Last year at E3 2012, Ubisoft made waves by showing off a new next-gen title nearly a year before any other developer was even saying the words next generation. At E3 2013, Watch Dogs went from beautiful curiosity to one of the top games of a show full of a more palpable excitement than in recent years, showing off more of the game’s intriguing mechanics, the open world of a near-future Chicago, IL and even gave a taste of a very different form of multiplayer, integrated into the single-player campaign.
In a tightly packed behind-closed-doors demo at the Ubisoft booth, 4 journalists and a voice actor getting to see his own gameplay for the first time sat with two members of the development team for a close and personal look at Watch Dogs. The Ubisoft representatives started the demo by saying they would not be showing anything we saw previously in press conferences, instead giving us a view of the larger, open-world Chicago.
“We want to make sure our world out-of-mission is as interesting as it can be,” said the developers.
Each neighborhood in the digital Chicago of Watch Dogs has unique people, voices, and styles to reflect real-life different areas and populations. When the demo kicked off in a shady part of the South Side of the city, the streets, and the people inhabiting them, looked decidedly different from those in the downtown demos previously seen. The city’s districts each need a CTOS station to be unlocked in order for Aiden, our hero in the game, to be able to use his smartphone to hack the infrastructure. Think of the synchronization towers you climb in Assassin’s Creed games and you’re not far off from the idea of the CTOS stations. The CTOS itself is the computer system that’s controlling the entire city, and Aiden needs as direct access as possible, so they started by storming a station to unlock the area.
In this case, the station was well-guarded, and they started by taking a stealthy approach, hopping from security camera to security camera to scope out the area. Hacking forklifts can cause a distraction or change the cover situation, and if you’re more of a run-and-gun type, you can go that route, too – these side-missions are important to the overall game, but can be played how you want.
However, both in these, and in the more random encounter side-missions, how you play determines your reputation with the civilians on the streets of Chicago. Killing a lot of people, especially randoms not involved in your mission? Your reputation will change as a reckless murderer, and civilians who spot and recognize you will be more likely to try to turn you in. Helping a lot of people in need and being as peaceful as possible? Your reputation will go up, and you’ll be more likely to get help from civilians than get turned in by them.
The hacking goes beyond security guards and civilians on the streets of your game, however. An alert pops up on the screen that you, Aiden, are being hacked. You can’t immediately identify who is doing the hacking, however, and have to scan every civilian in a range of the city, marking them as neutral, until finding the one who is hacking your system – and that person turns out to be an actual other human player! The curtain to our right is pulled back revealing a second player who has hacked into our game and is attempting to steal resources from us. Having identified him, we can now go after him, and pursue him through streets, trying to kill him, releasing him back into his own game and out of ours (preferably without our goods). After taking him down, we have the opportunity for revenge, jumping into his after him to see if we can do any better. This unique multiplayer mechanic looks insanely fun and very worrisome – if you, like me, have particularly sinister friends when it comes to video games, be prepared to be messed with a lot in the open world (they can’t attack you when you’re in an actual story mission, don’t worry).
This deeper look at Watch Dogs garnered a nomination from us for Game of the Show (the honor wound up going to another game with multiplayer integrated into single player, a common theme in the trade show this year). While the main story that we’ve seen so far looks exciting, the fact that it’s an open world so incredibly developed, and with some surprising elements to it, makes this one to watch, and one of the first next-gen games we’re anxious to play.
Watch Dogs is due to hit current-gen systems on November 19, 2013, and “launch period” for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.