One of the big highlights from this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo was Ubisoft's "from-out-of-nowhere" project Watch Dogs. Revealed during an otherwise by-the-numbers press conference for the company, the project promised a bold new direction for action games, one where your actions actually have an effect on the environment, something you can use to your advantage when it comes to stalking particular targets. With that, we've decided to get a closer look at the trailer and analyze just what's at your fingertips within the game.
If you're unfamiliar with the way Watch Dogs is set up, or you didn't watch the trailer yet (here's a link), here's a rundown. As Aiden Pierce, a truly skilled hacker who's able to hold his own in a fight, is a master when it comes to using information warfare to his advantage. The story loosely ties in with a 2003 event where the entire Northeast was blacked out by a single hacker, who was able to manipulate an operating system. As a result, the system is run by a CtOS – a Central Operating System.
Aiden, using his savvy with the help of something as simple as a cell phone, can manipulate this system, reaching a large number of electrical objects and twisting around their operations so that he can pretty much do as he pleases. He does have an agenda, though, and isn't just tapping into the system to prove a point. He's actually hunting targets.
In the case of the demo that was presented at E3, his particular target in this case was a media mogul by the name of Joseph DeMarco. This guy's as slimy as slimy gets, as he was able to commit murder and get away with it, since the courts have wrongfully acquitted him of all charges. Not happy with seeing how things have turned out, Aiden, with the help of fellow members in an underground network, has taken the law into his own hands, stopping just short of shooting DeMarco with a gun and instead opting for a more, ahem, terminable solution.
Hacking is one of Aiden's main skills here, and in the first part of the demo, you can see how something as small as a cell phone can be used against someone. Since citizens' devices are registered within the city's central operating system, he can reach out to any of these phones and make them malfunction. If someone's on a call or trying to text someone, they'll be left confused, wondering just what's up as they attempt to get it functioning again. In this case, Aiden's main target is the cellphone of someone holding down the fort as security for an art exhibit. By distracting him, Aiden can slip past without making a scene.
Moving into the museum, you're introduced to the next step in Aiden's manipulation process – being able to tap into a phone call via surveillance. He can easily pinpoint a target and use the CtOS to dial in to their server, without their noticing, and pick up any vital information – like the location of DeMarco. It's not so much tracking him down, but finding a key opportunity to eliminate him, somewhere along the same lines as, say, Agent 47 assassinating targets in the forthcoming Hitman Absolution. Making it look like anything less than an accident will have the cops wondering what's up.
Finally, there's the last step in the plan – taking control of a traffic system. Again, it's tied into CtOS, so Aiden can easily dial up and make a light change color. By doing this, cars begin piling up in the street, and if DeMarco's car is in just the right spot, he can easily be buried underneath and killed.
In Watch Dogs, there are going to be those situations when Aiden's cover is blown, and he'll need to eventually fight his way out using whatever technical tools he can, along with occasional gunplay and physical fighting. Fortunately, it looks like the game will make sure he's not going alone, as a secondary contact with the code name "Bixxel_44" is lending a hand with his own technical throw-offs, keeping the police at bay long enough for Aiden to make his escape – and then disappearing into the night.
Watch Dogs appears to be introducing a new kind of offensive warfare that we don't see too often in games, relying just as much on strategy as it is completing missions with utmost aggression. Since we haven't gone hands-on with the game yet, it's hard to tell just how the gameplay will feel. However, we're still intrigued, and once 2013 rolls around, we'll finally get to see how Watch Dogs truly comes together.
Be sure to check back for an updated hands-on report, as well as additional strategies.