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Watch_Dogs 2 Review

2017-01-28

Hey, hi, hello! You’ve arrived! Strap in because I’ve got a Watch_Dogs 2 review right here waiting for you!

Golden Gate Bridge Image courtesy of Ubisoft

The first Watch_Dogs has been widely criticized for its unsympathetic vigilante protagonist and its cynical, nihilistic view of future Chicago. Watch_Dogs 2 thankfully forgoes this with an inclusive, diverse cast of characters set in San Francisco in a hopeful fight against the system. The characterization is shallow overall (with some reliance on audio log exposition), but it still provides a refreshing and fun adventure. Marcus Holloway, your character, feels like someone you know; that lovable nerd fascinated by hacking and its history, a fan of Tom Cruise-alike action movies, and that friend that always has your back no matter what. The other members of Dedsec — Sitara, Josh, Horatio, and Wrench — fall into that same earnest yet hyperreal space.

Marcus and Wrench Image courtesy of Ubisoft

As for the narrative, Watch_Dogs 2 tackles the growing landscape of big data, government surveillance, and rampant capitalism, which feels even more (unintentionally) prescient today with the election of Donald Trump. Just this week he floated the idea of closing off parts of the internet. One example from the game is a congressman up for election, and he’s backed by the money and fake news/opinion altering corporation !Nvite (our Twitter/Facebook equivalent). Dedsec can’t change the opinion of the public though: this is a welcome, though not always present enough ideology throughout the game. Dedsec can only expose the lies — give the power back to people — which is reiterated at the end of their recruitment propaganda videos: “Dedsec will give you the truth. Do what you will.”

There are even moments in Watch_Dogs 2 that comment on race, specifically the mission at Nudle (our Google equivalent), showing a part of what it means to be black in a society that still harbors racism. Unfortunately Ubisoft makes the mistake of killing Horatio and effectively erases his existence from the game. Race never comes up again in any meaningful way and none of the members of Dedsec talk about Horatio after avenging his death.

Hacking Image courtesy of Ubisoft

Unfortunately the mechanics aren’t as progressive as the story, ruining the mood sometimes. Ubisoft has found something interesting here with hacking and its digitally connected world, but they’re still stuck in the GTA roots of having to provide a violent, gun-filled pathway for the player. Sometimes that narratively out of place violence is the only viable way to complete the mission. I would have liked to see Ubisoft have the confidence in leaving the GTA inspirations behind and fully embrace the foundation they’ve built.

Watch_Dogs 2 earns a 3 out of 5.

Just like the loving members of Dedsec, don’t ever forget that you’re wonderful!

-Corey


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