Watch Dogs [PAX East 2013 Preview]
March 27, 2013
I went into the PAX East Watch Dogs booth very curious. I’ve watched a couple of videos about the game and am very interested in all of the stuff the game is striving to do. Being able to hack all of these separate items is going to be a big part of the game according to the preview video I saw, something that both excites me and has me wondering.
The video they showed at PAX East didn’t tell me much more that we didn’t already know from the previous video a couple of months back. The game takes place in a city that seems to be wired up under a single security database, one that your character has complete access to. He can change street lights, fiddle with security cameras, activate street barriers used by the police, and just plain short out some devices in the environment. He can also access the bank accounts and personal information of passerby, giving him the ability to clean out a bank account at will. I’m wondering if the money you get will be used for something like weapons or upgrades, but that still wasn’t shown yet.
The mission system had some interesting elements in it, too. At one point, the main character walked past a woman and the game showed some information about her in a little bubble that said she’d recently been through a custody battle. It also hinted that she may have been in some danger from the husband; something the character could follow up on if that was desired. The video showed him using that information and catching the husband during an attack on her. I expected the character to shoot him, but instead he seemed to scare the husband off with the gun, which I’m hoping means for some neat non-lethal options. The chase that followed ended when the character blew out a panel near where the husband was running to, something that was activated right in mid-chase.
There was another point in the video where the character pulled some people from the wreckage of a car, and it was explained that the news will report on the acts you are doing. It sounds like the game is going to contain an interesting morality system in that regard, and while in-game effects were spoken about the video didn’t go into detail on what they would be. I expect the people in the streets may be more helpful to you if you have a better reputation on the news, but I’m not sure yet. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
The hacking element is a very cool idea, but one I’m really wondering how will be implemented. If I can hack all manner of different things all around me, how will I be able to manually select which one and what will I do with that item after selection? It may not seem like something that could be a big problem, but it seems like the developers want to give players a lot of options like being able to hack into security cameras, traffic lights, city-wide security measures, and people’s personal information all with some relative ease. Given that you could be doing this while in the middle of a chase or shootout, I think it’s going to be important to know how all of these separate items are going to control. Is there going to be something like a general pulse that blows out nearby equipment during chases? Do I have to target an item and then be given the option to interact with it? This really could go between gimmick or elegant, memorable feature quite easily, so I’m hoping that more information on how this system will actually work for the player will appear in the coming months.
I am tentatively excited for Watch Dogs, though. The fiction of the world, one where all of our systems are wired in and accessible by hackers is an interesting version of our current reality. Having a character who is able to do that, using it to interact with the open game world in different ways than I’ve seen before, is pretty exciting to me. I’m looking forward to seeing what other ways the player will be able to interact with the world in the future. This game is aspiring to do some really cool stuff, so I hope they find an interesting way to pull it all off.