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DoubleTake: Watch Dogs

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Posted on August 27, 2013 AT 01:07pm

I’m calling hax on that one

Josh This DoubleTake should actually be fairly interesting, because we had completely different hands-on experiences with Watch Dogs. You did a bit more of a guided tour, Ray—essentially the hands-off demo we saw at E3—while I just mucked about in the open world for a bit and went toe-to-toe with one of the developers using the iOS companion app to ruin my day. I’m curious: Did actually playing that small slice of the game impress you more than just seeing it?
I don’t know if I’d say “impress” as much as I’d say it reaffirmed my views on what’s shaping up to be a stellar open-world experience. Like you said, I got more of a guided tour, so it was harder for me to really push the game’s boundaries as you might have been able to, but everything about Watch Dogs felt smooth. While it took some getting used to, I was hacking away at everything in sight and almost got lost in stealing ATM information from NPCs to the point that our guide had to insist on me continuing the mission. The whole experience felt like I expected it to after watching countless demos, so I was satisfied, if not wholly impressed. Ray
Josh Yeah. While you had a lot more time to actually see how the hacking would play out during missions, I was impressed by how smooth it was when I was just screwing around and legging it away from the cops. For a game that relies so heavily on context sensitivity, the only time I did something unintentionally was when I tried to get into a car and accidentally climbed on top of it. Probably not a fair critique on that front, though, since the developers warned us about that before we started playing and said that the controls were being reworked to fix that for the final build. Other than that, I was pretty much able to do whatever I wanted without any fuss or forethought. What’d you think of the city itself?
The city’s size was imposing. Out in the suburbs, I felt like it was any other open-world game, but once we got in the actual cityscape, I thought I could get lost down any alleyway and not come out for ages. But for as imposing the city felt in regards to its size—and especially its verticality—the HUD did a great job of keeping me from getting lost. The attention to detail was exquisite; every nook and cranny felt like it had been hand-sculpted just for that part of the game. I wish I could’ve explored more, but the demos don’t do the city justice until you go hands-on and play around inside it. Ray

Josh I don’t know about you, but I’m not really intimately familiar with Chicago. My experience there consists of O’Hare Airport and the one time we drove through the suburbs and stopped at a White Castle. (Did you know they sell a cardboard briefcase full of cheeseburgers? America, am I right?) But I have to say, as an ignorant outsider, it was a fairly believable facsimile. It just felt like a real city, with enough grit, detail, and variety to sell me on the entire illusion. I spent most of my time in the downtown area, which is usually just a lot of tall, inaccessible buildings and bland alleys in any open-world game. Here, though, I felt like there were a lot of unexpected routes. I drove through an underground parking garage to give the cops the slip, and while I completely blew it—I accidentally closed the exit gate on top of my car as I was driving under—I’m hoping to still find that kind of depth after a dozen-plus hours exploring. I’m pretty jealous that you got to see the Dark Souls–esque PvP stuff. How’d that treat you?
You mean where someone hacked into my game and tried to stick it to me and then how I hacked into their game and stuck it to them instead? Awesome. It’s a little disorienting at first when you realize there’s someone else inside your single-player game, but if you keep your head—which is more difficult than it sounds, given the timer—you can have a lot of fun playing super-sleuth and trying to track this seemingly innocent NPC down. I admit, my target almost got away because of my inexperience with the controls, and I had to resort to shooting up a car they tried to get away in to succeed, but it was immensely satisfying. What was great, though, was when I then hacked this person back. To me, I still looked like the protagonist, Aiden. To them, I’d become this malicious NPC. I had a lot more success, though, and I was able to hide far away from my target after I hacked them. Definitely get your butt in gear once the hack is done, folks! It’s a smaller search radius than you might expect. I could see myself not making a lot of single-player progress and spending all day hacking my friends, because it’s definitely one of the more intriguing challenges I’ve seen in a game like this. Ray
Josh I agree. I’m sure I’ll probably be a grouch and play offline the entire time so I don’t have to worry about getting distracted by some moron trying to subject me to violent identity theft, but I have to give them props for trying something a little different, especially when it fits this well with the overall theme of the game. I felt the same way about the iOS app integration they showed off, where someone on a tablet could make point-to-point challenges for me, then try to spoil my fun by setting off traps and sending in police helicopters along the way. It’s certainly no cakewalk, especially when they cause the steam pipe in the middle of the street to explode and send your car careening into a building. We see a lot of second-screen stuff that’s basically a glorified map, but there’s actual gameplay involved here. That’s admirable, even if I’d rather be left alone while playing. So, a definite thumbs up on Watch Dogs from me, even at this early stage. What’s your final word, Ray? Does this thing get the full Siskel & Ebert?
Yep. This is a resounding two thumbs up from us, I’d say. So…does that make me Ebert? Ray
Josh Yes. An angry, Batman-loving Ebert.
Josh Harmon, Associate Editor
Josh Harmon picked up a controller when he was 3 years old—and he hasn't looked back since. This has made him particularly vulnerable to attacks from behind. He joined EGM as an intern following a brief-but-storied career on a number of small gaming blogs across the Internet. Follow him on Twitter @jorshy. Meet the rest of the crew.

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