Feature Article

Hacking and Hentai: One Ridiculous Hour in the Watch Dogs Sandbox

Street justice.

by

I never meant to leave that poor trucker stranded in the air. Here I was at the start of my hands-on experience with Watch Dogs, an hour-plus playthrough in which Ubisoft had given me carte blanche to do whatever I pleased within the game's virtual rendition of Chicago. DualShock 4 in hand, I was still trying to get my bearings. Everything around me seemed ripe for hacking: cell phones, security cameras, traffic signals.

Then, while marveling at just how many objects in the world I could manipulate, I accidentally hacked a set of traffic bollards. Stout metal pylons jolted up from the ground, a neat trick for evading the police should you ever find yourself in a high-speed chase. Only I wasn't in a high-speed chase. I was watching a perfectly innocent truck roll down a quiet one-way street when those bollards launched the front of the vehicle skyward, leaving its hapless driver suspended some ten feet off the ground.

He didn't take it well. He screamed. He panicked. It was awful. I swore then and there that he would be the last citizen I terrorized that day.

He would not be the last citizen I terrorized that day.

I decided to use my powers for good rather than evil. But what powers would those be? I examined my skill tree. Sure enough, there were plenty of options for a vigilante hacker to work with: the power to cut off police radio networks (surely I would be thwarting only the corrupt cops), crafting improvised explosives (for dealing with criminal roadblocks!), and even the ability to trigger a citywide blackout (energy conservation is critical in this day and age). Only, there was a small problem. I didn't have enough skill points.

Luckily for me, there was a story mission available that was sure to reward me for my efforts. Just a bit of light corporate espionage: sneak into a heavily guarded office building and plant a bug in the company director's computer. I crept in through the loading doors, remotely triggering a car alarm to distract one security guard and then setting off a steam vent malfunction to lure away a few others. Eventually I made my way to the network access point needed to bug the director's computer. Piece of cake.

Well, except for the six or seven times I died in a gruesome shootout trying to get there. Turns out, there are a lot of things you can use to distract highly-skilled guards, but the dead bodies of their associates are not on that list. Oh, sure, I could have continued using stealthy tactics and sneaking by unseen. But I had to test my abilities to see what sort of vigilante hero I was! The answer: the type that really needs to learn when and when not to employ a silenced handgun.

Turns out, there are a lot of things you can use to distract highly-skilled guards, but the dead bodies of their associates are not on that list.

But no matter. I completed my mission and had my skill points. I unlocked the aforementioned talents plus one more: the ability to hack public transportation in order to make the L-trains start and stop on command. This one came in handy a lot sooner than I expected.

Maybe I got a little cocky and commandeered a firetruck. And maybe an entire crowd of people saw me do it. One of them must have called the cops because soon enough, I had a swarm of police cars after me. I wasn't getting anywhere trying to evade them in a giant emergency vehicle, so I ditched the truck and dashed up some stairs and onto a train that had just pulled into the station. Rather than let it wait the extra few seconds to board more passengers, I hacked the thing and it was off. Then, I hacked the train once more so that it would stop before reaching the next station, where one could only presume the police would be waiting. I jumped out onto the tracks and made my escape. And by "escape" I mean fell off the tracks and onto a busy intersection. But what's a broken leg to an urban vigilante?

Walking off my injury, I passed by a clothing shop and decided to pop in for a quick look. Inside were dozens of stylish looks tailored to the modern, trench coat-wearing gentleman of leisure. The vibrant colors all made my default leather coat look downright boring. But one caught my eye more than any other. It was a trench coat fully patterned in US Army digital camo. It was perfect! What better way to blend in amongst a throng of civilians than by wearing a knee-length jacket with a pattern designed for military combat? Also, it came with a new baseball cap and there is no vigilante on earth who can resist that kind of a bargain.

Not too far away from the coat shop I passed by a couple engaged in a heated argument. There was an uncomfortable tension in their voices, and it culminated in the man striking the woman in a fit of anger. Big mistake. I pulled out my handgun and shot him in the leg, a warning that his brutish behavior wouldn't be tolerated as long as I'm around. But with the fire truck incident in the back of my mind, I fled the scene before any bystanders could pull out their phone and report me to the cops. Once it seemed like things had quieted down, I came back to see how he was handling his lesson.

