E3 2013 Preview: Watch_Dogs – Chicago is Your Playground

There is certainly no lack of hype for the upcoming Ubisoft title Watch_Dogs and I’m sure the development team at Ubisoft is aware of this. This game is shaping up to be a critical darling and with the pressure on to deliver one of the most outstanding AAA experiences in the jump to next gen I feel safe in saying that the Watch_Dogs team is handling that pressure just fine. Watch_Dogs was on display at this year’s E3 show and we here at COG got our eyes on two separate demos to help hold us over until release.

Firstly, was the demo that most everyone saw at the Sony press conference where we saw main protagonist Aiden Pearce come to the rescue of a fellow named T-Bone. T-Bone has been tracked down by authorities and needs Aiden and his entire bag of tricks to help him escape. Highlighting Aiden’s vast array of hacking abilities we see him hack surveillance cameras, locked gates, advertising boards and more. Showing off some of the asymmetrical integration of playing with friends we also got to see someone play alongside using a tablet to raise traffic blockers and stop the cops as Aiden made his own escape attempt. All of this was very impressive but indicative of a lot of the things we’d already seen in the past few months. I wanted more.

Check out the new E3 trailer here:

Luckily I was able to sneak a peek at some of the features we’ve yet to see in demos up to this point with a couple members of the team from Ubisoft in a behind closed doors demonstration and left even more excited than I was when I went in. For the record I was pretty damn excited going in, this game is high on my games to keep an eye on.

In this demo we get to see a bit more of the open world aspects of the game as opposed to hopping in mid-mission. Aiden is wandering the streets in an area of fictional Chicago called the Wards. The Wards is one of Chicago’s poorest districts and you can tell. It’s beat up, graffiti laden, crumbling apart and its denizens are of the unsavory variety… you know, the kind you’d avoid getting caught in a dark alley with. Aiden is making his way through this neighborhood without any of the fancy hacking abilities we’ve been shown. This district is still locked and in order to progress any further in this area Aiden needs to bust into a Blume Corp facility and hack their ctOS (Chicago’s central operating system) server.

As we see Aiden approach the facility the gentleman orchestrating the demo tells us he’s going to take the stealth route in. Aiden spends some time profiling various guards inside the compound finding all sorts of interesting little details about them in the process and eventually finds one of the superiors whereby he hacks him for the access codes to the building. Aiden hops a fence into the yard and sets to work. First thing we see is Aiden hack a fork lift in order to distract a guard. Keeping in mind that we were told that a stealth run was in the plans the best way to deal with the approaching guard is apparently blowing his ass up. Cue all hell breaking loose! Using his focus ability as well as hacking objects to provide cover Aiden dispatches with pretty much every guard in the facility with relative ease and hacks the server.

The Wards are now open to Aiden completely. As he wanders the streets he gets information about everyone he passes. One of the people he passes is identified as a potential crime victim so Aiden chooses to follow her and play guardian angel. Lo and behold as the unsuspecting victim walks down a back alley she is assaulted and Aiden jumps into action. Chasing down the victim by foot and in a hijacked vehicle he eventually stops him with traffic blockers in the street and prevents the crime from happening. By doing this Aiden increases his positive reputation score with the community. In every choice you can make in-game Aiden can go good or bad and his reputation will skew in conjunction. Build up a good reputation and people are more willing to help, turn a blind eye or at the very least not cower in fear when you approach. Go the opposite way and people react accordingly… fear and frantic 911 calls. Now let’s not forget that Aiden could have just as easily ignored the potential victim crime warning and let the poor lady face her fate alone but really, how would he sleep at night?

Moving on Aiden heads into the Loop, another district in Chicago, and we get a look at the economy structure of exchanging the almighty dollar for the almighty assault rifle. Of course as Aiden is making his purchase his mug appears on the TV and the shop owner panics accordingly. Here we see another escape speeding through the streets to escape the police highlighting some of the hacking systems.

As the dust settles we get a look at Aiden tracking down a Wi-Fi system and in turn hacking into the webcam of an unfortunate soul who has left their phone on and vulnerable on their dining room table. Should we quietly leave or should we hack the phone and rip off this poor lady’s credit card information. Being the upstanding members of society we all are the other journalists in the room and I choose to rob the lady blind. It should be noted that this lady happened to be the mother of a very young child and in hindsight I feel horrible about my decision.

Of course logic would dictate that if we can hack others in the game then we can also be hacked ourselves. An alert pops up showing us we’re being hacked and the chase is on to track down the would-be attacker. Using all his profiling abilities Aiden finds and ID’s his target. Here we see a light pop on beside us in the room and there’s another player behind the wall. This player has invaded our game to take advantage of us and we respond by giving chase. Sadly, she manages to escape but not to be shown up we respond appropriately by hacking their game and successfully escaping ourselves. This is an interesting mechanic as you’ll never know who is in your game with you until you get hacked. You’ll show up in another player’s game as just another random citizen and vice versa. It’s a cool concept to think that at any time you’re trying to take advantage of somebody else that they could be a real world player ready to respond in kind.

This is where our demonstration ended and I have to say that seeing everything play out in front of me as it did just made me more impatient to see the final result. The hype machine has been steadily picking up speed as it rolls downhill to the eventual release date and it seems like a safe bet to say that the hype is well deserved. Slated for release this holiday season the wait seems to me like a painfully long one.

What do you think of some of these new tidbits of info? Are you excited? Indifferent? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to keep it locked on Canadian Online Gamers for more news as we get our grubby little paws on it!