Early critical response to Watch Dogs 2 suggests that the sequel exceeds its predecessor, even though its multiplayer functionality isn't ready for launch day.
The original Watch Dogs, released in 2014, was a solid game that didn't exactly set the world alight. It was clear from the outset that Ubisoft intended for it to start a franchise, but Watch Dogs 2 would have to be a marked improvement over its predecessor for this to come to pass.
Fortunately, Ubisoft has a knack for getting open-world games right the second time around. In the same way that Assassin's Creed II turned the good ideas present in the original Assassin's Creed into a must-play experience, it seems that Watch Dogs 2 has built upon the most promising components of the first game.
However, that's not to say that Watch Dogs 2 is a perfect release. Just hours before the game was scheduled to launch, Ubisoft announced that its seamless multiplayer component wouldn't be ready in time — although a patch is already inbound.
With that in mind, here are some early critical responses to Watch Dogs 2:
Destructoid (Zack Furniss)
I expected Watch Dogs 2 to be a paint-by-numbers sequel -- more guns, more cars, a bigger playground. Instead, it gives players freedom to play with the world with hackmagic the way they want to, and crafts a memorable, mostly light-hearted story that's just a lot of fun. Considering the heavy subject matter woven in, that's even more of an accomplishment than it seems like.
Gamespot (Peter Brown)
Watch Dogs 2 makes a life of cybercrime in San Francisco almost irresistibly fun. In what turned out to be a smart maneuver, Ubisoft dialed back the self-serious cyberpunk drama from the first game, aiming for something closer to an absurd hacker sitcom with Grand Theft Auto's irreverent atmosphere.
Score: Review in Progress
IGN (Dan Stapleton)
It’s a shame Watch Dogs 2 is coming out in this partially crippled condition, because even though I wish I could recommend it more strongly, I can’t yet. If I had to score it now, I’d give it a 6.5 for okay, because I don’t think people should buy it right now unless they have no interest in the multiplayer portion. I do hope and expect that I’ll be able to raise that score in my final review, which will come later this week.
Polygon (Philip Kollar)
In expanding the first game's clever hacking options and through a story about taking on a system overwhelmingly stacked against the people, Watch Dogs 2 strikes an even more powerful chord at this precise moment in time. And if it went just a little bit farther in embracing that story and found a better balance between silliness and seriousness, it would be essential, rather than just cathartic.
Game Informer (Elise Favis)
While I haven't yet completed the game, I have some impressions to share. For the most part, Watch Dogs 2 builds on much of what lacked in the first game. Hacking is less surface-level than it was in the original, giving a more playground vibe in terms of your abilities. Two of the best additions are your drone and tiny remote-control car, which can access high or tight areas that you can't by foot. Shooting mechanics handle well and are similar to the first game, though stealth continues to be fundamentally more entertaining because of its emphasis on hacking.
While its clear that the absence of seamless multiplayer is affecting review scores, it certainly seems that Watch Dogs 2 is a sequel that improves over the original game. With a world filled with content and some interesting game mechanics, there are plenty of reasons to join up with DedSec — and there'll be even more if Ubisoft's patch can fix what's broken.
It remains to be seen whether the positive response to Watch Dogs 2 will be overshadowed by the nude screenshot controversy that's been brewing on its first day of release. However, the game itself seems to be one of the better open-world titles to release this year.
Watch Dogs 2 is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.