He was handling it pretty well, all things considered. Except for one small detail: he bled out and died. But despite that small technicality, I like to think he really had something to think about for those few minutes he lay on the ground in incredible agony.

Okay, so maybe I got a little sloppy with that whole shooting thing. I needed to be smarter with my vigilante justice. Here I was with this fancy smartphone capable of tapping into the citywide surveillance network and I was just popping off shots in alleys and looking super awesome in my new coat. I would have to be more precise. More surgical.

So I began profiling, using my phone to gain instant access to personal information on every pedestrian I came across. Occupations, incomes, web browsing habits--you name it, I could see it at a glance. I could tap into people's cell phone conversations, and even remotely read text messages. Would I help the school teacher suffering from tax problems? The man driven to dealing drugs in order to make ends meet? There were so many people I could help if only I found the right one.

And suddenly, there he was. A banker making a six-figure salary who also happened to be addicted to hentai. Clearly he was too comfortable in his cushy finance job and felt driven to add some excitement to his life by developing a penchant for creepy cartoon porn. So I did what any good vigilante would do. I downloaded his banking information, hacked a nearby ATM, and withdrew a fat stack of cash straight from his checking account. I'm sure he would thank me if he had any idea who I was.

I was really starting to get a hang of this urban vigilante thing. At one point I witnessed a car accident and took pity on the driver who had caused the collision. He was wracked with guilt over such a minor fender bender, practically sobbing over what he had done. So I yanked him out of his car and drove the thing straight into Lake Michigan. No evidence, no accident!

I found a man soliciting a prostitute in an alleyway and stared him down to let him know he was making a bad decision. Sure, it didn't work, and things just got really creepy after a minute, but once they fled in terror after I threw a grenade at them I really do think they were ready to get their lives back on track.

But for all of my contributions to the greater good, it was hard to escape the feeling that there were bigger fish to fry. Stopping street thugs is one thing, but turning the tables on ctOS was something completely different. This was the Orwellian surveillance network peering into the lives of Chicago's citizens. If I was going to make the city a better place, I had to focus on dealing with ctOS.

With my time playing Watch Dogs coming to a close, I set my sights on a lakefront ctOS facility. Hacking this place would give me access to even more of the city's infrastructure, extending the potential for vigilante justice that much further. But these facilities are like miniature security compounds, with at least a half-dozen guards standing between me and the access point buried deep inside. I would need to plan a careful attack.

It was hard to escape the feeling that there were bigger fish to fry. Stopping street thugs is one thing, but turning the tables on ctOS was something completely different.

First there was the front door. Would I hack a hydraulic construction lift to gain access to a second story balcony, or distract the guard by throwing a sticky noisemaker onto a nearby van? Sticky lure it was. Would I plant proximity charges on the patrol routes of the guards within, or hack into the internal network and set off a series of electrical malfunctions? Charges would be fun, but I elected to go with stealth. Finally, I snuck up behind the one guard carrying the proper access code, used my phone to remotely download his data without him even noticing, and scurried off to the central computer to take out the facility.

I was feeling so cocky that I didn't even bother to sneak back out; I ran for the door, practically taunting the guards who only just now realized what happened. This, in retrospect, was probably a mistake. Just as I hopped into a nearby car, they came flooding after me in wave after wave of security vehicles. These guys chased me across half of Chicago, from the downtown lakefront to the wards, dodging traffic just as nimbly as me. But even though they put up a good fight, in the end they were no match for my superior driving skills. And also my ability to trigger massive traffic pileups at intersections with the tap of a button. But I like to think it was mostly my driving skills.

Just then, my time with Watch Dogs came to a close. I learned some pretty important lessons: truckers have a crippling fear of heights, bankers are into weird porn, and Watch Dogs has a pretty vibrant sandbox when you take some time to explore it outside of the main storyline. It's nice to see that this isn't simply a game about hacking and surveillance, but one that uses those elements to build a rich setting full of emergent gameplay opportunities. We'll see just how far that takes it when Watch Dogs launches on May 27.

