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Ubisoft Montreal
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Release Date:
May 27, 2014

The Chicago of the future is downright frightening. On the surface, we have the illusion of security while beneath, festering like a rapidly spreading virus, there’s an undeniable sickness. Protagonist Aiden Pearce fully understands this sickness and taps into it on a daily basis; he sees the diseased underbelly of the technological marvel that is the sprawling metropolis. And herein lies the primary allure of Watch Dogs : We see it, too. Those NPCs that wander the streets? They have lives beyond that sidewalk and the exploration of those lives – and the motivations behind them – is what drives the game forward.

This is a humongous yet finely appointed environment, as the developers pay special attention to every minute detail. Obviously, these details are even more impressive on one of the next-gen consoles (as opposed to the PS3 and 360 versions) and yeah, you’ll definitely want to play this one on the PS4 or Xbox One. With every step, players continually encounter – and greatly appreciate – the unparalleled liveliness and vibrancy of the city. It’s in the expressions of the individuals, the general chaotic flow of urban existence, and the overall world design that ramps up the immersion. There are a few visual inconsistencies in the gameplay but beyond that, this is an epic presentation.

With such a huge variety of voices, effects, and music, Watch Dogs is an audio tour de force. It’s really a double-edged sword, though: With so many acting performances, such a huge number of diverse gameplay effects, and such a sweeping score that molds itself to every facet of the experience, there’s bound to be some drawbacks. At the same time, shouldn’t we also praise the wildly ambitious technical aspects? It’s all the more impressive because the majority of everything you hear just screams AAA polish, the kind of next-level refinement and professionalism we’d expect from a next-gen adventure.

In the future, electronic eyes and ears are everywhere. A computer system called ctOS sees all and knows all; nobody’s private information is truly safe and under the guise of security, civilians live in fear. While that fear isn’t always immediately visible, you will see their unmitigated anxiety as you progress. As I mentioned above, this is the element that elevates Watch Dogs ; it tries to do what no other open-world sandbox game has accomplished: It wants the player to be part of a virtual environment populated by entities that actually seem real. You will see their lives and spy upon their most personal of moments.

At first, it’s a tad unsettling. Voyeurism has become more and more popular in today’s society, and I find it unnecessary at the best of times, disgusting and puerile at the worst of times. However, you’re not merely a voyeur, you’re a hacker and a vigilante with a purpose. Aiden Pearce isn’t some dude who hacks into your phone for the express purpose of reading your texts, seeing what you bought for your mistress, finding out why you won’t eat bologna, etc. No, he has a goal in mind, even if he clearly delights in using “big brother” against the very individuals who installed such a privacy-invading system.