Ubisoft has a strong love/hate relationship with the gaming public. The reasons for this, at times, vitriolic relationship has been caused by misleading E3 trailers, graphical downgrades, and their tendency to release continuous installments with little innovation. Certainly not the worst offenses by a big gaming company (EA still holds the title for some shady practices in the past), but it’s been certainly damning enough to lose gamer’s powerful levels of trust in their products. There have been multiple videos and articles showing off some examples of Ubisoft’s tendency to show off non-playable games (with Crowbcat’s “Ubisoft Downgrades” video offering a quality amount of examples for this misleading practice):
Unlike some companies that purposely market games in a way so that they appear entertaining, but only end up being a means of forcing microtransactions and DLC down players’ throats, Ubisoft at least offers mostly complete games (with Assassin’s Creed Unity being a massive exception). Their game rarely lack content. Even with the ones accused of lacking content, like Siege and The Division, they were games that were designed for a mainly multiplayer experience (although I don’t think there was much that could save The Division in the end). However, with all of this taken into consideration, let’s move on to the topic of today’s discussion: Watch Dogs and whether or not Ubisoft’s upcoming sequel to WD will be worth trustworthy enough to pick up.
To start the discussion, take a look at the E3 presentation gameplay from 2012 for Watch Dogs (with actually playable gameplay on the right side):
Back in 2012, players believed that they were seeing the future of gaming with Watch Dogs. Cutting-edge graphics, great, in-depth gameplay, all mixed within an interesting story that takes on the concept of security and the feeling of no personal information being safe from talented hackers. It truly looked like a game-changer. I myself was never part of the hype train (I remember randomly watching the 2012 footage and being blown away, but never really looking into the game much further). Then, after multiple delays, the public expected THE GTA killer. The open world game to take the top spot in the industry. Simply put, this didn’t happen.
Watch Dogs was a financial success and even earned pretty decent critical reviews overall. However, those that stood firmly in the hype train since 2012 were not pleased. The response from those that expected the game to be an industry-standard tore the game apart at every opportunity. Disappointment can be pretty depressing, but in this case, the response was purely aggressive and frustrated. Players recognized the game’s potential at greatness, and since they didn’t see any greatness in the final product, they lashed out at Ubisoft and to other like-minded individuals.
When comparing the E3 footage to the true final gameplay, it’s hard to disagree with their disappointment. I picked up the game when it saw a significant price drop and gave it a shot. Much to my surprise, I had a lot of fun with it. Hacking was entertaining and interesting, taking down enemy warehouses with your tech was engaging, and progressing your skills kept me playing. My first play-through was mainly entertainment with some noticeable flaws, but nothing that held it back too significantly. I was never a part of the hype train for the game, and I didn’t re-check that E3 footage, so I had no measuring stick for quality by comparison. That being said, my second play-through allowed me to be more critical, and I definitely saw flaws I missed before.
Being able to see little snippets about NPC’s while just walking down the street was interesting, but it only masked an otherwise pretty life-less world. Stopping crimes was fun, but they mostly ended up playing out the exact same way every time. The graphics simply weren’t that impressive in the slightest when in action. The hacking itself was also pretty shallow and wasn’t as deep a system as it should’ve been. Also, Aiden was just way too sullen and dull most of the time. I could now see what those disappointed players saw. My excitement for a sequel wasn’t as strong as it had previously been. Then, E3 2016 came along, and a full gameplay demo for Watch Dogs 2 was released.
Upon seeing the footage, it was difficult to not get excited. Right off the bat, it seemed Ubisoft took on many of the main complaints of WD1 and seemed to have fixed them. Previous game world looked gloomy, colorless, and boring? Boom! New locale is California, armed with a vibrant color palette. Not enough things to hack before? How about being able to hack every single NPC, as well as every single car? The game just had an undeniable amount of personality that had previously been missing, and it was difficult not to get swept up in it. Also, for those concerned with the graphics, they certainly looked like a great improvement, but they weren’t industry-defining, which gave me an odd sense of comfort.
They also released a TON of information and gameplay, unlike the original Watch Dogs where they had their pre-determined demo ready to go and that was it. Hacking looked fun, the gun combat looked engaging, and the main character had an interesting backstory and seemed to display what humans would call a “personality.” There was so much to like about what Ubisoft was showing off, with the marketing and art design for the ads being top-notch. It seemed that mostly every fixable problem that came with the original WD was improved or replaced with something better (you can punch pedestrians now!).
My only concern about the game was that it’d get delayed. Many times in Ubisoft’s history, any delay usually ends up with a graphical downgrade that’s clearly evident when there’s new footage released after that delay. Watch Dogs had this, as did The Division and even Rainbow Six Siege. If WD2 had been delayed, I’d have been convinced that another potentially great game would be weakened and made lesser due to either time constraints or potentially even processing power restraints on certain platforms. Delays, for the most part, are greatly beneficial, but there’s something about Ubisoft games and delays that simply don’t mix properly.
Alas, no delays ever came and Watch Dogs 2 will meet its originally-intended release date. It seems that there won’t be any graphical downgrades this time around.
Now, the question remains: at some point should you pick up Watch Dogs 2? Well, that’s, of course, up to you. I am a big fan of open-world games, especially when they have worlds that feel alive and plenty of activities to take part in. One of these days, I will pick up the game. Now, whether or not other players should pick it up on launch day, a couple weeks after, or never at all depends on how the game is received critically. It’ll be important for many consumers to take in all perspectives on the game, study its pros and cons, and then make a final decision. It’s important to remember that a review is good for a means of perspective, but in the end, it’s just someone’s opinion. Plenty of great games have gotten great reviews and plenty of overrated games have gotten excellent scores.
You may not trust Ubisoft quite yet, and it seems that Ubisoft understands that too. Ubisoft has stated that their preorder totals are “less than expected,” so they’re taking notice of players’ lower level of trust. Ubisoft knows that they need to earn that trust back, and I feel that they’re going to do right by players with Watch Dogs 2. For now, we can sit back and see for ourselves if Ubisoft came to play with this sequel, or if they are only interested in more of the same. Let’s all hope it’s not the latter.
What do you guys think about all this? Are you going to pick up Watch Dogs 2? What’s your favorite Ubisoft title? Let us know in the comments!