One year ago, Ubisoft introduced its new title, Watch_Dogs, at E3 2012 with an arresting trailer and gameplay demo, and an intriguing central concept. The game takes place in a timeline slightly divergent from our own, in which every electronic system in Chicago is configured to be run by a single citywide operating system – the ctOS – leaving an avenue for those in control of the system, and those with the talent to hack it, to gain access to every aspect of Chicago citizens’ lives.

E3 2013 kicked off today and there has already been a wave of announcements and trailers for both new installments in existing franchises and brand new IPs for next-gen consoles. With the release of Watch_Dogs now only five months away, Ubisoft has also unveiled a brand new trailer for the game and will no doubt be revealing more details – and hopefully more gameplay footage – over the course of E3.

One thing that particularly stands out about this trailer are the graphics, which at times border on photo-realism and may even have you squinting to try and figure out whether you’re watching a live action trailer. Obviously pre-rendered footage can’t really give any indication of what the game will look like in practice, but it nonetheless makes for quite an impressive trailer, visually speaking.

'Watch Dogs' E3 Trailer

Though Watch Dogs will have an overarching story, it will predominantly be a sandbox vigilante game wherein the player can select targets based on information gathered from hacking into phones or laptops, track those targets down and either deliver justice directly or simply lead the police to their doorstep. This can be used for crimes as elaborate as a human trafficking ring or, as shown in previous gameplay footage, for something as simple as preventing street violence.

It’s evident that the scope and possibilities of hacking the ctOS are a big part of what makes Watch_Dogs stand out from the crowd, and that aspect of the gameplay does get some attention in this trailer: bookending protagonist Aiden Pearce’s raid of the human trafficking operation with his hacking of the target’s phone and his ability to kill all the lights on the block in order to escape the cops. There is a natural challenge to incorporating hacking into an action-packed trailer, considering that it’s mostly achieved using a smartphone, but it’s integrated smoothly into combat when Pearce is shown manipulating the building’s fire control system to dowse the room with water. It’s difficult to tell exactly what this actually achieves, beyond making the table slippery enough that he can slide across it, but it’s probably a handy app to have.

Aiden Pearce in 'Watch Dogs'

If there is one thing that continues to slightly underwhelm in this trailer, it’s the characterization of Aiden Pearce: a gruff-voiced hacker who takes on criminals because – according to the voiceover – he’s “made mistakes, hurt the people I love, all because of men like you.” Most of his lines in the video are so generic that it might actually have been better off with no narration at all; if anything, they actually break the atmosphere rather than help to build it up. Let’s hope that the vagaries of Pearce’s character are the result of Ubisoft’s desire for plot secrecy, and he’ll become a lot more fleshed out in the game itself, because he’s currently coming across as a hurried pencil sketch of an obligingly angst-ridden vigilante.

All told, Watch_Dogs is earning its place as one of the most highly-anticipated releases of this year. There’s boundless potential here, not only for exciting and innovative gameplay, but also for some poignant socio-political commentary on the potential implications of the all-digital age.

Do you think that Chicago under ctOS rule sounds like a dystopia or a utopia? Tell us what you think of this new trailer in the comments, and keep checking in on Game Rant for more news from the front lines of E3.

Watch Dogs releases November 19, 2013, for the PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U, with releases also planned for the PS4 and Xbox One.