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June 13, 2014
Watch Dogs - PS4 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
27/5/2014UbisoftUbisoftUbisoft Montreal12-8
Media HDD Install Resolution Touchpad PS4 Exclusive OFLC Rating
Disc22GB900pYesNoR18+

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Aiden keeps watch on potential victims.
After an agonising six month delay that saw Watch Dogs miss the Playstation 4 and XBox One launch in late 2013 Ubisoft's open-world game is finally available and is flying off the shelves. Of course, Ubisoft aren't newcomers to the open world genre with Assassin's Creed shifting a not-too-shabby 76 million units to date and Far Cry also being a large seller. After a stunning E3 2012 reveal anticipation for Watch Dogs has been very high, and while there seems to have been a bit of a downgrade visually from the original unveiling (more on that later) this is a game which Ubisoft will certainly hope turns into another key franchise.

Set in Chicago, where a central network of computers known as ctOS (Central Operating System) connects everyone and everything, Watch Dogs explores the impact of technology within our society. Using the city as your weapon, you will embark on a personal mission to inflict your own brand of justice.

You play as Aiden Pearce, a brilliant hacker and former thug, whose criminal past led to a violent family tragedy. While seeking justice for those events, you'll monitor and hack those around you by manipulating the ctOS from the palm of your hand. You'll access omnipresent security cameras, download personal information to locate a target, control traffic lights and public transportation to stop the enemy... and more.

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You can see personal details about every NPC.
As most of you would be aware, Watch Dogs is an open-world title in the same vein as Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto and Volition's Saint's Row franchise, and Ubisoft will be hoping this game builds a similar following. What sets this game apart from other open-world games is the ability to hack parts of the city to either gather information or take down enemies. Being chased by some cop cars? Change traffic lights to cause a collision, or burst a pipe with steam to blow the cars off the road, open a gate to create a shortcut; it's all possible. Many missions require you to use hacking abilities to take control of cameras and find targets, or at least use them to see what lies around the corner. It's possible to hack phones of civilians to steal money or music (which you can then use through the game), make scissor lifts move up and down or stop or start trains.

Aiden is responsive to your controls and can take cover behind objects with the simple press of a button. He has a wide range of weapons and tools at his disposal including guns (sniper, pistol, shotgun, assault etc), grenades, and IED's (both remote detonated and motion sensing) which are great to take out unsuspecting enemies. Being a hacker he also has items including a Communications Jammer, a Lure to, well, lure enemies to a location, Blackout to knock out power to the local area, and a ctOS Scan to find and mark all the enemies in the local area.

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Cut-scenes, and characters, look fantastic.
Your virtual phone isn't just used for hacking in the game, but by bringing up the phone by pressing up on the D-Pad you have a swag of options. Not only can you see your progress, and unlock skills with points earned by levelling up, but it's possible to play music during the missions (much of which must be found throughout the map), enter online races or intrusions, Leaderboards, Game Stats, View the City Hotspots, Order a Car, Play the Digital Trip games or listen to music or audio logs.

Beyond the main campaign the developers have included dozens of side tasks and missions to complete - from hacking conrol boxes to spy on people within buildings, investigate missing persons, hacking ctOS Towers (which reveals secrets on the maps), find hidden QR codes, and look into human trafficking among others. There is literally hours of additional tasks to complete here wihch are not essential to the main game, but add extra value and a few bonus missions.

We also need to mention that the developers have also created an iPhone and Android App called ctOS Mobile which allows you to hack into your friends game (while they are playing) and see them trying to escape your police control. While they are driving in the real game you can move around a police helicopter, deploy vehicles or obsctacles. We did have some trouble connecting to some friends, but for the most part it worked remarkably well. Best of all, anyone can download the mobile phone App for free!

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Watch Dogs looks gorgeous at night...
In terms of issues the biggest is that the storyline misses the mark but not by way of poor cut-scenes or characters - most of them are fantastic - but moreso as the main character, Aiden, is pretty bland and lacking charisma, but his motives through the course of the game constantly change - one minute he is hacking phones to steal money from NPC's, no problems with that, and then a few seconds later Aiden is chasing down a criminal mugging someone on the street. Is Aiden a good guy, or a bad guy? It changes very often and muddles the focus of this character, and the entire game.

