In an industry where sequels and spin-offs set blockbuster records year after year, it’s become increasingly difficult to find studios that are willing to test-out new IP’s. Despite record-setting sales numbers for the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Ubisoft Montreal has been hard at work on an entirely new title, Watch Dogs, which (for anyone attending the publisher’s E3 2012 panel) is quickly becoming one of the show’s most talked about properties. Apparently, game fans are still hungry for all-new stories and adventures – even in an industry that prefers to churn out one sequel (or spin-off) after another.
Instead, Watch Dogs joins the ranks of a select few original blockbuster IP’s from trusted franchise developers (ex. Last of Us from Naughty Dog) which are primed to provide players with new, albeit very different, worlds to explore – and mysteries to solve.
We touched briefly on the Watch Dogs announcement footage in a recent E3 trailer round-up but, for any readers who may have missed the opportunity to see the game in action – check out the Watch Dogs intro video as well as in-game footage below:
The closed-door presentation of the title didn’t showcase any new footage but, unlike the “let the demo speak for itself” Ubisoft briefing, developer team members were available to put the on-screen action into context. While the Watch Dogs story is still under tight wraps, the core set-up surrounds an increasingly interconnected (and hackable) online society – which is, unknowingly, controlled by large corporations via a Central Operating System. As described in the intro video above, the CTOS monitors and analyzes everyone to determine two things:
- What you think.
- What you believe.
As individuals becomes increasingly dependent on connected systems (mobile phones, the Internet) they provide more and more customized data to the system – and the CTOS is able to to manipulate, among other things, consumer behavior (“personalized” Facebook ads are a real-world example) as well as influence social interactions (by manipulating the accessibility of certain information). The premise alone could have served as the foundation for a great sci-fi film or novel series; however, as a game, the set-up has some especially intriguing potential as an interactive experience.
Players take control of Aiden Pearce, presented as a slick but brutal underground operative type – who, like most sci-fi heroes in corporate-owned societies, is (probably) taking-down one shady character after another on his way to unseating the veiled forces that control the CTOS. As mentioned, Ubisoft wasn’t ready to reveal too many details about the storyline (or Pearce) and focused the majority of the demo time to showcasing a variety of ways that Pearce can utilize the CTOS to his advantage. According to the developers, anything in the open world environment that is “connected” is also “hackable.” In most cases, hacking works on the fly: Aiden selects a connected device (which are highlighted in the environment) and, with the push of a button, gains access. It’s a nice change of pace from the now staple mini-game hacking mechanics of other titles (such as Batman: Arkham City‘s cryptographic sequencer gameplay) – though, it’s hard to imagine that some targets won’t require a bit more effort from Pearce (and subsequently the player).
Once accessed, gamers can listen-in on private phone calls or scan an area using mounted security cameras – but that’s only the beginning. As demoed in the gameplay video, Pearce can take control of traffic lights – in order to set traps for high-speed enemies – or disrupt radio and cellular communications in a given area to avoid a confrontation with enemies (or the authorities). Gamers can also use the “profiler” feature to hack surrounding (and connected) individuals for exploitable personal details as well as threat and aggression levels.
In addition, Ubisoft teased mobile integration that would allow players using an iPad (or similar devices) to access information about “profiled” characters – without having to pause the game. The mobile integration will also allow players to scan the game map in real-time for surveilled enemies and multiplayer friends – opening the door for what looks to be an extremely innovative online component (though the developer wasn’t ready to get too specific).
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Watch Dogs does not yet have a release date.