Friday, December 8, 2017

Better Late than Never Review: Watch Dogs 2

Continuing a series on games over the last year for people who have busy lives and can't keep up:

Watch Dogs 2 (PS4 version)

I just keep playing and playing this game. I finished Watch Dogs (at last) before I dived in to Watch Dogs 2, and while you certainly don't need to have played the first to enjoy (or understand) the second, it is helpful to really shine a light on why the original Watch Dogs was lacking in many ways that Watch Dogs 2 not only fixes, but excels at in every way.

Visiting virtual San Francisco and the bay area with the DedSec gang is a blast, no matter how you choose to approach it. The game has a robust storyline that I am still not finished with (according to an FAQ I looked at I am about 60% of the way through the storyline) but when I do take a moment to run story missions I am always rewarded with a thoughtful, entertaining push forward in the tale of hackers, corporate sleazeballs, well intended anarchists and all of the gun toting maniacs in between.

The lead character is hacker Marcus Holloway, a well-intended hacktivist that serves as the glue that binds DedSec. Unlike the prior game's vigilante Aiden Pearce, Marcus is not a madman with an arsenal seeking revenge at any cost, but instead an idealist who wants to make right in the world by humbling the Blume Corporation and others behind the utter annihilation of privacy and decency driven by big data out of control. Sure, you can play Marcus like a gun toting madman if you want, but the game does not require this. As a result, as the storyline progresses I've had far fewer "hmmm, that ain't right" moments  than I did in the first game. Moments such as Aiden pondereing the evil of the guy who he seeks to kill for the murder of his niece, even though he just mowed down a thousand other guys who all had nieces and kids too, you know? Just to get to the one crime lord of Chicago.

Nope, Marcus is represented throughout the game as a guy who prefers to taze an enemy, even if that enemy is shooting at him with lethal force. In fact in my play through the game, with the co-op and multiplayer missions being the only exception, I continue to play Marcus as a nice softy who only uses stunning weapons to get through missions. It's really quite cool.....I'm almost always able to solve most events in the game through non-violence, or worst case the liberal application of electricity.

Anyway, the reason I've played this game so long (I play it at least once a week on average for a couple hours when I have time) is because it's so full of stuff to do. So many distractions. From racing games to the impressive multiplayer, to the enormous number of side missions, photo bombs, stunts, just finding name it, this game is packed with stuff to do. It is very easy to play for hours, feel good about it, and have gotten exactly nowhere on the main storyline.

The multiplayer is also shockingly good. You have players drop in and out of your own phantoms in the night, a player will suddenly be in your area and a chance to either team up or take him down presents itself. The hacker missions are the most fun, where you must spot him, tag him, then steal his data while he tries to find you are some of the best. One of my most successful hacks was one I'll remember as a "Kodak moment" forever, when I crawled in the back of the pickup truck the guy jumped in to try and get out of the area or look for me....I am not sure what he was going for....and he drove all over the place without realizing I was in the back of his truck. My assumption is he was playing in FPS perspective....foolish! Hack from the back of the truck successful.

I once teamed up with a kid who was eager to show me that he had unlocked literally everything in the game. Hours of mayhem ensued, as a showcase of destruction engulfed San Francisco in a manner simply impossible in the more rigorous, set-piece controlled multiplayer of other games. The freedom to cause mayhem in Watch Dogs 2's multiplayer goes way beyond any equivalent experience in other FPS MP or even most MMOs. It's almost intoxicating, although you can sometimes get paired with a jerk, or a guy who has no clue what's going on and proceeds to drive off a cliff or something. But those WTF moments were outshined by the "holy crap this is amazing" moments of the multiplayer experience. The only other game of this scope and design I know of is GTAV....and honestly, Watch Dogs 2 is just a nicer, cleaner experience (even with in-game strip bars).

Verdict: this game is the ultimate sandbox, it gets multiplayer right in a way I didn't realize could be done, and it provides spontaneous gameplay experiences that are unique and exciting. The fact that I can choose to play through most of it as a peacenick pacifist who won't even harm the well-armed gun toting biker gangs is just icing on the cake. A+++

Long after I've deleted Gears of War 4, Halo 5, Titanfall 2, and many others....I suspect I'll still be playing Watch Dogs 2.

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