To become a true vigilante, one must know their turf. Aidan Pierce, the protagonist in Ubisoft’s highly anticipated stealth open-world shooter, Watch Dogs, certainly knows his city well. In fact he doesn’t just know Chicago, he controls it, in the palm of his hand.
Hacking in video games is not a new feature. How many times have gamers had to hack surveillance cameras in Batman: Arkham City or shut down security sensors in Splinter Cell? Yet seldom have gamers been given full control of a city via it’s wireless network, in this case the ctOS.
Aidan Pierce, a mask wearing vigilante, fights the corrupt and controls the governing system in Chicago by turning their own infrastructure against them, with his smartphone. I’m not sure what kind of spying apps Aidan uses on his phone, but it would surely be the ultimate envy of the NSA, if real. Aidan’s phone can hack into strangers bank accounts, empty ATMs, stop traffic lights and even shut down the power grid for the whole city, just to name a few of the hacktivist opportunities.
The entire game-world is interconnected with the protagonist and truly gives the player a unique and an intimate perspective on the inner workings of seedy Chicago. Hacking into people’s phones reveal details about the A.I.’s strengths and weaknesses, their lives and background and often times their shady motives. This gives Watch Dogs and its setting of Chicago an unparalleled amount of depth when it comes to its A.I. inhabitants and interactable things in the environment. Each A.I. isn’t just a mesh of digital polygons working on a pre-determined track, they are little digital humans with their own stories and aspirations, walking around to give Chicago a living breathing feeling. And almost anything can be hacked and manipulated to Aidan’s advantage in a city where everything is connected.
But assuming any interested gamer has already seen the hype trailers released by Ubisoft over the last couple weeks, you already know how Aidan is fully connected to his city. However what really makes Watch Dogs unique, is that this “everything is connected” mentality doesn’t just extend to Aidan’s smartphone, it extends out of the game universe into your very own hands. Let me explain.
Ubisoft has recently revealed a game feature that will make gamers realize that they are connected, even when they think they’re not. Within the single-player campaign, another human player can jump into your game at any time without even notifying you, and starting foiling whatever master plan you have. A player can connect to your game, hack your phone, steal your money and take your life if you’re not careful and intuitive. The fact that a real player can be lurking within the game world that’s already littered with A.I. whose intentions are never 100 percent clear, gives Watch Dogs a really wonderful sense of realism and danger. Anyone can be target, an assassin, or a victim.
If a player joins your single player game, you’re only notified once he/she enters your immediate area and starts to attempt to hack your phone. Then starts a really exciting moment that I can’t wait to experience once I start up Watch Dogs. You’re notified a hacker is trying to force their way into your phone. Then the paranoia and suspicion starts to creep in. Who’s the elusive hacker? Which of these realistically crafted character models is actually a real person attempting to destroy everything you’ve been working for? Quickly ascertaining who your hunter is requires using the facial recognition software on Aidans phone to rapidly identify and eliminate the enemy hacker. Sure you can just run away, but don’t expect your stalker to simply let their prize drive away. This inter-connectivity between the single player campaign and other real life players adds a whole host of satisfying, revenge seeking, and stealthtastic cat-and-mouse scenarios to the already lengthy story-line (40+ hours).
But Ubisoft will also allow you to connect to someone’s game and NOT be antagonist. Watch Dogs will also feature a second screen experience that will let other players connect to your single player game from their tablet or cell phone, for an eye-in-the-sky kind of assistance. From the upcoming Watch Dogs app, mobile users can assist the console players in their pursuits or escapes by hacking everything in sight for them, in a top down display of the city. They can also control the helicopters, lights and road barriers, as well as set waypoints, in gameplay scenarios that will probably play out like a scene from “The Italian Job.” Think of the app users as the napster geek, furiously typing away in a parked van as he tries to “hack into the mainframe.” Once the job is done and Aidan has reached relative safety, the app user can send a message that will be displayed all throughout the in-game city, on the screen and on the billboards. Hopefully this doesn’t mean wasting your power-grid shutdown ability just to erase the immature messages of YOLO or SWAG from the Chicago skyline. Let’s face it, it probably does.
Keep in mind all of these connected features exists solely in the single player game! We haven’t even got to the 8-player open world multiplayer mode that Ubisoft is planning to reveal. More info on that soon. Until then, stay connected.