Watch Dogs – Preview

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The future. Given the number of doomsday predictions out there across game, film and book it’s a wonder that anybody’s remotely wanting to get there. At least the future in Watch Dogs is vaguely more palatable than that depicted in something like the The Last of Us for example; only just mind you.

Here we’re led merrily down the dystopian path of cyber-terrorists and economic superpowers vying for control of information (yep, it’s Syndicate in different pants), though don’t click off the page just yet, because Watch Dogs innovates in other areas, with even its sumptuous visuals (more on those later) outclassed by gameplay mechanics as futuristic as the source material.

‘The whole city is your weapon’ says lead gameplay designer David Therriault as he starts to describe Watch Dogs’ interpretation of the internet’s evolution, and how one man, Aiden Pearce will have unadulterated access to it – able to jack into anything and everything from nearby mobile phones, to traffic lights and CCTV cameras.

How does a traffic light become a weapon? Well, just picture a scenario where a wanted man is careering down the highway in a bid to escape police. Sure, he might not intend to stop at a red light, but the drivers at the next junction don’t know that. Imagine hacking into the lights at said junction so that cars cross the intersection just as our man comes on to the scene: instant roadblock or, if your timing’s spot on, the biggest car crash you’ve seen outside of Burnout.

In fact, during my look at the game, that’s exactly how the demonstrated mission ended; though not before a few other tricks were unveiled. The developers first revealing how a bouncer’s phone might be hacked into so that he leaves his post in pursuit of a signal. With nightclub door unguarded Pearce is able to walk in unchallenged, before making his presence felt in the club so that his whereabouts are made known to his target – an assassin who just so happens to be targeting Pearce himself.

Next a quick check of the clubbers’ text messages confirms that the word on his present location is out, and then it’s simply a case of tracking his prey’s progress towards the club via the city’s CCTV cameras before administering the coup de grâce with the help of the already mentioned traffic lights. Death by remote control.

Not that you have had to go to such lengths to achieve your kill if you don’t want to, indeed Pearce is something of a Jack of all trades and is equally adept with fist and gun as he is with information – Watch Dogs sporting an over-the-shoulder camera and shooting mechanic reminiscent of Deus Ex: Human Revolution for example.

It should make for some impressive gameplay if that balance of ambition and necessity, so that the player actually feels the need to use the tools provided to gain an advantage, is hit upon. What it’s already apparent that Ubisoft’s development team have hit square on the nose is the designing of some truly jaw-dropping visuals.

‘No comment’ might be the official party line on the game’s potential platforms but with animation this slinky, and graphics so detailed and polished, it’s inconceivable that Watch Dogs will be a current generation game.

Like Star Wars 1313 there’s an extra “smoothness”, for want of a better description, across everything you see on screen, from the way characters move, to the resolution of brick textures on the walls of buildings. If this is the expected standard of what’s to come we’re going to be in for quite a treat come the promised next generation of consoles.

Even the multiplayer solution seems suitable next-gen, with cross-compatibility of all versions of the game made possible via the release of an associated tablet app which collates your friends’ actions and synchronises their movements into your game, apparently even allowing them to interfere with the electronics of your city as they do so; impressive stuff indeed.

Worth the wait? To be fair we don’t even know how long the wait is going to be, but providing the rest of the game plays as well as what was shown, then Watch Dogs’ release can’t come soon enough. It’s a game which seems to have gameplay as good as its graphics, and given the standard of those graphics, that’s some statement.

For: PC and ‘unconfirmed systems’
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
When? 2014?

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