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Watch Dogs

14 for 2014: Watch Dogs

Let's hope a few more weeks of spit and polish can turn Watch Dogs into one of the best games of next year.

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We weren't the only ones who were bitterly disappointed when Watch Dogs was pushed back in 2014 so Ubisoft could add some additional spit and polish to their new IP, but if it means we get a better game at the end of it then perhaps we'd better take it on the chin and get on with looking forward to its eventual arrival.

"It's always nice with a little more time," cinematic lead Lars Bonde told us recently. "You always have a little bit of a top ten list of things you want to do. But I think it was a very strong move. It was a gutsy move. I know a lot of people were a little bit unhappy with it and I understand that. But at the same time we wouldn't have worked on something more than 4 years to just push it out because there's a new generation consoles coming out just now. We want to make sure it's the game it deserves to be."

Anticipation for the near-future open-world adventure has been building since it burst into the public consciousness at 2012's E3 in L.A. Since then Watch Dogs has amassed a following of gamers hoping upon hope that Ubi will deliver on the promise of this exciting new IP.

Watch Dogs

The story centres around Aiden Pearce, a hacker and vigilante in Chicago, waging his own personal war while simultaneously tackling scum and writing wrongs as he sees fit along the way. Using his inordinately powerful smart phone Pearce can hack computers, security systems, cash machines, databases, traffic systems etc etc. This means we'll be able tackle missions and scenarios as we see fit, utilising these different skills in conjunction with some good old fashion gunplay, and hopefully experiencing some unique emergent moments in the process.

Creative director Jonathan Morin told us more about the game in an interview earlier in the year: "If you want to shoot everybody, you better be good at it... If you're good at shooting and that's what you want to do, you're going to receive your challenge, but if you think a little bit more then you're going to be rewarded by having the consequences of being detected to be less hard."

"You need to almost see it as a cycle," Morin continued. "Someone who loves shooting will be challenged because he's going to go straight at it. Someone who wants to think should be able to completely dodge the shooting if he's really good at it, and if he fucks it up he needs to improvise with the flow. So it's not about it becoming easy. It's more about it becoming rich and deep."

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The open-world setting and the anti-hero both evoke memories of Ubisoft's flagship franchise, Assassin's Creed. The similarities don't end there either. There's much in common in both strands of multiplayer. In Watch Dogs players must blend into the crowd while they attempt to complete a hack, in a manner not to dissimilar to that which we've already seen in AC. Another mode brings something new to the mix, with console players able to compete with others using the game's companion app. One player is on the run, the other is control of the CtOS security systems around the city, and via their eyes in the sky (thanks to a helicopter) must track the player and use whatever means are at their disposal to bring them to justice.

As with games of this ilk, part of attraction is going to be the ability to roam the city and take on missions outside of the normal story arc, and Watch Dogs looks no different in this respect. The near-future vision of Chicago looks like a bleak but enigmatic playground just waiting for us to explore. Players will be able tackle Vigilante missions as they stumble upon them, and their actions will impact on their ‘Reputation'. This will, in turn, affect how the city responds to you, so you've got a bad rep passers by who clock you will be far more inclined to notify the long arm of the law.

"You're the kind of vigilante you want to be. You're not by default a criminal, and that's I think an important way not to insult the player's intelligence," Morin explained to us. "We're dropping you in the world with a gun, that's a big deal. If you want to be careful about it, we should give you a character that's smart enough to understand its context and he should give you this ability [to take non-lethal action]."

Excitement is building because of the promise inherent in the overall package, and the way the component parts have been assembled. It also helps that it's a new IP, and as we leave one console generation and enter into another, there's a worrying lack of new ideas on the horizon, and a new universe with new characters is just the tonic that many of us are looking forward to so much. Ubisoft's recent track record with third-person adventures also speaks for itself, and adds yet another reason to why we were gutted that we weren't able to pick it up as a next-gen launch title. Let's hope the wait is worth it.

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