I recently decided — or rather my bank account dictated — that I could no longer afford to drop $60 on every hot new release hitting retail shelves. No longer could every Tuesday be “New Video Game Day.” I had to be more selective with my purchases. If I was going to pay full price for a game, I had to make absolutely sure that it would be worth the price of admission.
When I decided to pick up Watch Dogs, I was fairly sure it was going to be a home run. I’d been following the game since its unveiling way back at E3 2012, and my excitement only grew as its release date grew closer. When it was finally released, I did the responsible thing — because I’m wicked responsible — and waited four days before giving in and buying it.
So, was it really the revolutionary next step in open-world gaming and the first true next-gen experience?
While it did come out on next-gen platforms — I played it on Xbox One — we also saw old-gen versions hit store shelves. Whenever I see that a game is going to be a cross-gen affair, I know to rein my expectations in a bit. No matter how you feel about cross-gen, it’s clear developers can’t fully unlock the potential of new tech when they still have make sure it runs on old systems.
Nothing about Watch Dogs is outright broken, but it lacks any semblance of a unique personality. It feels like a hodgepodge of other Ubisoft titles, kind of a Frankenstein’s monster of video games. The gun-play and cover system are pulled straight from Splinter Cell, the free running is reminiscent of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, and the driving is similar to Driver: San Francisco.
I understand why the dev team decided to take this route. Why spend time, money, and manpower developing new systems when you already have franchises that do these things extremely well? The downside is that this can make your game feel generic and soulless, an offense that can be a death-knell for a fledgling franchise.
I can honestly say that I enjoyed my time with Watch Dogs, but I don’t think it was a “must play” experience.
That isn’t to say that the series lacks potential. Much like Assassin’s Creed, this initial release is sort of a “proof of concept.” It’s a quality game that sets up the fiction, the world, and the mechanics; basically the groundwork that future titles will build upon.
Let’s just hope we see the sequel sometime this generation.