Preview: Watch Dogs 2’s First Four Hours Leave a Great Impression

By | 1 month ago 

Check out the entire Cyber Rider mission sequence from the upcoming Watch Dogs 2 in this brand new preview footage recorded by Game Rant in San Francisco.

With the release of Watch Dogs 2 now under a month away, Ubisoft has once again allowed Game Rant to go hands-on with new sections of the game to help fans determine whether or not this is the sequel they’ve been clamoring for ever since the original Watch Dogs showed so much promise. We were fortunate enough to record some Watch Dogs 2 hands-on footage a month ago, an experience that showcased just how big a departure Watch Dogs 2 will be from its predecessor. That gameplay session lasted just around two hours, however the gameplay discussed in this one has been taken from a hands-on experience that more than doubled the previous session’s length.

Coming into the extended playthrough, which was essentially the first four hours of the game, we had a number of questions stemming from our previous visit with Marcus and his band of misfits. Earlier, we had praised the tone of the game as an essential component in separating it from its dreary predecessor – would that vibrancy survive a longer playthrough, or would it be an occasional bright spot buried underneath references to hacking and Big Brother?

Luckily for gamers excited about one of the most anticipated games of the holiday season, it appears concerns over consistency in writing and delivery were ill-founded. While there were a few moments in the game that felt a little sophomoric even for a group of twenty-something anti-authoritarian hackers, those were few and far between, and for the most part Watch Dogs 2 looks like the series has finally found its voice in Marcus Holloway and crew.

The game’s first few missions, including the Cyber Rider sequence in the video above, advanced the plot and poked fun at various figures and organizations in popular culture, forgoing the gravel-voiced machismo that drowned out most of the joy in the original Watch Dogs. In a side mission, Marcus steals a sample from famous rapper Bobo Dakes and has the rest of DedSec create a soundboard to imitate the musician, using a combination of both to swindle unlikable pharmaceutical millionaire Gene Carcani. It’s a bit of an on-the-nose reference to Martin Shkreli, but it’s fun, humorous, and makes Watch Dogs 2 feel like it’s really trying to make a statement about technology, privacy, and hacktivism.

Watch Dogs 2 is also willing to embrace the more ridiculous side of hacker culture that has been exaggerated by Hollywood films. In Cyber Driver, Marcus and Wrench gush over their favorite “bad” action-film star, Jimmy Siska – who is meant to be a stand-in for Tom Cruise in a later mission that spoofs Scientology – while their other team members groan over their stupidity. They’re nerds, but they aren’t being made fun of for being that way, and they embrace that quality and wear it as a badge of honor. It’s something that an out-of-touch team of writers would have butchered, but Watch Dogs 2 navigates that space with style and grace.

We enjoyed our last playthrough well-enough, but then again, we had been gifted with a nearly-complete skill tree and more cash than we knew what to do with, making the missions relatively easy to complete and making Marcus feel like an all-powerful hacking god. That’s a fine way to have a character end up after hours of in-game progression, but it can also mask some growing pains in games that don’t hit their stride until players have slogged through slow, under-powered early missions to “earn” their most useful skills.

This time around, Marcus started as he would in the beginning of a brand new game. Gone were the over-powered, chaotic, and extremely fun “world” hacks that could decimate entire streets of cars. In their place is a main character with a phone, a huge chip on his shoulder, and the knowledge to do some serious damage to an unsuspecting San Francisco.

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It would be difficult to overstate just how much more fun starting from scratch with Marcus was. Watch Dogs 2 features smart gameplay design that has Marcus and the player evolve as the missions become progressively more difficult, softening the learning curve of an admittedly dizzying array of potential skills by introducing the most important ones first. The in-game progression feels organic, and never appears to be arbitrarily easy or difficult simply because a mission takes place at a certain point in the narrative – every mission builds off of others, and we found ourselves developing a better Watch Dogs 2 skillset in just a couple of hours as a result.

While shooting a gun is still important in Watch Dogs 2, that developing skillset definitely feels as though it favors a stealth approach to some of the game’s larger areas. That isn’t to say Marcus isn’t capable of wading through a storm of bullets and firing back his own – in fact, he’d probably love to, given his fondness for Siska – but the levels are laid out in such a way that they also reward players attempting to “ghost” their way through. That’s a big step up from the original Watch Dogs, which usually saw every mission devolve into a gunfight at some point, and it’s yet more evidence Ubisoft has learned from its mistakes and re-designed the Watch Dogs 2 experience from the ground up.

Nothing embodies that feeling more than when a player is tasked with driving in Watch Dogs 2. As we stated in our earlier hands-on session, the experience feels a lot tighter than its predecessor, which made driving sports cars feel like maneuvering an over-burdened transport truck. Now, after even more time behind the various wheels of Watch Dogs 2, we are confident in saying it has one of the better, if not simpler, open-world driving experiences in recent memory. Not many cars stand out, aside from Cyber Driver and an ubiquitous taco truck that seems to pop up everywhere in the city, but it never feels as though gamers will be cheated out of a mission success due to faulty driving physics or bad handling.

After a second serving of Watch Dogs 2, many of our concerns have been alleviated. The reliance on the drone from the earlier session is likely because it takes a long time to acquire in-game, and the generic feeling of the driving actually feels more like a boon after experiencing some more vehicle-based missions. While there’s a lot of game left to be explored, from what we’ve seen so far, it looks like Marcus and a sunny San Francisco setting are exactly what Watch Dogs 2 needs to succeed.

Watch Dogs 2 will be available on November 15, 2016 for PS4 and Xbox One, with a delayed PC release scheduled for November 29, 2016.