Discussion

449 comments
SunnySkyNL
SunnySkyNL

Really enjoyed the story.

I hope we will soon see some more gameplay video's and some comparison video's would be nice as well.

I'm going to buy it for the PS4 so I would like to see if I'm getting a leather coat flapping in the wind or not for example.

It may sound like something stupid but it are those details that blew me away the first time I saw Watch Dogs and I would love to be able to play it in the way they first showed it.

Sure graphics aren't everything but promising something and then taking it back is just not right.

And I'm not buying the whole "those things are only possible on high end PC's" thing either because that's what "PC people" also said about the awesome beautiful explosion in the Battlefield 4 campaign and look how that turned out.

Anyway I'm getting the game day one no matter what because good graphics or awesome graphics it will be without a doubt be an awesome game!


MetalWych
MetalWych

Even tho I agree with everyone about the "new" graphics, I am still really pumped about Watch Dogs.  A good game can still be good with so-so graphics.  I mean, look at Thief.  I enjoyed the hell out of that game and the graphics, well, sucked!  I played in on my XBOX One, but borrowed a copy for my PS4 from a mate (just to see if it looked better or worse), and they both looked like shit. Far worse than many 360 games.  But, it was a lot of fun.  And I hope Watch Dogs is even more fun.  I do hope it will actually look better once its in my hands...

bouff
bouff

Am I the only one who doesn't care about this downgrade bulls**t?

ishsgames
ishsgames

The reason for the degraded graphics can possibly be due to a poorly rendered video. Well if that is how it looks on a ps4 then I am really hoping at least the PC version does not look like that.

Nickprovs
Nickprovs

That was a good read. I'd love to see Shaun McInnis review the game and totally not terrorize more civilians.

keyb0red
keyb0red

Wow, gameplay looks awesome. Cant wait!

coolguyhero
coolguyhero

this game on ps4 looks good,on ps3 naah i am pass.

thefinalzapkeet
thefinalzapkeet

I'm confused.  if you look at the beginning car footage (like 00:10-00:15) then look at it near the 1:35 mark, they're the same car and (apparently) the same game, but they look so different


the 1:35 mark actually looks like a PS4 game, but the beginning of the video looks like a PS2 game

cf_Kage
cf_Kage

I'm waiting for @shaunmcinnis to tell us that the demo he played was different to that shown above

darran05
darran05

I'm going with people who feel its false advertising...I think there needs to be advertising standards like they have for TV..games expos like E3 etc are advertising publisher and developer's games...they clearly need to show what the games are being played on...I hope The Division footage is not from a high end PC!

hardeddie
hardeddie

Another Bait & Switch. ACM anyone?

samdam3
samdam3

Game looks awesome, but is it just me or does the driving look fucking terrible? 

kill130
kill130

juses.. Wait for it!

quinnd6
quinnd6

Aidan Pearce must have hacked his own game to make it look crap eh lol.

boogie25
boogie25

If the game is gonna look like that on pc to, well we can always hope enb creators will do what watch dogs devs couldnt do for us (like the enbs made for gta4 on pc).... if its possible to do in WD.

cf_Kage
cf_Kage

I'm with everyone pointing out how bad the graphics have got.
Is it possible the PS3 was used for this, but with the new controller?

Yes, graphics shouldn't matter, but like everyone worth a damn has said, if a game was shown off to be visually spectacular, as well as offering great gameplay, then surely we should be able to see that?!

Watching that little video above, it screamed the same visuals as past games, whereas I've been blown away every time I have seen this game otherwise.


That is why it is disapointing. If it displayed these graphics at the start, then yeah, sure.

