Watch_Dogs for the Wii U is a game that, to many, Ubisoft put on the back burner.  It released about 6 months after the other versions of the game and had little to no attention save for the featured listing on the eShop the week of release.  Some may consider the delay and subsequent lack of promotion as a reason to not even consider the game.  I’m going to try to cut through a lot of the preconceptions about the game and try to show what it does well and what it legitimately falls short on.

The gameplay in Watch_Dogs is pretty standard for Ubisoft’s open-world games.  In fact, if you’ve played any Far Cry or Assassin’s Creed game over the last few years, you’ll be right at home with the formula.  When players aren’t doing the solo missions, there are several side activities such as taking control of CtOS stations, taking over communication towers (very similar to Far Cry 3), running transportation for different jobs, and a lot more.  The campaign missions and storyline is not the strongest aspect of the game but there is plenty of variety in the missions.  In most cases, the campaign missions were a lot more fun than what was available for side missions at the outset of the game.  Gradually, as I unlocked more and more activities in the city, I favored the side missions.  One down side to this was the game constantly reminds you about the campaign missions.  It’s an open-world game, but they really try to get you back into the campaign missions.  If you don’t visit the campaign waypoint on the map, you’ll get calls on your in-game phone reminding you after each side mission.  I heard the same dialog several times and even more if I had to repeat a side mission.  For those wondering, there are options to tweak the sound effects and music so potentially this could be remedied.


The combat in the game is typical for Ubisoft’s third-person games.  Players can use plenty of objects as cover but the aiming system was very Jekyl and Hyde.  At times it worked flawlessly (at long range), but other times, it wouldn’t lock on to an enemy or they would be too close to effectively target.  If you didn’t do a takedown at the corner of some cover for instance, you are basically toast.

Driving in the game is deliberately difficult at the beginning.  Steering is difficult at high speeds and most cars just fish tail out of control.  As you play more of the game, there are upgrades for your driving that make your handling better.  It does improve, but driving/handling should depend on the car and not a skill I have to unlock.


One of the best parts of the game are the ‘Digital Trips’.  These are various hallucinations that players can induce at any point in the game.  I purchased both of the DLC packs available for the Wii U so I had 6 Digital Trips to choose from.  My favorite out of the bunch was definitely the ‘Spider Tank’ mode.  In this mode, players take control of a large mechanical spider…tank (it’s similar to the spider from Wild Wild West only not steam powered).  Players essentially go on a rampage in downtown Chicago with continuously escalating forces to take down.  The mechanics of the mode are pretty deep and I found myself sinking a couple hours into just this mode alone.  Another stand out mode was ‘Conspiracy’.  Players have a specific area to profile NPC’s and find out which ones are actually cyborgs.  There are several different classes of cyborgs like runners, brutes, and ones that will avoid you at all costs.  The goal of the game is to profile all of the targets in an area without being spotted and eliminate them.  Each class of cyborg has different weak spots and some have multiple weak spots (it’s like a zombie mode but with cyborgs).  The most bizarre of the digital trips featured Aiden bouncing from flower to flower across Chicago.  Yep, flowers.  Players have to control Aiden as he flies through the air to the next flower.  It’s sort of like an endless running game, only endless jumping.  Players will have to be precise with their movements in order to land on each subsequent flower.  The closer to the center of the flower, the more points players will earn.  It’s a very psychedelic mode and provides a unique challenge.


The presentation in Watch_Dogs is definitely mixed.  Some of the game’s interface effects can be a bit jarring when first loading the game.  What could be interpreted as graphical glitches are actually the way the UI is supposed to look.  It has a visual look of a video feed that’s been ‘hacked’ and has weird characters/artifacts.  This extends from the UI and into several cutscenes as well.  I definitely got used to it after awhile but it was an interesting design choice.  Visually, Watch_Dogs is about on par with other Ubisoft open-world games for the Wii U.  There are beautiful reflections in puddles of water when it’s raining but at other times the detail is very scarce.  Some games excel in the daylight, but Watch_Dogs is not one of these games.  The game consistently looks much better during the nighttime in-game or when it’s storming/raining.  The frame rate can dip down but the game is no less playable than any other Assassin’s Creed game on the Wii U.  While Watch_Dogs isn’t going to win any ‘visuals of the year’ awards on the Wii U, it does what it needs to and there’s a lot of nice touches here and there that immerse players in the world.

The in-game selection of music in Watch_Dogs is not my cup-of-tea.  I love Smashing Pumpkins, but I can’t listen to their single song over and over in the game.  There’s a decent variety of genres but it’s all very mediocre.  The good thing is players can completely customize what songs they want to listen to or turn off the music while driving altogether (which is what I eventually did).  The sound effects and audio design in the rest of the game worked very well with a few slight hiccups here and there.


The multiplayer aspect in Watch_Dogs is a bit unique.  It was by far the most lauded of the features in Watch_Dogs and something I’m glad delivers on its promise.  When Ubisoft first mentioned Watch_Dogs, I was very excited to have random people or friends potentially hack me while I’m playing through the single-player mode.  I almost hesitate calling it a traditional ‘single-player’ mode because it is very easily a multiplayer experience when someone starts hacking you.  It’s a very seamless transition and one that I think other games should take note of.  I’ll admit I lost the first couple times I was hacked but it was both a frustrating an exciting experience.  It was very cool to have someone ‘invading’ my game.  Others might not think so, but I found it to be a fun diversion to the usual gameplay.  Players can also create races.  There are A to B type races and also standard races with a certain amount of laps.  The modes/vehicles are limited but they were interesting to play if only for a little while.

Watch_Dogs definitely has its ups and downs.  I enjoyed the open-world nature of the game and the ability for players to hack along the way further adds to the fun in my opinion.  I believe Ubisoft delivered on their initial premise for the multiplayer features and I’m glad they’re in tact in the Wii U version.  The DLC is definitely recommended for those who want to increase the value of the game as a whole, but I wish it had all the DLC bundled with the $59.99 price point.  As much as I hate using the game’s delay as a reason to bash it, I felt a better value proposition could’ve been made on Ubisoft’s part.  If you’re looking for an open-world game that has some fun multiplayer and a unique premise, then you should check out Watch_Dogs.