Watch Dogs 2: One heck of a hacking game

A screenshot of Watch Dogs 2. The main aim of the game is to help a fictional computer hacking syndicate take down a large corporation.
A screenshot of Watch Dogs 2. The main aim of the game is to help a fictional computer hacking syndicate take down a large corporation.PHOTO: UBISOFT

The original Watch Dogs - released in 2014 - was a third-person action adventure set in Chicago about a white man, Aiden Pearce, set on revenge over his niece's death. The gameplay was linear and the vigilante Pearce was widely criticised for being boring.

Watch Dogs 2 is still a third-person action adventure, but you are Marcus Holloway, a cool black man (good to see a black lead in a video game) roped in to join the computer hacking syndicate DedSec.

The game is now set in the San Francisco Bay Area. Considering this game is all about hacking and giving big corporations the finger, the new environment is pretty apt.

The opening moments lead you through the basics of movement, shooting and hacking. You are not only a genius hacker, but you can also parkour over cars and backflip down buildings while taking down your enemies using either melee or guns.

You can also use your smartphone to do anything, such as unlocking doors, overloading circuit boxesand blowing up gas pipes.

You can do so because you have hacked into ctOS 2.0, the city's central operation system. Created by Blume Corporation, ctOS 2.0 connects everyone with everything, and thus controls every element of life.

  • 9/10


    PRICE: $69.90 (PC, version tested), $76.90 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One)

    GENRE: Action adventure

The main aim is to take down Blume Corporation. And you do that by getting DedSec more followers, so that the syndicate can get more processing power to take out the evil corporation.

To do so, there are main missions as well as plenty of side missions you can do, such as putting up big billboards to attract more followers.

You will be joined by Dedsec's colourful crew - leader and talented artist Sitara, quiet but brilliant hacker Josh, and Wrench, who is masked, crazy and loves to build things. They are the ones giving you the missions. There are some hilarious dialogues to make sure nothing is dull in this game.

Unlike gloomy Chicago in the previous version, the San Francisco Bay Area is beautifully crafted. There is plenty of life with cars honking, cable cars cranking and people walking around. Not to mention, San Francisco is my favourite US city. I can remember all the main attractions and, in some instances, I can even find my way around without using the game's Nudle Maps, which is inspired by Google Maps.

There are plenty of things to do, like being a DriverSF (aka Uber) driver, or racing in eKart challenges. You can also steal or buy cars and drive to your destinations.

But I prefer fast travel as it is more time-saving. Furthermore, the cars' handling is really bad. And each car does not have its own unique drive, unlike in Grand Theft Auto 5.

Plus, the fun part when on foot is that you can hack into people to wire their money to your bank account, overheat their smartphones, and recharge your bots (needed for hacking).

When you gain enough followers, you get research points to unlock new skills, such as improving gun skills or being able to remotely control cranes and cars.

At DedSec headquarters, there is a 3D printer that is able to print out drones and guns as long as you have the moolah. And, you will be able to use up to two drones - one land-based, and one that can fly.

On the downside, the hacking can be a tad anti-climactic. Often, you cannot hack a door open. Instead, you have to find a switch panel to activate the control. That is when you need the drones to access places you cannot.

But, there is no one way to finish a mission. You can go in stealth or with guns blazing. You can also use all the tools at your disposal, like remotely crashing a car to divert the attention of security guards or rally gang members to rough up a target.

The story mode will probably take you at least 20 hours. But if you lovedoing the side missions and exploring every square inch of the Bay Area, you might find yourself easily spending 40 hours on the game.

•Verdict: Watch Dogs 2 is the hacking great game that the original should have been.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2016, with the headline 'Watch Dogs 2: One heck of a hacking game'. Print Edition | Subscribe