A hero we can get behind.
Watch Dogs 2 on PS4
Saying that Watch Dogs 2 has a lot of pressure on it is putting it lightly. After the announcement that Assassin’s Creed would no longer be courting annual releases, everyone turned their eyes to Ubisoft’s newest franchise. But this wasn’t a game that could simply step up and fill such a huge void in the year, especially after the first entry in this budding series was received less than favorably by the community. The original Watch Dogs’ bland, almost monochromatic protagonist and its half dead open world didn’t lend themselves well to the ambition put forth by Ubisoft Montreal.
Thankfully, there was no shortage of criticisms levied against the new IP, so the developers had a lot of points to work off of going in. I must admit that I was curious to see how Ubisoft Montreal handled this sequel, one that was greenlit before the original had even been properly released. The amount of critiques received almost made it seem as if the team would have to create an entirely different game in order to make it work. Yet instead of going back to the drawing board, the developers doubled down on their vision and added in a bit of light to make what is easily one of the best games I’ve played so far this year.
Watch Dogs 2 ditches the windy city along with its cold protagonist for the beautiful San Francisco Bay. Beaches are just a short drive away, there’s always a party somewhere, and the city is full of life no matter what time of day you find yourself prowling the streets. In place of Aiden Pearce, we have Marcus Holloway who couldn’t possibly be more different from his predecessor, and this goes much further than just his race, which is the first major difference most people will notice. Marcus isn’t the gruff man, hellbent on vengeance for something that was his fault anyway. He’s a young, black individual whose eyes are opened up to injustices that go beyond what he considered to be possible.
The game opens with Marcus’ initiation into the hacker group DedSec. Young individuals who move in secret yet leave loud statements of their exploits around for everyone to see. After a quick introduction to Marcus “Retr0” Holloway and a tutorial about hacking, it’s time to meet the gang. All of the characters from the trailers were there, including Wrench, the masked one who seemed like he would be pretty annoying once the game was underway. Turns out that he and the rest of the main characters you’ll find yourself dealing with are actually one of the best parts of Watch Dogs 2.
The characters in Watch Dogs 2 are as diverse as the city of San Francisco in which the game takes place, and none of them are perfect (which happens to be the most beautiful thing). These characters, outside of their surprising means to purchase all the tech they want feel real. They are self-conscious and shy. Some are dealing with mental illness while others are just outsiders who could never figure out how to fit in. Every gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, you name it and it’s present and accounted for, and never just for show. Even better is that these people and their stories aren’t some window dressing, which was definitely an issue in the first game. They exist in this world and because of that you find yourself wanting to save it even more. And it’s that notion, the thought of being a hero in a world where everyone is so focused on themselves, that really lifts Watch Dogs 2 way above its predecessor.
Watch Dogs introduced us to Blume and the CtOS. Through a haphazard revenge tale that put us behind someone who was virtually impossible to like, we got to see what “the man” was doing to us all. Using our data, selling us like produce, and getting rich off of everyone else’s privacy. Naturally, it was a perfect catalyst for corruption among high ranking officials, and only Aiden, someone so removed from the struggles of everyman, could stop it. It was a tough sell, one that made the grand journey a bit hard to swallow. Marcus finds out about what’s really going on sort of by chance. He knew CtOS was no good and that it was infringing on privacy. But when he saw that he was being profiled and considered capable of things he’d never done before simply because of how he looked and where he lived, he knew he had to do something. And as the game progresses, you meet more people just like yourself – marginalized, categorized souls with no true representative in the corrupt system trying to turn them into a barcode.