Hands On: Watch Dogs 2 Makes the Franchise Interesting Again

Watch Dogs 2 Preview

One editor gives his take on Ubisoft's Watch Dogs 2 after some hands-on time, trying out the game's new setting, hacking options, and co-op in the process.

Let's face it, the franchise debut of Watch Dogs made for a lukewarm game. That's not to write it off completely, but it was ultimately filled with promising ideas that never quite delivered as intended. As a result, the announcement of Watch Dogs 2 was a rather whelming affair in the eyes of many that didn't particularly feel one way or the other about the Ubisoft property. Heading into the appointment, I was still largely skeptical of the sequel, but Ubisoft managed to secure my interest rather quickly.

What makes itself immediately apparent in Watch Dogs 2 is the thematic change from dark and gritty to bright and fun. This is done through the game's new setting, San Francisco, which offers up a unique environment when compared to the largely generic and gray Chicago landscape of the original. It's an awe-inspiring locale that perfectly compliments the intricacies of the title's newest upgrades, and it's something that existing fans and newcomers alike are sure to enjoy.

Watch Dogs 2 Setting

Of course, these changes play to the elevated fun factor that makes itself apparent in the new and improved abilities that the new protagonist possesses. The newest hero, Marcus Holloway, ditches the scruffy voice and brooding persona in favor a more comedic, albeit driven, personality. He's joined by several other characters that have a similar stance as well, making the entire experience feel more full circle and inviting in the wake of its predecessor. Of course, fans of the original will find a lot has been fine-tuned and enhanced as well – beginning with the driving.

Given the setting of San Fran, a lot more verticality is immediately present in any situation, and transportation becomes a vital resource for any wannabe hacker that would rather get from point A to B without need for a serious cardio workout. In terms of the actual driving itself, I'm happy to report that the once muddled and generic handling of the vehicles has been completely forgotten in favor of a much more realistic one. Depending on the vehicle, it's now harder to turn while speeding up, allowing for ample drifting for those willing to master the much more realistic way these faux automobiles handle.

When cruising around, Ubisoft has played into the infamous rolling hills of the region to provide users with a scene that's worth taking a moment to take in. The enhanced visuals – likely brought about by the fact that Watch Dogs 2 is built for current-gen consoles rather than a shared release across several less-powerful systems – are top-notch, and will do nothing but pull you into the vibrant city that Ubi has recreated. Of course, it's important to take in these sorts of things before causing immeasurable amounts of chaos in the bright and go-lucky world of Watch Dogs.

Watch Dogs 2 Screenshots

This aforementioned chaos can be brought about through violence, but hacking is truly what makes the property stand out. Fortunately, the devs have enhanced the options for players in a major way, allowing for a refined way to play through many different in-game scenarios. One way this has been done is through the upgraded number of options that are available for any given hackable. Whether it be a crane, a car, or a phone, the world is DedSec's oyster and there's a lot of fun to be had.

In one instance, I stumbled upon an in-game civilian that cosplayed for a living. Without giving it much thought, I sent a hit squad after the hapless individual, and all hell broke loose as the hitmen arrived in one vehicle and the police pursued in another. I was instructed to exit the scene by the developer, only to stumble upon the bodies and vehicles of several now non-living characters in an all out war zone later on. The impact of any hack is now noticeable ten fold, and there will be plenty of mischief for gamers to get up to as a result.

Watch Dogs 2 Quadcopter

Finally, the retooled co-op sets aside the player versus player elements of the first iteration to embrace the new mentality of the sequel, allowing friends and strangers alike to work together on several missions. Stumbling upon players within the game's world, these fellow DedSec members can partner up with users to help them overcome select missions. Sadly, these co-op elements are largely left out of the main narrative itself, leaving users to simply trek through several generic missions, but the option to partner up is one that works well within the context of the game.

As someone that was put off by the original game, I'm actually excited to see where Ubisoft takes Watch Dogs 2. Weaving through slanted traffic, teaming up with a friend to take down corrupted members of the establishment, and putting out death warrants for unsuspecting cosplayers are all just smaller pieces of the bigger picture here. Now we'll have to wait and see if the final game holds up later this year.

Watch Dogs 2 is arriving for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on November 15, 2016.

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