few weeks, so we won’t have long to wait before we can sneak about cyber Chicago for ourselves.