Beyond that we have a few other issues. During the campaign Aiden will amass quite a large sum of money - mostly through hacking NPCs if you choose to do so - however there is next to nothing to purchase with this cash. Sure, weapons and items are available, but we got through the game with minimal purchases and finished up with over $700k. Unlike some other games there is no option to buy property, but even going to restaurants or magazine stands will give you a choice of, wait for it, one item to purchase. Finally, it would have been nice to have just a little more mission variety - there are some great missions, no doubt (we loved one in a scrapyard in particular), and some repetitiveness is alleviated by the side tasks however it needed a little more. It was also a little disappointing there was no aircraft in the game while the fast travel locations were a little far apart for our liking too - I mean if you're fast travelling, why can't you pick anywhere on the map or at least have Fast Travel locations more centrally placed?

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Online modes are pretty entertaining.
With the release of the Playstation 4 one of the key features is online connectivity and Ubisoft have included some pretty cool stuff. Sure, the game has some online modes such as races etc, but where this game amps it up is with the Invasions. While playing the campaign other players can "hack" into your game whereby a game of cat and mouse starts - one player has to hack the other persons phone and remain undetected, while the player being hacked has to, often frantically, search for the person hacking them. It's fantastic fun and we implore everyone to ensure they are online when playing the campaign.

As has been touted the Playstation 4 version of Watch Dogs will include around an hour of exclusive gameplay. That's not a significant amount in the grand scheme of the game however those that love to see everything should opt for the Sony version (well, that and the technical superiority over other platforms). The developers are also promising plenty of DLC and there is of course a Season Pass to bump up the cost add some more content.

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Characters design in Watch Dogs is superb.
Much has been made of Watch Dogs' visuals for a couple of reasons. First of all, the PS4 version of the game runs at 900p (1600 x 900p) and not the previously reported 1080p. This compares favourbly to the 792p on XBox One and while the PC does manager higher resolutions there are reports of severe frame rate stutters on that version, while the PS4 holds a pretty solid 30fps with only the busiest of scenes (those where you are driving your car through objects on the footpaths for example) dropping below this.

Most of the gripes however come from a game, that even on PC Ultra detail settings, fails to live up to the quality seen in the 2012 E3 reveal - a lack of texture detail, missing smoke or steam, and a reduction in small details is apparent. Indeed, we can't help feeling that Ubisoft have misled the consumer somewhat - if anything, one would expect that over two years later the game would look better, not worse, then the initial reveal.

Now, having said that Watch Dogs remains a visuall wonderful title with a rich urban envinroment that is always provides something interesting to look at, is littered with intersting landmarks, and has streets that are filled with NPC characters and vehicles just going about their daily business. Indeed this is where the PS4 excels; the world really does feel like it's living and breathing. Compared to the much more barren last-gen versions of the game there is so much more to see and do in the PS4 version and it remains a technical showcase on Sony's new system.

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Despite some visual downgrades from E3 2012, Watch Dogs still looks great.
As one would expect from such a high profile title the sound design is also fantastic with some wonderful music composed by Brian Reitzell underpinning some of the more dramatic or action packed moments while the game has a large number of commercial music which can be played at all times thanks to your phones multimedia capabilities. Some of the artists featured among the dozens of tracks include 2 Chainz, Kid Cudi, Wu Tang Clan, MGK, Public Enemy, Alice Cooper, Iggy & The Stooges, Rise Against and many more.

My biggest gripe with the audio is that while many of the characters have a personality, Aiden, voiced by Noam Jenkins, is just dull. There's little emotion in his voice, little humour, and little, well, anything. Of course we understand you don't want something too outlandish or it would alienate the gamer, but this dude is pretty dull and while I'm not the most outlandish or humours person in the world, I find it hard to relate to someone so dull.

Watch Dogs was a lot of fun, and provides a lot of value for money with all the side tasks and missions on offer although they do become somewhat repetitive so unlocking all the trophies does become a bit of a grind. Still, this is one of the few examples of what the PS4 can do and definately worth adding to your collection.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSNot up to the stunning E3 2012 debut, but very impressive nonetheless.
84%
SOUNDGreat music, great effects, and good dialogue - except the dull main character.
85%
GAMEPLAYThe storyline is a but dull, but a fun game and very fun online components.
86%
VALUEWith a campaign that will last 20+ hours, then double that for side tasks and online this is great value.
90%
OVERALLWatch Dogs hits the right notes, is great value and a solid game technically. While it's not revolutionary there's enough here for a very strong recommendation.
85%

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