Watch Dogs Multiplayer Preview: It's Dark Souls meets Assassin's Creed
Previewing a game as large as Watch Dogs was tough to do in a limited amount of time. I had to make sure to carefully balance my time between experiencing as much as the game had to offer, and giving each feature of the game enough time to get a really good feel for it. I was actually going to initially invest only a small amount of time into the multiplayer, since I wanted to see what the free roam options had to offer. Surprisingly, I was completely consumed by the multiplayer, not only because of its addicting nature, but because of its accessibility right from within the main game.
If you want to know more about the Single Player, make sure to check that out here. For impressions on the ctOS Mobile App, check that out here.
Watch Dogs offers up six different modes that are instantly available from the in-game smartphone. Simply open up the map, scroll over to the multiplayer map and pick a mode. The game then auto matches you to others that are compatible with you. The six modes are Tailing, ctOS Mobile Challenge (which I cover here), Hacking, Race, Decryption and Free Roam. With the exception of Free Roam, I was able to get some decent hands on time with the rest of the online modes.
Each of the online modes are tied together through a progression system through Notoriety. By succeeding in online modes, you gain more Notoriety, which can then be used to unlock various skills like increased nitrous, precision scanning or even revealing the face of the player who is currently trying to hack you. Having Notoriety on the line makes the online modes pretty tense, but at the same time you'll never lose any money or any other necessary items when you fail.
Tailing is the low risk and low reward option. In this mode, I had to essentially stalk another player without raising suspicion to myself. On my screen, I'm Aiden Pearce, on and the other player's screen, he's also Aiden Pearce, but to each other, we look like random Chicago civilians. My favorite part of Tailing is that the other player is never notified he's being 'invaded.' You can finish a Tailing mission without ever alerting the other player of your presence. In a hypothetical situation, you could play for hours, and get tailed by 10 other players without ever knowing. That's freaking awesome! And also a little creepy...
The key to success is to act like an NPC. Walk slow, don't make sudden movements, and don't raise any unnecessary red flags. On the flipside though, the player who is being tailed can easily spot you, even if it's by complete accident. All it takes is for him to have his smartphone out and randomly profiling people. If you get profiled, you're done and the mission is over.
What surprised me is that the game just continued right where the online mission ended. The civilian that was previously inhabited by another player now just turned back into an NPC and I simply continued my single player game.
Once I got a taste of the low risk Tailing missions, it was time to put my Notoriety on the line through Hacking missions. Here I had to travel to a player's location and start a backdoor connection to their smartphone. Once this is initiated, the player is instantly notified and it becomes a game of cat and mouse, where the hacker tries to stay out of sight of the player that's now trying to hunt him down.
When the hacking is initiated, it circles off the area that both players are in. This is done so the hacker can't hide anywhere in the city of Chicago, and instead keeps the playing field small and confined. As the percentage of hacking completion increases, the circle area where both players must remain decreases, until it's a very small area and the hackers will have to utilize their environment to conceal themselves from the other player.
I initially thought it would be extremely easy to discover another player that was trying to hack my smartphone, but it was surprisingly difficult, especially if the player is smart about his movement and placement. Getting to higher ground and away from public view is another great way to stay concealed.
One pretty awesome feature that carries over from the Single Player portion is Bounty. When hacking various NPC's smartphones, you might come across undercover Blume agents. If you're caught hacking one of their phones, they'll place a bounty on your head. This bounty will then attract online players to you, since it will net them a higher reward if they're successful.
Decryption and Race
Decryption is the only one that's team oriented. A group of of players will go up against another group, trying to steal files and take it to a given location. I've played this mode (and Race mode actually) the least since I was so taken by Tailing and Hacking, but it was certainly enjoyable and does take some careful coordination to pull off correctly.
You can check out some of the gameplay for Decryption right here:
Race is as straightforward as it sounds. You pick from various predetermined races, get in a car and go. It was easily my least favorite because A. I suck at online racing games and B. when a game isn't built to be a racing game, I never feel like it gets the physics right for it to be fair.
I didn't expect to walk away caring about Watch Dogs' multiplayer. After all, I never really cared about the multiplayer in Assassin's Creed. Given how easy it is to access in Watch Dogs, never pulling me away from the main game, I was more willing to partake in it and found it to be extremely enjoyable.