Watch Dogs 2 is the sequel to the 2014 open world hacking game by Ubisoft Montreal. It is larger and more developed than the original, and puts players in the role of Marcus Holloway, a resident of the sunny San Francisco Bay Area.
The game takes place in a world shortly after the installation of the “ctOS,” an advanced surveillance and data collection system, which controls cities across North America and connects citizens to the cities in which they live. Marcus — after being profiled as a potential criminal due to his race (African American) and skill with technology — joins the hacker collective known as DedSec to take down the company in charge of the system.
Players are given more ways to explore and interact with the world with the addition of a far more detailed hacking system, allowing them to hack into cars in traffic to clear a path, for example. Missions in this game are much more open than the previous game, with many able to be completed entirely remotely through the use of the newly added land- and air-based drones.
While the opinion of the original Watch Dogs was mostly positive, there was still much to be desired. Having been released less than a year after the latest Grand Theft Auto game, the original Watch Dogs did not quite overthrow the king of open world games; there was a glut of very diverse yet inconsequential side activities, the grimy streets of Chicago were not as engaging as the fictionalized Los Angeles of Grand Theft Auto, and the driving was somehow both too weightless and too clunky.
In the marketing prior to the recent release, the developers repeatedly underscored that the sequel would address the issues in the original game.
The most notable change is in the tone of the story. Whereas the first game was a gritty story of death and revenge with a perpetually grumpy and largely non-descript protagonist, Watch Dogs 2 is much more cheerful and fun. The move to the brighter Californian coast makes the game much more inviting than the dark underbelly of Chicago. Although protagonist Marcus Holloway also seeks revenge, he still manages to keep a sense of humour, which provides nice variety when compared to the constant intensity of the previous protagonist.
While the first game curiously chose to deal with street gangs and family drama, the new location of Watch Dogs 2 allows it to more easily set its sights on corporations, featuring a number of fictional counterparts to tech giants like Facebook, Google, and even Ubisoft itself.
The driving has also been vastly improved. The game shows off its new driving system by including a high-speed chase relatively early in the game, putting the player behind the wheel of a muscle car modified with boosters. It’s not quite at the level set by Grand Theft Auto but it’s very close.
A hope held by many fans was that if the leap in quality between the first and second Watch Dogs games was as big as the leap between the first two Assassin’s Creed games, also by Ubisoft, then Watch Dogs 2 would be a great game. With Watch Dogs 2, Ubisoft Montreal has succeeded in making a very fun game, and didn’t crush the hopes of fans.