Aliens did EXACTLY the same thing

DeathProofDelta
DeathProofDelta

I think I'm going to be busy playing Ground Zeroes when this comes out. Hope they bring out a demo to convince me to buy it.

fersay777
fersay777

what a downgrade! that  sucks!!

pyro1245
pyro1245

does anyone else feel like they overuse as well as misuse the words 'hack', 'hacking' and 'hacker'?

ringringabel
ringringabel

can someone tell me where all this graphics whining is coming from? I can't find any trailer that looks like it's been downgraded since E3...feel like I've been living in a cave for the past 48 hours or something

Joeguy00
Joeguy00

My brother woke up this morning and just walked straight up to and said "WTF, did you see the trailer?". I knew which one it was and he went and researched the differences & comparisons before just cancelling his order.


Graphics aren't the most important part of the experience, but screw it if the very 1st game to get me excited for the next gen experience looks last gen and still expects me to act like nothing has changed. I won't except a lazy gameplay > graphics answer. Because I was already shown what to be excited about with graphics AND gameplay.


And why would they show gorgeous graphics with far better: 

AA, DF, real time lighting, detailed rich & complex buildings & structures, detailed particles, vehicular damage & detail, detailed foliage and reactive trees, glass progressive shattering, real time and varied soft/hard shadows, wind sway, fabric friction, day/night cycle, atmospheric vapour / heat wave effects, motion blur, packed streets, diverse reflections and far superior object density... 


if it wasn't impressive, if it wouldn't matter, if it wouldn't make you want it? They bloody wouldn't do it would they?

iamoverrated4gs
iamoverrated4gs

Damn I was so hyped at the graphics this game had the first time it was announced and how good it looked, but now it literally looks like shit.. they dumped the visuals a lot it looks like gta4 crappy as hell

jark888
jark888

Watch Dogs and Metal Gear Solid V are trying to keep up with the success of GTA 5. I hope they get to shine when their times come, to define the new generation of open world gaming.

rad8045
rad8045

Graphics look fine too me, gameplay looks pretty impressive too, just not sure about playing as Hugh Jackman lol.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

"Why does this look like a PS2 game?" - People who have clearly never actually seen an open world PS2 game. 

Trickymaster
Trickymaster

It looks like they went from Shader model 3.0 to Shader model 2. This is a perfect example of how the industry is settling for the lowest common denominator which is Xbox 360.

danielmarandi
danielmarandi

WTF...!!!?!!! What happened to those beautiful graphics! Last time I saw a video about this game, graphics were 3x better! :O, Should I expect a PS2 graphics at the end?

StephenSays
StephenSays

Better be motorcycles, thats all I'm saying.

TheExxorcist
TheExxorcist

I'm still waiting for "The Order 1886" (sorry X bots this one is not for you, devs want 1080p) also you don't get the greatness of Santa Monica Studios 


Instead you get games like Ryse (6.5 / 10) and games like Titanfall at 900p. (EA games... yuck. And a bunch of COD creators) no thanks...


Also don't forget Infamous second son looks better than every console game I've seen... and yes the game play will receive awesome reviews as well...



That's my troll outburst for the day... Umad???

sampson3121
sampson3121

@MetalWych they said the same thing about second son graphics being downgraded, and that turned out to be untrue.....they will make the graphics look awesome, and i will be a day one buyer as well.

soldat15
soldat15

@ishsgames  There is no downgrade, only time of day and weather differences. And yes, the PC ver will be a lot better.

sampson3121
sampson3121

@darran05 so you actually think this is the final product? and the Division footage wasn't from a high end pc, it was a ps4, and you still doubt the ps4 power after seeing second son?

hootsyowl
hootsyowl

@darran05 I don't think The Division was originally going to be made for PC, but I could be mistaken. 

Optimist_Pryme
Optimist_Pryme

@darran05 Pretty sure that technically "false advertising" only works if you've already received the product, and the product was not what it claimed to be... since nobody's received the product since it's still a couple more months until release... "false advertising" technically doesn't fly. ^_^

Optimist_Pryme
Optimist_Pryme

@hardeddie I'll see your "bait and switch", and I'll play my "block and begone" trump-card... good day. ;)

Optimist_Pryme
Optimist_Pryme

@cf_Kage Uhhh, World of Warcraft does that all the time, (shows off all their super-shiny cut-scene CGIs, then delivers kind of "meh" graphics)... and look how strong they still seem to be? o_O

