At a time when original intellectual properties (IP) are considered to be rarer than ever before, Ubisoft’s bold unveiling of Watch_Dogs wows audiences last year. Since then a steady campaign of screenshots, trailers, interviews and the occasional hands-on presentation has ensured that players remain in invested in the idea, and Electronic Theatre’s time with the videogame suggests that it’s wise to keep the videogame firmly on your radar.
Despite promises of grand innovation Watch_Dogs plays to the established template for open world videogames. Players will run through the streets, steal cars, pursue their enemies and engage in espionage all within a single hour of gameplay, and its unique invention takes place within this predefined ruleset. Watch_Dogs features a much greater level of interactivity than any other open world videogame simply by giving players command of typically inanimate objects.
Video cameras, ATMs, bollards, bridges and much more bow to your whim as you can command them to do your bidding. The actions available are limited – after all, what more can a bridge do than be raised or lowered? – but the ability to directly influence your success or failure is not to be overlooked. Hacking a phone to distract the owner, the ATM to cause a public distraction, raising a bollard to prevent a pursuer, these are the most obvious of interaction but after just a few minutes with Watch_Dogs players will immediately begin to think of more inventive opportunities.
While the mission structure will often demand that the player take control of specific items or objects, it’s in the moments of creativity that Watch_Dogs is at its finest. Players are able to connect to local items in all paces, from stationary to sprinting, aboard a train to driving a car. The connection is well signposted, perfectly balanced in terms of time delay and inviting experimentation at all times. Watch_Dogs may not strike a new chord for open world gameplay itself, but it certainly does for action videogame design.
Watch_Dogs presents a solid argument for utilising next-generation hardware for more than just visual quality: there is so much interactivity that you’re simply spoilt for choice. Watch_Dogs has the potential to be a landmark release – a turning point for open world experiences – but even in the worst case scenario Ubisoft are creating what is likely to be an enjoyable free roaming action videogame, if nothing more. Watch_Dogs will be available for all home consoles and PC this winter, and Electronic Theatre will bring you much more on the videogame in the near future.