First, timing. A few weekends ago I played The Division beta and loved it and I can’t wait for that game to launch in early March. I think my anticipation for The Division is casting a pall on the rest of my backlog. Watch Dogs is what I was playing when I started to get really hyped for The Division so I continue to play it out of inertia. It doesn’t hurt that in some ways the two games feel the same (both rely on cover and 3rd person shooting in a modern setting.)
Second, the progression wheel. Watch Dogs, like every other modern game, has a lot of Achievements (well in my case Trophies, technically, since I’m playing on PS4). But unlike some games, many of them are bound to clearly quantifiable objectives that the game tracks for you. Complete X instances of Mission Type Y and earn Trophy Z. There’s an in-game interface showing your progress. What this boils down to is a checklist. If you’re a checklist lover, you can understand the satisfaction of working through that list checking things off. If not, well you’ll have to trust me. Some of us have brains that love ticking off checkboxes!
Third and most importantly, the game is just plain fun. Does it live up to that initial reveal oh so many years ago? Maybe not. Is it a little janky in spots? Sure. But I just love racing through the streets of Chicago, yanking the emergency brake to send my car into a slide, then jumping out with machine gun drawn, spitting lead everywhere. Or other times, creeping into a gangster base with a silenced pistol and taking out guards one by one. Or yet again, jumping into one of the online modes, which are super fun, with the caveat that they don’t use a central server so there’s some host advantage and at times lag.
For a long time I hated Achievements but I’ve come around to seeing them as a way to kind of nudge you towards getting more gameplay out of a title you’re enjoying. Now I finally see why I can ‘finish’ a game and only earn 30-50% of the achievements. The whole point is to give you more goals to work towards once the ending credits roll.
Anyway, yeah I love Watch Dogs. I think it’s a shame that it never got the recognition it deserved. I’ve just recently heard a rumor that we’re going to learn more about Watch Dogs 2 at E3. I sure hope it’s true. I want more!