User Rating: 9 | Watch Dogs 2 PC
Marcus Holloway, better known by his handle Retr0, is a complete nerd. In 40 hours with Watch Dogs 2 he's dropped references to Alien vs Predator and Inception, and geeked out over pieces of code, street art and cars. He's also got more personality than your average protagonist; I've seen him throw dumb shapes for Watch Dogs 2's Instagram-alike ScoutX, and he's rarely seen out of a t-shirt loudly proclaiming "OMG sealions!" If you ignore the firefights and accidental mass murders, he feels like the sort of guy you might want to be friends with. That's important, because we view the world of Watch Dogs 2 through Marcus's lens and as a result he's a large part of the reason it all works so well. Marcus wants to make the world a better place, and most of the time he's just trying to do the right thing. Missions involve hacking a friend's teenage sister's always-on stream to teach her about cyber security, stopping a serial swatter and even driving a guy to the hospital in time for the birth of his surrogate child. Marcus is well-acted, evenly tempered and a million miles away from Aiden Pierce, the original game's protagonist This new flavour of hacker group DedSec doesn't feel like a criminal organisation; more like a bunch of kids that watched Mr Robot, decided they fancied the lifestyle and became sorcerers of technomancy, capable of doing anything with their can-do attitude and a smartphone. Their hideout, tucked away beneath a board-game shop, is filled with stuff designed to show how edgy they are: neon lettering in the corner of the store proclaims Happy New Fear, making zero sense, while posters of memes and brightly coloured art adorns the walls. Dedsec is so committed to the goal of ostentatious branding there's a vending machine in the middle of their "hackerspace" that sells Dedsec clothing. It largely gets a pass because it's all done with a wry self-awareness that's quite endearing. The primary goal of the game, after all, is to acquire followers. There's some techno-nonsense about how getting more followers gives your hackers more processing power, but I've been fed that Midichlorian nonsense before. You're trying to get more followers, and your direct reward as a player is getting more research points, which you can use to acquire new skills. Research points are quite thin on the ground at first, so your first few early choices feel particularly important, with several of the skills not just incremental updates but abilities; often hacks you couldn't do before. Dedsec and Marcus's naivety does mean that when you blow up several police cars with steam vents under the road or gun down an innocent civilian, it feels jarring, and not just thematically. In the course of 40 hours with the game I've fired my gun maybe 10 times. Shooting feels wonky, but also you just have so many more choices: why would you want to gun down a sentry when you could mark him as a wanted criminal and have armed police come to arrest them? Why shoot at a car chasing you when you can change the traffic lights behind you or hack the car itself, making it veer off the road and into a car-totalling wall?