Thank you Ubisoft for sending us this game to review!
Following Chicago’s footsteps, California implements the latest ctOS (Central Operating System) that connects everyone to everything via facial recognition and unregulated data collection. A hacker named Marcus is digitally smeared and Watch Dogs 2 begins with him breaking into a data warehouse to clean his record of crimes that he didn’t commit. Watching his every move is an elite hacker group called DedSec that will let him into their group if he can clear his name.
Watch Dogs 2 is an visually impressive open world game that lets you explore and do whatever missions you want, whenever you want to. The first mission is to buy Marcus a new pair of pants since his are misplaced after a party. Since I didn’t want to go too far in magenta boxers, I was happy to discover the quick travel feature that warped Marcus to the nearest clothes store to customize his attire. Other ways to travel include walking, running, or "borrowing" vehicles and boats.
Besides clothes, Marcus can buy 3D printed weaponry and hacking gadgets. Ammunition can be purchased at the pawn store, which is also a great place to unload questionably acquired items. Money can be earned by becoming a taxi for hire, uncovering money stashes, or by wiring it to your account from people’s cellphones.
Hacking cameras and people’s cellphones is done by simply selecting and activating them. Cameras allow you to remotely open doors and unlock computers if you have the access key. The password/access key is often carried by a person who is easily identified by using the Nethack mode. In this mode, you can see the threat levels of NPCs and can follow nodes to make sure they are all connected to complete the circuits required to unlock doors. Often times you’ll have to rotate sections of the circuits to align them. Usually there isn’t a time limit, but some of these circuit puzzles are timed and are very nerve-wracking.
The Nethack mode also lets you access signals from enemy hackers which trigger various side quests. One of my favorite side quests was checking an ATM exploit and messing with people’s banking experiences. The bank customers got pretty upset when they involuntarily donated to a charity, received their withdrawal in foreign currency, or had their account and all the money in it removed from the bank’s system. Not surprisingly, many colorful words and blaspheming statements are uttered throughout this game.
There are plenty of laws broken in this title as you’re trying to restore privacy and free will back to the people. Violence is unavoidable, but non-lethal measures can be taken to knock out enemies instead of killing them. Many confrontations can be avoided by deploying your remote controlled jumper/car instead of hacking things in person. Despite avoiding violent situations, some deaths are messy and unavoidable. Many missions are revenge based as DedSec makes enemies with gangs, corrupt cops, and a cult religious organization.
During my gameplay sexual situations are alluded to, but nothing was explicitly shown other than a couple of dogs going at it in a park. When Watch Dogs 2 was first released, it was possible to see genitalia of the characters, but that ability has since been patched out. Despite the patch, I did spot a completely topless female at a desert party that included drug and alcohol consumption.
The graphics in this game are incredible and I thoroughly enjoyed the high resolution texture pack option. To take advantage of the texture pack you'll need a beefy computer. This game did crash on me once, but I was not able to reproduce it or confirm that it was heat related. While I haven’t been to California, the level of detail in the various counties is breathtaking. Even some of the gay friendly towns are represented with rainbow streets and one of the main story missions takes place in a gay bar. One of your informants used to be a male and still looks very masculine despite having a gender re-assignment operation.
Religion is shown in a negative light as DedSec helps rescue a beloved actor from a cult that seems quite similar to Scientology. The holy relics that few followers are worthy to see are discovered to be fake by Marcus and are exposed as such online. In another side quest, a Christian church gets graffitied to spread awareness of DedSec.
There are lots of quests and even after completing the game you can go back and find more stuff to do. Between the numerous single-player quests and multiplayer connectivity Watch Dogs 2 has a lot to offer and it’s much more fun than the original title that inspired it. Both games have significant moral issues to consider before playing them and neither of them should be played around younger children.