The original release of “Watch Dogs” in 2014 stands as a bit of an oddity. It was a quality game that did plenty right and still it failed to meet the expectations of the masses who were pumped for the open-world experience.
Clearly, publisher Ubisoft paid attention because “Watch Dogs 2” improves upon the original in every way.
The sullen protagonist of the first game is gone, replaced in the sequel with charismatic Marcus Holloway. Marcus brings with him a more loose tone, one that follows hacktivist group Dedsec as it aims to expose nefarious corporations hording data on the American public.
Although the plot of the roughly 20-hour main story does have its heavy moments, by and large the game reflects its group of wisecracking, pop culture loving millennials who enjoy causing mischief on their way to taking down “the man.” Early missions include putting a Pharma Bro clone in his place and stealing a doppelgänger of KITT from “Knight Rider” to drum up followers for Dedsec’s cause. There’s more levity in most “Watch Dogs 2” missions than in all of the original.
The basic formula of the game remains intact, although there is more freedom to utilize stealth over blunt force. Now, Marcus can infiltrate and hack areas around the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley using either a jumper — picture a remote-controlled hoverboard — or a drone. Each has its uses, and they’re crucial to those who are looking cut down on lethal force.
Gunplay remains in the mix, but it’s not the game’s strongest asset. There’s nothing wrong with it, but Marcus is often overmatched in shootouts and “Watch Dogs 2” is better when it further separates itself from other urban sandbox adventure titles.
Integrated online play has been beefed up, but the first week of release was marred by problems that caused Ubisoft to shut that element down for seven days.
With the element back in play, the highlight additions are Bounty Hunter missions. Many a gamer likes to wreak havoc in open-world shooters and run up wanted levels, and this mode allows for fellow players to put a stop to the reign of terror. It’s a great idea and is fun in practice, although issues with finding connections thus far have limited the experience.
Co-op missions are great as well. It’s a blast working in tandem to extract data from a facility, even without a mic for communication.
“Watch Dogs 2” succeeds in spite of these minor issues, and it finally looks like the game everyone wanted the first time.