Ubisoft is one of the industry’s most prolific game publishers this generation, thanks in no small part to the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Since 2010, the stealth-action series has become an annual juggernaut, shifting millions of copies and implementing new tweaks to the formula – admittedly some more significant than others – every year. Football has FIFA, shoot-‘em-ups have Call of Duty, and now action/adventure has Assassin’s Creed. And that equals big bucks for the French publisher.
Yet, despite the ubiquity of the Assassin’s Creed brand, Ubisoft hasn’t been resting its well-worn boots on the back of Ezio and Connor. Nope, the studio is looking to tread even more ambitious territory with 2013’s Watch Dogs; an open-world, high-tech action-thriller that looks set to really push the boundaries of current-generation machines and give us a taste of what to expect from new formats.
Comparisons have been made to the aforementioned Assassin’s Creed, with many lambasting Ubisoft for essentially making a modern-day equivalent of the stab-happy series. But we’d firmly like to disagree with that; Watch Dogs is perhaps the most intriguing project we’ve clapped eyes on – here’s why.
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PS4 gamers will benefit the most
Ubisoft Montreal has already come out and said that the next-generation edition of the action-thriller pushes beyond that of other versions, making it an ideal purchase for early PS4 adopters. We’re talking increased graphical fidelity and heightened immersion, though fortunately the extra muscle afforded by Sony’s new machine extends beyond just aesthetic value. Promisingly, AI is something which has also been enhanced, and Ubisoft has said they are able to spend more time working on individual behaviour thanks to the PS4’s meaty innards. Furthermore, the console’s touchpad will also be utilized to control the protagonist’s in-game phone. Indeed, the consensus at Ubisoft is that, while fundamentally the game is the same, this version will push everything that much more – and that can only be a good thing for PS4 gamers.
New engine, new experience
Comparisons to Assassin’s Creed were perhaps inevitable, but in reality, the two games couldn’t be further apart. Watch Dogs runs on a completely new game engine, dubbed ‘Disrupt,’ which is strikingly evident if you watch the footage. This flashy piece of tech was conceived specifically with Watch Dogs in mind, so there’s no regurgitating of any old AC assets here – everything’s fresh. Like Assassin’s Creed, it is an open-world title, though far more ambitious; Ubisoft has stated that it wants Watch Dogs to go toe-to-toe with other sandbox games, specifically Grand Theft Auto. Now, that’s quite a statement. But back to the engine. It’s obvious from the outset that Watch Dogs is going to be one of the most technically capable games to grace the current crop of consoles, and even as an early PS4 game is sure to impress. The visuals speak for themselves, with the city of Chicago rendered in meticulous detail to allow you to explore every nook and cranny; the sense of interactivity and scale is almost unprecedented. Many of this generation’s biggest franchises have managed to survive off the same engine for years now with only incremental updates (Call of Duty, FIFA, even Assassin’s Creed) and so by developing a brand-spanking new piece of tech with Watch Dogs, Ubisoft not only offers something previously unachievable on previous engines, but may potentially set a new benchmark for open-world games in general. Who knows, later down the line Disrupt may be on every dev’s Christmas list.
Hack your way to the top
Watch Dogs may have some impressive technical muscle to flex off, but it’s the hacking premise that has really got tongues wagging. As protagonist Aiden Pearce, gamers wage information warfare as they literally hack their way through various objectives, tapping into to anything from smartphones, traffic lights and cash machines. This game-changing concept puts it miles apart from the likes of GTA and Saint’s Row, offering a unique and original take on a genre that is typically defined by jacking cars, decking prostitutes and capping cops. Ubisoft is clearly aiming to inject some much-needed variety into the sandbox landscape, and Watch Dogs is undeniably unlike anything else currently on the horizon. Sure, combat plays a part – combining the parkour sensibilities of Assassin’s Creed with more conventional means – but it’s all built around the concept of hacking. You’ll be able to get critical information on your foes by sabotaging various devices, affording plenty of room for strategy in regards to planning your attack. Need to slow down a car? Hack some traffic lights. Hard up on cash? Nick some from an innocent civilian by hacking their bank details. The possibilities are endless, and this is what makes Watch Dogs unequivocally one of the most intriguing, original videogames in years.
What do you think of Watch Dogs? Let us know in the comments section below.