Watch Dogs 2 is everything the original should have been, and it’s great that we finally finally get the game we’ve been looking forward to since 2014. I’ve been enjoying the hell out of this game, considering it’s rectified every single gripe I had with the original. To start with, the story is far more coherent, the main character isn’t an absolute bore, and the more lighthearted tone works far better considering the subject matter.
The game revolves around a hacker group called Dedsec, of which you are the newest member: Marcus Holloway. San Francisco is one of the newest cities to recently become monitored by ctOS, the new advanced operating system being implemented country-wide. After being wrongfully accused by ctOS of being a criminal, Marcus feels morally obligated to join Dedsec and work on taking down ctOS, as well as its parent company, Blume. This is a far more interesting way to introduce our main character, rather than having him be put on some aimless, poorly told revenge tale. Marcus’ morally driven motivation to take down ctOS because of his involvement in it allows us to become more easily invested in this story.
Using your smartphone, you have the ability to hack into just about anything: security cameras, cellphones, electrical boxes, etc. This creates some pretty interesting combat scenarios, where you’re provided the liberty to handle them in whichever way you’d like. You can sneak past people by distracting them with fake text messages, or lock electronic doors to prevent anyone from finding you in a room. The first weapon you are provided with is a stun gun, but you eventually gain access to 3D-printed guns and drones to make combat (or stealth) way easier and more versatile. Marcus just doesn’t seem like the type of guy to kill people, though. It’s an option, but stealth is clearly the favored approach. Seeing him blatantly murder people and go right back to trying to impede the surveillance state of the city is rather jarring. But if you are able to get past that, the game opens up even more for you.
San Francisco is ridiculously vivid, considering how it’s a more condensed version of the city itself. From forests to beaches, to the pretentiousness of Silicon Valley and tech startups, the city makes for a wonderful sandbox to explore. The social commentary on the tech-driven state of the world, as well as stuff like scientology and the influence of celebrity culture in our society is funny and endearing.
There are also a multitude of clever puzzles to solve too, asking you to often interconnect device signals to reach certain obstacles like open doors or steal access keys. These are all intricately crafted, some of which I’ve spent hours trying to complete. Solving them feels immensely satisfying, and the thrill of completing these puzzles while trying not to get caught by enemies is unparalleled.
Watch Dogs 2 is a huge improvement over the original in every way. The protagonist is someone you can sympathize and root for. The vividness and lighthearted atmosphere of San Francisco absolutely crushes the ugly, boring version of Chicago that the original presented us with. The hacking is far more versatile, way more fun, and the driving isn’t abysmal this time around. If you haven’t played Watch Dogs 2, I highly urge you to. I felt duped by the original, but with the sequel, I received way more than I could have hoped for.