One sentence review: Watch Dogs 2 is a solid game that doesn’t quite pull together all of its ambitions into a cohesive story.
Watch Dogs 2 straddles a strange line; it seems like it tries to be two things at once and doesn’t quite pull off either aspect. On one hand, Watch Dogs 2 attempts to show the dangers of government overreach into the private sector. On the other hand, however, it tries to be a ‘cool hacking hipster’ simulator with no end to one-liners and quippy jokes. This is important because it really sums up my experience with Watch Dogs: it never felt whole and it felt like it never impacted me in the way it was attempting to. But before we get to that, let’s go over the actual gameplay.
Watch Dogs 2 is a fun game in many different ways. Do you want to hack 10 cars around you and watch them all careen into everything? How about find a particular NPC and follow them for ten minutes only to fabricate evidence that they are a terrorist and have the SWAT come and shoot them down? Or maybe find a naked homeless man and become his guardian angel, allowing no harm or foul to become of him? You can do all of these things and more with just the touch of a button and some patience. It was all kinds of fun to have friends over and watch them wreak their own personal havoc on the surrounding city. This type of spontenaity is where Watch Dogs 2 shines brightest. You can carve your own path through the city and have a ton of fun doing so. Fly a drone, drive another drone, shoot a dude, steal a car, ramp it into a trailer park, discover the trailer park is hostile and subsequently die via gang members. These kind of stories happen in almost every playthrough if you really just enjoy the beautifully realized San Fransisco city streets. The driving mechanics are a little on the worse side, not bad, just not very responsive- except for the El Camino. That is the single most fun car to drive in Watch Dogs 2, hands down.
My biggest gripes with Watch Dogs 2 remain in the story and the infrastructure of the game in general. The thing that bothered me the most was the fact that the game had some serious problems with difficulty. It wasn’t too hard; oddly enough it was the opposite, often much too easy. In any given mission I didn’t even need to personally infiltrate a compound when I could just drop a drone and complete every mission objective from a good 300 feet away. This sounds okay in theory but I never felt threatened as a drone. If an enemy sees you they shoot the drone, in which case you wait thirty seconds and magically conjure a new drone to use. If the drone had been a one-time use object that disappears after it gets broken, the game would have been a fun challenge. Another review that I read stated that Watch Dogs 2 would have been much better if they had taken the guns out and replaced them with non-lethal options and I whole heartedly agree. In reality, a mass amount of people would not follow a group who murdered cops, security guards, civilians, and anybody else who happened to be a minor inconvenience. It would of made more sense to have the follower system, which acted as an experience bar, to be a sort of morality meter. The more good actions you do, the more followers you get which allows you to gain more hacking ability. For example, you do a mission without killing anyone, you now have a total of 50,000 followers which gives you the processing power necessary to hack into civilian cars. With this sort of system in place the player would of felt more like they were saving the city rather than murdering their way to truth. On top of that, without guns, murder would have had a greater impact because it would have to be an intentional thing. Lastly, the story of Watch Dogs 2 honestly left me asking “Is that it?” By the end of the game, I had no attachment and the problem was I WANTED to. I wanted to identify with Wrench, Horatio, Josh, and Sitara, but their characters never developed fully enough to warrant it. I wanted to hate Dusan, but he was never explored as an actual villain with any kind of motive. I even wanted to feel like I was making a difference, but after the 5th mission being the same routine, I lost the attachment I was building to the story. I desperately wanted to love this story but it sincerely doesn’t give you enough to latch on to. Something needed to push the story along and it never came- it became a never ending lead up to a flat ending.
All in all, Watch Dogs 2 is a beautiful game to just admire and experience. Spend a few hours just strolling the city streets and watch the NPC interact with one another and you. Go to Twin Peaks and watch the sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge. This game wants you to have experiences and to have fun by yourself, or with others. After sinking a good twenty or thirty hours into this game, my best advice would be to just explore what it has to offer. While the story may not be the greatest, or the gameplay the best, you can build some lasting memories with friends and see some pretty incredible feats of technology that may or may not become reality in the near future. This game just wants you to have fun, and you should take its advice.