By Jeremy Julian @FAITHFULMANTIS
The Bay Area is a hacker’s paradise, from the tech companies in the Silicon Valley to the mass amounts of connected devices in San Francisco. Ubisoft utilizes the San Francisco Bay Area to craft its hacker culture world in their newest game, “Watch_Dogs 2.”
The original “Watch_Dogs” game was released in 2014 and was met with some disappointment from critics and fans. I share in that disappointment, because of the game’s story and bland protagonist.
“Watch_Dogs 2” is a game that tries to right the wrongs of the first entry in the series. It succeeds in its efforts, and it adds so much more.
The game takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the protagonist is a smart young hacker named Marcus Holloway. Marcus, a young black man from Oakland that is a victim of the system when it comes to things like gentrification and profiling by the law.
The game begins with Marcus going through an initiation into a high profile hacker group known as DedSec, basically a parody of the group “Anonymous.” He joins DedSec in order to erase crimes brought upon him by the system.
There is an evil corporation by the name of Blume that created a countrywide grid that connects all electronic devices called the Central operation system. In the game, it is a tool used by corporations to spy on individuals.
The main problem with the original game was that it took itself too seriously in the overall tone of the protagonist’s story. Aiden Pearce, the protagonist in the original, was incredibly boring. He was a soulless character that lacked any real personality.
“Watch_Dogs 2” fixes this issue with the first game by doing a complete 180 when it comes to the story and characters. Marcus is a better character than Aiden in many aspects. He is less serious and is constantly cracks corny jokes.
Marcus is accompanied by a few of his hacker friends at DedSec and they add more personality to the story. They are integrated into every mission in some way and help Marcus.
Throughout playing the game, I noticed that it’s silly and can’t be taken too seriously, which is a good thing. Not only are the characters wacky but also some of the missions are over the top.
A memorable section of the game is when Marcus infiltrates a cult that is a parody of Scientology and it incorporates some of the game’s more hilarious characters and moments.
“Watch_Dogs 2” tells a well-written story and it keeps the tone light throughout each mission. It offers vastly improved writing over the original and sets out to do something different.
The story in the game is good, but what really adds to the overall tone is the game’s visuals. The game is noticeably brighter when it comes to the art style. The Bay Area is vibrant and colorful. This truly captures the feel of the region.
Marcus can adventure around the Bay in this game. Cities like Oakland, Marin and Palo Alto are represented, and most of the action takes place in San Francisco. Being someone that is very familiar with the Bay Area, the aspect of the game that awed me the most is the attention to detail of the region.
Seeing all of the recreated landmarks throughout the game’s map is an awesome thing to experience. Landmarks such as The Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, Jack London Square, Union Square and many more places populate the world.
The game incorporates landmarks in the Bay Area, but it also has some of the tech giants that are in the region. There is a company in the game called “Nudle” and it is a direct parody of Google and it includes an entire complex full of colorful, wacky things that pokes fun at the Googleplex.
The game doesn’t just feature these bay area locations, but it also has them in the correct area. When I wanted to go to a certain area or landmark in the City I found myself not using the map and just going there. For example I drove to the Northwestern part of the city to look for the Palace of Fine Arts and there it was in all its glory.
“Watch_Dogs 2’s” highlights aren’t only in its great portrayal of the Bay Area, but also in it’s fun and varied gameplay. Marcus is younger and more nimble than Aiden Pearce, so it incorporates some cool parkour animations.
One aspect of the first game that many complained about was the driving and handling of the vehicles. This game fixes that problem by making driving a lot easier and adding some fun handling to the vehicles. Driving in the Bay Area can be a chore, but Ubisoft actually made it enjoyable.
The best part of the gameplay in “Watch_Dogs 2” is the variety of options the player can take when tackling each mission. Players have many tools at their arsenal that go beyond just pistols and assault rifles.
Marcus is equipped with a long-range stun gun, which was easily my most-used weapon throughout the game. He also has a small RC car that can make its way into small spaces where Marcus can’t go.
The flying drone is one of my favorite features of the game because it allows Marcus to survey areas and scan for enemies before tackling a mission. The game also gives players ways to basically hack anything and everything in the city from people’s bank accounts to massive blackouts.
Hacking is an integral feature of the game and I found myself utilizing it to make my way through many of the tougher missions. It manages to make gameplay fun and unique while also making it realistic and relevant to today’s technology.
It is a game that explores many aspects of today’s internet and technology driven society. The Bay Area setting is a smart choice for Ubisoft because it fits with the overall rising technology theme of the franchise.
Marcus and his group of friends can be over the top, but it adds much needed charm to this franchise and is better because of it.
It is a great game that doesn’t take itself too seriously when it comes to the characters and crazy gameplay and it tells a well thought out story that pokes fun at many aspects of society today.
“Watch_Dogs 2” is a great title and a must buy for anyone that enjoys open world action games.