Watch Dogs 2, so far, is a vastly improved sequel in many regards. It’s got a greater emphasis on hacking, more inventive areas to explore and a cast of characters that don’t feel like that one guy who sits in a corner at a party and tries to make everyone feel as bad as he does (cheers Aiden). While my review will be diving deeper into those details, there’s a facet of Watch Dogs 2 that already doesn’t sit right with me.
Tonally, Watch Dogs 2 couldn’t be more different than its predecessor. It’s lighter, funnier and more tongue-in-cheek about the way it approaches a near dystopian world on online connectivity. Even your antagonist is a caricature of a persona that people assume is behind big tech corporations, mirroring the idea that they’re just out to collect as much data from you as possible. Watch Dogs 2 amplifies this with the main cast – a bunch of hackers who love videogame, action movies, graffiti and social media. In a word, Millennial – with a big hacktivist purpose.
Dedsec’s goal here is to expose Blume and how the company is using data collection to essentially build profiles of all citizens connected to the internet. Think of all those horrible ideas you’ve seen in sci-fi films, where crimes are stopped before they’re committed of statistics based profiling, or marketing it specifically targeted at you using data you thought was private. It’s real nasty stuff that this bunch of off-beat hackers want to expose, freeing the people from their unwitting participation in making themselves online prisoners.
It’s a noble cause, and one that makes complete sense in most of the game’s actual gameplay. Using a variety of hacking tools you’re able to infiltrate security systems, leak private emails and disrupt the natural order of things without setting foot in a compound. Alternatively, you could just build an arsenal of 3D printed guns and just blow everything in front of you out of sight, and that’s where Watch Dogs 2 starts getting confusing.
Looking at Marcus alone even, it’s hard to consider him such a likeable, relatable character and then have him killing folks to get Dedsec’s job done. When he’s busy messing around with remotely controlled vehicles, or using drones to infiltrate guarding building, Watch Dogs 2 feels in-sync with its tone. The idea that Marcus is able to cripple his foes using his laptop and smartphone fit perfectly with the way the character is presented. An online activist for the modern era.
That’s undone when you choose to engage in gunplay though, and watching Marcus kill, well, anything just doesn’t seem right. Its moral repercussions are absent too, with Dedsec’s follower count climbing regardless of the way you complete a mission. I’d assume that the ruthless killing of innocent security guards wouldn’t exactly make the public empathise with Dedsec’s cause. In fact, I’d wager it to do the exact opposite, and feed into the idea that Dedsec are, at their core, terrorists.
It’s a part of narrative dissonance that the game never addresses, and that’s perfectly fine. Sandbox title like this are usually about freedom, and the freedom to let a player choose how the affect the world is part of their allure. But unlike popular examples of this genre like Grand Theft Auto V or Saints, Row, Marcus and Dedsec are trying to be the heroes here. They’re trying to be the example public should seek to follow, which is a hard sell when Marcus keeps raising the body count every time he steps outside HQ.
I’m not going to tell you how to play Watch Dogs 2, but I’ve found it most pleasing when approaching missions with only my hacking abilities and stun gun in hand. It makes Watch Dogs 2 seem far more plausible, and I just wish the game itself would at least recognise this.
Last Updated: November 18, 2016