Watch Dogs 2 review

Mirror of the times. 

Xbox One tested version

When in 2012 Ubisoft unveiled the Watch Dogs, many were amazed to think of the great possibilities that hacking could offer to an open world formula. Until then, in fact, the concept of the open game world had found the ideal habitat in criminal contexts such as GTA or Saints Row. At a time when we are all connected (for real), exploring issues such as ethical hacking, cyber breakthroughs, and the ability to work for a clean digital world fascinate many. Then, two years later, WatchDogs saw the light, preserving that innovative and promising soul that so much had made gamers hope, but also coupling it to a gameplay that is not exactly fresh and rather repetitive with protagonists and history decidedly subdued. It is therefore not surprising Ubisoft's desire to immediately pause the franchise to listen to user feedback and try to improve in view of a second chapter, what still remains one of the most interesting IPs in the vast Ubisoft catalog. In 2016, after a two-year hiatus, Watch Dogs is back, completely turning the tables and trashing most of what was done in the first chapter of the series.

Of Watch Dogs 2 we could talk far and wide, but it immediately emerged that the main objective of Ubisoft during the development was only one: treat the game completely differently from the original. Goodbye Aiden, goodbye Chicago and welcome instead a swashbuckling boy who loves hip-hop, who lives in that San Francisco, one of the most characteristic cities in North America, including beach parties, alcohol, drugs and Silicon Valley. All this, as the new setting also requires, is seasoned with a decidedly more jaunty and fresh atmosphere that befits the place where the great revolution of the digital age began. Ubisoft masterfully exploits the change of scenery and with the self-irony of the greats, makes fun of itself almost by itself, abandoning the dark tones, and thus preferring to dress Watch Dogs 2 with an irreverent air. Objective hit? For us, certainly yes. In fact, the title is definitely more fun and deals with the theme of hacking and cooperations in a much better way than the debut title of the franchise. However, this did not translate into a work of total cleaning: some key elements of the series remain and draw inspiration directly from the digital world we live every day. The cTOS, that gigantic surveillance system that is supposed to represent security in all respects is still present, even though it didn't work very well in Chicago. At the head of all this we find Blume, a giant US corporation alleged to use the information collected, in a decidedly unorthodox way. And so under the hat of security hides the attempt, not too hidden, to spy on everything and everyone, a decidedly less science fiction scenario than one can imagine, thinking only of what is collected on each of us by Facebook and Google. Blume controls the lives of all of us, records every citizen that exists, but every corporation has at least one enemy. In Watch Dogs 2 there are no demonstrators ready to take to the streets or governments capable of shaking up the system, but hackers who come together under the DedSec collective. Now we can say goodbye to the stylistic elements already seen in the first Watch Dogs and instead dive into what the Ubisoft game has to offer us.

Unlike what we saw in the first chapter, The protagonist of Watch Dogs 2 is Marcus Holloway. This is literally the opposite of Pierce. If the Chicago man is living an incredible personal drama behind him (which we won't talk about here), Holloway instead lives the life that a quaslaisi boy with an average North American income should lead. Marcus enjoys life, but at the same time has fun with illegitimate cyber operations. Practice that will serve him to enter the DedSec, which is totally revolutionized compared to the first chapter. The guys who are part of the hacker collective (which is clearly inspired by Anonymus) are much more easygoing, much more party-goers, much younger. They are boys too, with their passions (such as movies), they have a meeting point located in one of those role-playing bars, they have dyed hair, they dress in shorts and they are not exactly the most apathetic people in the world. world. In DedSec we work for the common good, trying to put a spoke in the wheel and destroying a system now well accepted and hidden within the skeleton of society. To do this, however, you need consensus and the only way to get it, nowadays, is to have more people following the cause that DedSec is fighting for. In this case, therefore, the concept is simple: you get the following you need thanks to some actions that will increase the “followers” ​​bar, or followers, the unit of measurement of popularity on the web. Easy, fast and painless: Watch Dogs 2 quotes reality, slamming it in the face and laughing at it.

The gameplay of Watch Dogs 2 has been improved, but more than anything else expanded thanks to new, incredible gadgets that come straight from the pop culture of the modern world. In addition to the classic firearms we have in fact the possibility of using drones, which only in the last year have become something well known even to most. We can use the 3D printer to print our weapons and make them 100% functional. Without forgetting the use of the mobile phone. Everything passes through the DedSec app, like a command center: it allows us to view the main and secondary missions and activate them as we choose. There is the map application, which allows us to activate a navigator on the road to guide us to the exact point. The camera is a must to take selfies and photograph anything that seems fun to us. However, the focus of the game hasn't changed: to proceed, you have to solve mini puzzles. All obviously taking advantage of hacking. Whether it is to reactivate the energy or find the right way to discover the terminal to send haywire and gain access to a new game area, everything goes from unlikely combinations typed on the keyboard and mysterious hacking tricks that we mere mortals we can only imagine. Once again you can use your mobile to hack the game environment, blowing up pipes, using cameras and so on. We can also sneak into the digital lives of passersby, discovering their income, their profession and their age, as well as their “secret” passions. Finally, controlling vehicles also represents that extra bit of freedom given to the player.

Watch Dogs 2 is an ambivalent title, whether you like it or not, the gameplay works and does the job. Even on a technical level, where it certainly does not shine compared to the competition, Ubisoft gives us a real, lively San Francisco, consistent with the game world. The graphic detail may not be something that will remain imprinted for life, but all in all, one cannot be disappointed. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is made up for the most part of hip-hop pieces, which allow a full identification with the urban atmosphere of the San Francisco underground scene, but which in the long run could make us turn slightly ... 
The cleaning of the images on the screen is also good, with very detailed textures and effective anti-aliasing. Perfect lighting.

Final comment

Watchdogs 2 it is a game that knows how to make fun of itself. He deliberately abandons the too dark tones of the first chapter to wear a dress of lightness sewn with the saucy air of the west coast. Ubisoft does not spare the digs to the real world, citing social networks, control over our sensitive data (now lost forever between YouTube, Facebook and mobile devices) and some decidedly questionable personalities (like that US health entrepreneur). If you enjoyed the first chapter, Watch Dogs 2 can surely amaze you. If you hated it, Watch Dogs 2 deserves a second chance. More than dark plots, leaden accounts of a Black Mirror reality, the title's mission is to have fun and in this the Ubisoft Montreal title succeeds great.

For Cons 
- Well characterized characters
- Enjoyable history
- Virtually flawless gameplay
- Soundtrack not for everyone
- Technically not excellent
  Overall rating: 85
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