If you were to ask me if I thought I’d enjoy a sequel to Watch Dogs before it actually came out, my immediate response would be a definitive ‘no’. I found the first entry to the Watch Dogs series to be a mediocre experience at best. It had one of the worst protagonists that I’ve ever seen in a videogame, poor driving controls, and a storyline that failed to grab my attention.
While not perfect, Watch Dogs 2 is a clear improvement over its predecessor. The game almost stands entirely on its own, with only at least one character from the original having any significant impact on the game.
This time around, players are put in control of a new character, Marcus Holloway, a new member of hacking group DedSec, who work to take down Blume, the company behind the installation of the ctOS system in San Francisco.
Ubisoft Montreal have done an excellent job in creating a cast that feels interesting and varied. Marcus is a fun character to play as, especially in comparison to Aiden Pearce, the protagonist of the first game. He’s funny, heroic, and the many aspects of his personality are explored in detail as the story progresses.
The supporting members of DedSec, while not as fleshed out as Marcus, are also entertaining in their own right. Each member has their own unique personality traits that set each other apart, it truly makes the characters feel fresh and memorable.
In Watch Dogs 2, San Francisco is beautifully designed, with great attention to detail. When researching to find details about how Ubisoft created the space, I learned that they flew designers to the city multiple times, capturing thousands of photos and hours of videos to take back with them and create each location. There are some differences between the two, but the job that has been done is one that’s a joy to experience.
The game is held back in some respects. Despite a strong main character and supporting cast, I found it hard to remain interested in the narrative of the game. The primary antagonist is bland and isn’t around often enough to truly explore his character. It was hard to feel like I really achieved anything after completing the final mission of the game because of this.
Combat can also be frustrating at times. In most cases, the game allows you to handle situations in whatever way you want, whether that be through stealth, shooting your way through, or utilising your gadgets to handle the situation. However, in some situations it felt like I was being punished for not choosing one over the other.
While it’s not perfect, Watch Dogs 2 is a significant improvement over the first entry in the series. It improves upon many problems that I had with the original, but there are still some areas that could use some attention should Ubisoft greenlight a third entry in the series. It is an enjoyable experience, but I wouldn’t recommend purchasing Watch Dogs 2 at full price. Thankfully, the game has been on sale numerous times since its release in 2016. If you can get it at a good price, Watch Dogs 2 is worth checking out.