One thing that strikes you immediately about the technologically enhanced world of Ubisoft’s Watch_Dogs and its ‘City Operating System (ctOS)’ is that, for an environment that’s so reliant on the digital, the experience is incredibly organic!
In a 14 minute gameplay demo from animation director, Colin Graham, we saw the true depth to the open world of, Watch_Dogs and it was, in a word, stunning.
Not only does the game environment look gorgeous, vigilante protagonist Aiden Pierce moves so fluidly around both the physical and digital world found within. The gameplay showcases what the vast and varied world is like outside of the many missions on offer.
As previously reported, in order for Aiden to truly infiltrate the ctOS system in a given area, he must first hack the system at its source. In this particular demo, the source servers are located in a very well guarded – if suspiciously accessible – compound in a relatively dilapidated part of town.
We quickly get to see that Aiden is far from the stereotypical reclusive nerd or morbidly obese hacker we typically see portrayed in movies, he is fast and nimble, showing climbing and stealth skills that wouldn’t look out of place in Splinter Cell.
Hopping over fences and scaling buildings, combined with performing local hacks to raise barriers to use as cover, or raise the platform of a forklift to create a distraction, it isn’t long before Aiden has put himself on position to nab the access codes from an unsuspecting guard. Promptly hacking a security camera, turning it into an ally, before using the camera to perform the ultimate hack and successfully infiltrate the server. This gives him access to the whole network and NOW the possibilities increase exponentially!
With full access to the grid, Aiden has any and all information piped directly to his mysterious hacking device, including facial recognition of passers by caught on CCTV, it even accesses their background information to help identify potential criminals and victims.
Before long, Aiden’s device picks up on a potential victim. The player must use their own moral code to decide whether this particular non-playable character (NPC) is worthy of their attention.
On the play through in question, Aiden DOES follow her, on foot at first, then through hacking a nearby surveillance system- but not before we are reminded that this is just part of the open world gameplay- he is not on a mission here.
The NPC runs into a guy she clearly has history with – and not the good kind. As he tries to throttle her, Aiden sprints from cover and disrupts the altercation – saving the woman from further harm or distress. But we’re not done yet.
The unpredictable criminals react in a myriad of ways, this one opting to avoid a dust up or a shoot out, runs away.
Aiden gives chase.
Leaping fences, kicking down doorways and leaping into cars are all par for the course when the chase is on.
Eventually, the would be attacker, now in a getaway car, is brought to a standstill through the medium of a hacked barrier system and a bonus is awarded for leaving him alive.
This scenario alone could have played out a dozen different ways: Aiden could have ignored the potential victim; attacked the situation too late for the victim; not given chase at all or even shot the criminal dead on the spot?
There is no right or wrong way to play in the free-roaming sections. Just do what your conscience tells you- or do the exact opposite!? It is a game after all!
Of course, when there are witnesses to your madcap antics, you start to garner a reputation (as a vigilante or a menace- either way, you’re on the wrong side of the law). The city reacts in different ways in accordance with your behaviour. As seen in the video clip, shop keepers might refuse to deal with you or notify the police- meaning you’ll have to make a quick getaway and return to anonymity before you are able to go about your business.
One of the most impressive things that can be seen in this gameplay demo is tied directly into this morality / reputation system.
We see Aiden, in the more affluent area of town, hack into the free wi-fi system provided by ctOS- giving him full access to anything using that signal. Before long, he’s linked -,via the wifi – to the webcam of a laptop in a random woman’s apartment. From here, he can link to the woman’s mobile phone, which is in the webcams view on a neighbouring table. This gives him access to her bank account details which, upon returning to the street, Aiden COULD use to help himself to all her hard earned cash! For me, the most fascinating element to this is, though this by no means a victimless crime, as it is a crime with no witnesses, it doesn’t harm your reputation in the game at all! A moment truly governed by your own moral compass – or lack thereof!
With a world full of unique hacks- an enormous, well populated city and Aiden’s fairly nifty stealth skills to play with, it’s easy to see how you could be absorbed by this game for days at a time, but with your own morality thrown in for your gaming pleasure – and the highly original multiplayer elements seen in the video, Watch_Dogs is already starting to look like a contender for game of the year- and yes I DID just say that within 2 weeks of the GTA V launch.
Got a spare 15 minutes? Watch the full video below!
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