For the past few weeks I’ve been rummaging through my PS4’s hard drive, looking for games I haven’t played in a long time so I can decide if I want to delete them or not (in spite of upgrading to a 1.5 TB drive, the PS4 is full). Most of the time I’ve booted a game up, played for a few minutes and felt OK nuking them. Then I came to Watch Dogs, which my buddy Scott had recently gone back to and finished.
Watch Dogs, which was announced in June 2012 but didn’t come out until May 2014, was one of those games that enjoyed (?) an incredibly huge hype cycle. As with most games where the hype goes into overdrive, it didn’t live up to expectations. My recollection was that it got a lot of hate, but I couldn’t remember why I had stopped playing it.
I started a fresh game and was really enjoying it, so I decided to spend some time googling to see if I could remember why everyone (at least according to my often faulty memory) was unhappy with the game at launch. My first stop was Metacritic where I was surprised to see the PS4 version of the game had an average score of 80. USGamer gave it a perfect score of 100 and Giantbomb gave it a 60 and everyone else was somewhere in-between. So clearly the critics didn’t hate it (though with so much hype an 80 average score might have been seen as failure). Maybe it was just the players who were unhappy. I poked around in GameFaqs for a while and found a few reasons why folks were so down on it:
- 1) The final game didn’t look as good as the reveal trailer. That seems like something we should almost expect at this point, but maybe things were different back in the good old days of 2014.
- 2) The driving physics are wonky. This is a legit complaint. The high performance cars have so little traction that they’re comical to try to drive. I’m slowly getting the hang of them but you definitely do have to learn to drive anew here. Or you can do what I usually do and drive a dump truck or something. Those handle fine and are fun as hell.
- 3) Boring side missions. I’m going to speculate that these complaints came from completionists who feel like they must experience every bit of content in a game even if they’re not fun. So far the side missions are fine, but if they get boring I’ll stop doing them.
- 4) Dull story. This one I can’t comment on yet since I’m not very far in.
- 5) The online/mp system. While you’re playing Watch Dogs another player can invade your game and try to hack you. Some folks seemed really bugged by this. Of course you can turn it off, but there is a notoriety level that goes to zero if you turn off the online stuff. See above re: completionists.
I really don’t remember why I stopped playing Watch Dogs, and I didn’t get very far into it when I first played it. Maybe something else came out and distracted me with its shiny new-ness. Whatever the reason I’m glad I came back to it. It’s certainly not a perfect game (my biggest gripe is that missions could use more checkpoints) but I’ve been really enjoying myself. It’s pulled me away from all my newer games!
It’s also actually been fun re-playing content since my experience has been different in some cases. For example there’s an early mission where you have to hack a console that’s pretty deep in a construction site patrolled by enemies. I remember really struggling with this mission when I first played since there are so many guys to get past and so many ways to fail. I eventually beat it, leaving a trail of bodies behind me.
This time around, for whatever reason, I circled the area before taking any action. And I found a break in a fence that let me sneak in far enough to hack a security camera. From there I bounced to another camera (in this game if an object is visible and in range you can hack it, basically), and then to another. I was just scouting the location. Then I noticed a guard with a body camera. I hacked his body camera and I could see the console I needed to hack, but it was out of range. Then I noticed a speaker near the console, so I hacked that to make it play some strange sounds. The guard went over to check out what was going on and and I rode along in his body cam. He got close enough to the console and I hacked it. Mission success! I just snuck back out through the gap in the fence and I was done. Zero combat. No bodies to clean up.
Maybe I’m enjoying it more because I’m not in a rush to finish it? I’m not trying to storm through it as fast as possible to get on to the next thing?