‘Watch Dogs’: Here’s How to Get in On the Action Free
Watch Dogs is officially out of the box, and it’s making a good enough name for itself. Before it launched, it was already a major winner, as it had over 900 thousand pre-orders in the U.S. alone, according to VGChartz. That guaranteed it a spot as one of the biggest games of the year without even a single copy being delivered. Of course, with the big blockbuster game status that the game has attained, it naturally comes with the big blockbuster price: just about $60 – $80 if you want the season pass for extra content.
There’s generally no way around the steep price of brand new triple-A games. Occasionally, a one-day sale might bump the price down, as was the case for Titanfall, but that scenario is more luck than anything. In Watch Dogs’ case, there are plenty of ways to get in the game, since it has launched on PC and all of the current generation and previous generation of consoles except Nintendo’s. As luck would have it, there’s also one way to get in on the Watch Dogs action for free, and it almost fits perfectly into the mechanics of the game.
As Watch Dogs plays something like a blend between Grand Theft Auto with maybe a hint of Splinter Cell or Assassin’s Creed, all with a major focus on the main character using his phone to hack anything and everything in Chicago, it only makes sense for the game to have a companion app on smartphones and tablets. It seems like a good way to enjoy the action, whether you’re sitting next to a friend playing the full game, or just bored on a commute and don’t care who you’re playing with.
On the Frequently Asked Question section of the game’s website, Ubisoft says you can “Play anywhere you want, with anyone you want. And play for free.” Considering the price of the full game, that “free” should be a breath of fresh air.
Though this companion app won’t play like the full game — you won’t be Aiden Pearce running around Chicago causing all the havoc that we’ve seen in trailers — it does fit into the game world like it actually belongs. It won’t be like Spider-Bot companion game for Splinter-Cell: Blacklist, which didn’t feel like a part of the full game.
This game, called ctOS Mobile, puts the player on the flip-side of Aiden Pearce. While the player on the PC or console hacks various elements of the city from the streets, the ctOS Mobile player controls those same elements from within the system. It pits them against each other for various race challenges. The mobile player takes a top-down view of the city and can see all of its major elements. The player can control lights, vents, the police — everything is at their fingertips, including a sniper perched inside of a police chopper. As the full game player races to reach every checkpoint within a certain time period, the mobile player pulls every trick and sends everything available at Aiden to keep him from succeeding.
With two game modes and thirteen challenges in each, there’s plenty to play, but it also includes a customization mode for making your own rules for each match. The game does require Ubisoft’s Uplay account and a PSN or Xbox Live account to play with console gamers, but those are all free.
So far, the game is getting good reviews and has a 4-star rating on Google Play and slightly above a 4-star rating on the iTunes App Store. If you’re saving up for the game or waiting until the price goes down a little bit, ctOS Mobile may be your way to get in on the action for free in the meantime.
If you’re interested in Watch Dogs, you might like our earlier piece on the critical reception of the full game. Check that story out there.
To say Watch Dogs is an anticipated game is to do it something of a disservice. The game was announced at 2012’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, and the glimpses of gameplay Ubisoft has shown since have only heightened expectations for the game. It has just launched on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4, and will arrive on the Wii U sometime this fall. So now that the game is out, does Watch Dogs live up to the hype?
According to most critics, it’s not perfect, but it’s a very good game all the same. As of this writing, Metacritic scores it at 81 out of 100, with 44 critics weighing in. USgamer, the site that liked it the most, gave it 5 stars out of 5, saying: “Phenomenal. No other word for it.” On the low end of the scale is Eurogamer, which gave the game a 7 out of 10, saying, “It certainly entertains, but mostly through borrowed concepts.”
Watch Dogs takes place in a near-futuristic Chicago, where many aspects of the city’s infrastructure are controlled by an operating system called ctOS. That’s what allows protagonist Aiden Pearce, a hacker, to break into the system and create disorder for the sake of his clients’ ends. At the start of the game, Pearce stumbles upon a major secret, and those wishing to protect that secret kill his niece to keep him quiet. This kicks things off, as Pearce sets out to right the wrongs and make those responsible pay.
Like Grand Theft Auto V, the gameplay takes place in an open world, so you can tackle the main storyline or hundreds of side quests at your leisure, all while exploring a huge, bustling recreation of Chicago. What separates Watch Dogs most from other open-world action games is a hacking mechanic that lets you trigger events in the city’s infrastructure. You can toggle traffic lights, raise road blocks, blow up steam pipes, see through security cameras, and even hack into citizens’ bank accounts.
In The Verge’s review, the writer enjoyed the game’s backdrop but didn’t think the story did enough with it. The game world, he says, “raises all kinds of interesting questions about privacy and the role of technology in our lives, but Watch Dogs only briefly and superficially touches on any of that — instead it’s a fairly generic revenge story where technology and hacking are simply tools to kill bad guys.” Ars Technica agrees, calling the story “horribly hacky.”
But even if the story doesn’t quite hold up to a critical eye, it’s the gameplay that really counts, and it’s here where Watch Dogs delivers. With solid shooting mechanics, a good cover system, and lots of different ways to complete missions, Polygon writes: “It’s not just that there are so many options. It’s that Watch Dogs’ strong fundamentals allow for multiple good options” to complete missions.
The hacking is a unique concept among open world titles, and the game designates most of the hacks you can do to a single button press. While Eurogamer calls the hacking “undercooked,” Joystiq liked the simplicity, saying, “the lack of granular fiddling is ultimately for the better.”
Then there’s the loads of side missions and multiplayer mode, which GameSpot calls “rip-roaring fun.” Like the side missions, much of the multiplayer integration is baked right into the single-player campaign. You’ll get a little pop-up on your screen asking if you’d like to accept or deny a multiplayer invitation. As GamesRadar puts it: “There’s no disconnect, no server hassle … just the tension of playing cat-and-mouse with a real human opponent.”
Overall, perhaps Watch Dogs was a little overhyped, but it’s still a very solid game, and even slightly better than other recent AAA titles like Wolfenstein: The New Order. If you’re looking for a meaty game world to dive into on your new or old console, Watch Dogs will scratch that itch.
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