NoHyperbolePlz
NoHyperbolePlz

@ringringabel  


It's not whining if it is pointing out legitimate complaints mate, you are just belittling it and as you just said you are ignorant of the info, you are doing it without any reason as well.


neogaf site: /forum/showthread.php?t=780290


dsogaming dot com site (images compared): /screenshot-news/watch-dogs-comparison-latest-build-versus-e3-2012-june-2013-builds/


YouTube site (E3 2012)/watch?v=bmwyW-Q960M


YouTube site E3 2013: /watch?v=8z3iG2QlJXk


YouTube site after: /watch?v=EEJSBu20Hqs

Joeguy00
Joeguy00

@Kevin-V  

Kev, it looks far below my expectations. This isn't about wanting more than I can reasonable have. It's about expecting the graphics on PS4 that Ubi showed me last year and being told to settle fr less after 2 years of hype.

rad8045
rad8045

@Kevin-V Why are graphics the only thing that matters these days with most gamers ? That's what I wonder.

Joeguy00
Joeguy00

@CrippledPoet @iamoverrated4gs  

Visuals matter when they show you them, but then deliver what looks to be PS3 visuals. It honestly looks worse than GTA V to me, but they showed me PS4 gameplay that looked way better last year.

Joeguy00
Joeguy00

@rad8045 @Kevin-V  

It's not the only important thing. That's just a lazy contrarian reply. It matters when you are shown one thing and told it's next gen & then given something else. That deception and a lie.

Kinguard73
Kinguard73

@rad8045 @Kevin-V Cause they just got done paying for next gen so they expect what they paid for? Catey Christ I got a bridge that doesn't exist but  for a low 9 grand it's all yours. I mean it's not there but you'll still pay for it right?

TheExxorcist
TheExxorcist

How was Forza?? That 2/3 of a full game Do you enjoy having to give MS $$$ to actually have the fast cars in the game???

What a joke...

TheExxorcist
TheExxorcist

Never played knack... to busy playing Killzone and Warframe. .. Two more highly praised games that receive higher reviews than Xone exclusives...

Optimist_Pryme
Optimist_Pryme

Darn timer... "crown" should be "crowd", meh. :P

Optimist_Pryme
Optimist_Pryme

@Kinguard73 I just (sarcastically) love the entitlement attitude of the "next gen" crown that thinks just because they spent $400-$500 on a pre-packaged console box, they deserve the same graphical quality and output of high-end $500-$1000+ PCs.  It'd be like taking a slightly pricey sporty car into a Prius dealership and demanding the same gas-mileage, simply because you actually paid for your car and have no idea what's going on with the Prius and why it gets the mileage that it does.

PS - And not trying to hate on the console crowd either... I actually prefer to game on console simply due to the ease of use, pop in the game, off you go, etc... without all the drivers, configurations, upgrades, keyboard controls (which can be okay at time I guess), and especially all the porting/emulating/jury-rigging in Linux, etc -- but having played top-end games on both, hands down, PC will output much better graphics; and that's coming from somebody that's played games like Sleeping Dogs, Just Cause 2, Tomb Raider, Saboteur, etc on both PS3 and PC... in a PC that's still rocking an AMD Athlon 3200+ single-core processor, with an nVidia GeForce 9600 vid card, and 2gb RAM... and it still looks phenomenal on PC in comparison.  Granted the "next gen" consoles have newer hardware than current gen, but there's still going to be an major upscaled difference on PC than on console... that's a given.

coatesyman
coatesyman

@TheExxorcist  I don't even have an Xbox, I was just pointing out that PS4 has crap scoring games as well, weather you played knack or not and I don't know where you get scores from because Forza  has higher scoring reviews than Killzone Shadowfall and Warframe.

Watch Dogs More Info

First Release on May 26, 2014
  • PlayStation 3
  • Xbox 360
  • + 4 more
  • PC
  • PlayStation 4
  • Wii U
  • Xbox One
Watch Dogs is an open-world action adventure game from Ubisoft where you must use any means at your disposal to take down a corrupt system.