The forthcoming Watch_Dogs is a videogame about action. It’s made predominantly for a single-player to engage with and manipulate the world around them as they face new tasks set for them ahead of time by developers keen to craft a unique and memorable experience. Why then, would such a title need a multiplayer component? ‘Because they can’ would be the only answer Electronic Theatre could offer at this point.
Watch_Dogs’ multiplayer gameplay mode is a triumph of technology; a new style of gameplay born from the wide acceptance of touchscreen devices. The multiplayer component uses Watch_Dogs’ companion app, ctOS Mobile, which will be available as a free download for iOS and Android devices from the launch of the videogame. It will be compatible with all versions of the videogame, and is not restricted to a single format in each install: players will be able to join with friends on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, PC or any other format in the same universal app.
The app will feature the expected arrangement of leaderboards, statistics and profiles, but more important is the direct, real-time communication between videogame and app. Players can compete directly, with the home console or PC player existing within the same 3D world that is built for the single-player campaign and the tablet or smartphone player presented with a top-down map view of the area. Playing as an employee of Blume – the evil corporation at the heart of Watch_Dogs – the second player is tasked with preventing the first – playing as protagonist Aiden Pearce – from passing through a set number of checkpoints to reach their ultimate destination.
The build Electronic Theatre played featured just two variations on the multiplayer gameplay, challenging Pearce to hit four checkpoints in four minutes or six within five. Either way the Blume player had the same resources available to try and stop them, tapping an icon on the map to activate storm drain traps, raise bridges or close garage doors. They can also call police cars into action and create roadblocks, however they most keep Pearce within their helicopter searchlight radius at all times in order to plan their traps accurately. Pearce has all of the tricks available in the single-player open to them: stealing cars and hacking objects in the environment to create shortcuts. It’s a simple and short-lived gameplay mode that will undoubtedly be fun when playing with friends on the same couch, however the option to play when out-and-about may not prove quite as entertaining.
There’s a number of additional features promised that Electronic Theatre didn’t get to experience, such as the opportunity to create new challenges and gain experience to unlock new abilities both as Aiden and when playing on the side of Blume. All of this, Ubisoft promise, will be available without any in-app purchases whatsoever. An enticing prospect then, yet Watch_Dogs’ multiplayer component still feels like it’s an exercise in what is possible between connected formats rather than the precision development of a compelling competitive experience.