Watch Dogs Preview
It was one of the most impressive titles on display at last year’s E3, and has since been confirmed for next-generation consoles like the PlayStation 4. It seems developer Ubisoft Montreal is seeking to expand upon the standard concepts of an open-world adventure, and they may even push a few boundaries. Set in the near-future in the colossal city of Chicago, we assume the role of Aiden Pearce, a cyber-hacker who doesn’t necessarily believe in peace and order. Or rather, he could have different definitions of key terms like “moral” and “virtue.”
Aiden must traverse an environment that is constantly monitored by a 24/7/365 super mainframe, which has long since affected the daily lives of citizens. To perform his covert duties, the protagonist must stay out of sight and out of mind by continually hacking his way across the metropolis. Cyber-crime – if that’s what you want to call it – takes on a whole new dimension in Watch Dogs, especially when seemingly straightforward concepts like good and evil start to appear murky. For instance, the E3 demo showed Aiden chasing DeMarco, a man acquitted of a murder he obviously committed. So our hero (anti-hero?) goes to work.
Aiden can control various aspects of the city, and he can jam cell phone transmissions that cause general confusion. One of the cooler features shown in released game footage involves tampering with traffic lights, which obviously generates massive problems on the road. That’s only the beginning, though, as Aiden will be able to hack security cameras, eavesdrop on phone conversations, gain admittance to secure areas, and steal personal information for the sake of the mission. Yes, just by looking at someone, he can access all sorts of critical personal data, such as age, profession, income and even deep-rooted fears. I imagine that can be used to some advantage when you’re talking about a target.
The city is your playground. Because most everything is connected in some fashion and the main character is always tapping into those connections, control can be acquired with little effort. It’s actually a frightening look at a future that isn’t all that far removed from the constant connectivity we seem to currently crave. With the ability to alter our surroundings to suit our needs, we should be able to experiment like crazy in this game, and that will undoubtedly be the most appealing element. Open-world titles usually emphasize freedom and creativity, and this virtual world will encourage a new form of futuristic imagination.
To add to the quasi-illusion, Ubisoft will even produce a special app that will let you control aspects of the game with your smartphone or tablet. The app will give you a virtual reality view of the city and will let you hack into certain systems, even when you’re not sitting in front of your TV. …yeah, there are a whole lot of freaky and oddly unsettling things to expect when Watch Dogs launches later this year. The possibilities are almost limitless and I’ll be interested to see just how far Ubisoft takes these concepts. They’re far-reaching in nature and scope and to properly embrace them, it’ll take a serious amount of effort and skill.
Clearly, if you have the means, you’ll probably want to experience this potentially innovative production on the PS4. We need a date for that, too.
3/14/2013 Ben Dutka