E3 2012: Watch Dogs preview

Ubisoft had a stellar showcase at the Electronic Entertainment Expo this year, between familiar franchises like Assassin's Creed and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, and new titles like Rayman Legends and Zombi U.  But one title that clearly blew a lot of folks away is Watch Dogs, which was first unveiled at the company’s press conference.  The demo tells a bleak yet interesting story — one about a hacker who, years ago, successfully tapped into a city’s computer system and shut down all the lights.  Now, years later, in near future Chicago, your character is aiming to do it again.

You portray Aiden Pierce, a hacker by trade who knows plenty when it comes to system manipulation.  He’s able to pull up information at the drop of a hat, learning more about someone — anyone in the city, actually — by reading data provided by the ctOS, also known as the Central Operating System.  He can also screw around with various electronics, jamming communications on cell phones, switching traffic lights and, if the situation calls for it, causing traffic accidents.  And we don’t mean a minor fender bender, but rather a full-blown pile-up.



As we progressed through the demo, we went looking for some contact man named DeMarco, who may or may not have something to do with a larger plot that wasn’t unveiled during the demo.  This involved Pierce using his jam communication to slip past a bouncer, work his way into a nightclub where a contact had information waiting for him, and then listen in on a phone conversation as a potential spy tries to fill in DeMarco on the other line.  From there, it’s a matter of finding who’s responsible, causing enough distraction so you don’t get your head shot off, and moving forward in an effort to “turn off the lights.”

Watch Dogs relies on a great open-world environments, where you can literally screw around with anything while you try and complete missions.  Out of nowhere, Pierce was able to create a wonderful car pile-up, which he used for cover when security officers arrived, seeing where he was with the online security cameras.  The game then switched to a traditional third-person action fest, but with what appears to be great precision controls and the ability to interact with others, like pulling a guy out of a car while he weeps over his wife in the driver’s seat.

Again, electronics are your friend, and when you’re done shooting the enemies, you can move on to the next stage by activating a drawbridge, but only after making sure that DeMarco’s men weren’t following — especially since you were able to cap him in the demo.  A strange figure watching Pierce’s progress from afar painted an interesting picture at the conclusion of gameplay, as we’re wondering just what kind of co-op or multiplayer factor Watch Dogs will present.

So far, the graphics appear to be up to the Ubisoft Montreal standard, with suave animations, a terrific laid-out city that you pretty much treat like your playground, and real-time effects based on how you manipulate the technology surrounding you.  It’s still a little unpolished, but it’s looking to be a huge game come 2013.  And while PS3 and Xbox 360 could be likely platforms, there’s the off-chance that Ubisoft is possibly saving this for next-generation.  We’ll see.


Regardless of when it arrives, Watch Dogs is stupendous thus far, with creative gameplay aspects, great visuals and a whole lot of chaos surrounding the title character.  We’ll see if he can hack it as we check on the game’s progress in the months ahead.