The reveal of Watch Dogs 2 has been slightly odd to say the least. A couple of leaks led to a rather muted announcement from a Ubisoft press release confirming the game’s existence, which was hardly the big splash you’d expect this game to make.
But our patience has finally been rewarded with a juicy 20-minute video that dives deep into the game’s new story, setting, characters and hacks.
Here’s what we know so far.
San Francisco looks very alive
The game’s setting had already leaked, but now we know for certain that the new Watch Dogs will be set in the Golden City. It’s also clear that the developers have gone to great lengths to capture the vibe of San Fran, from the lively Bay Area to some of the city’s quirkier corners and undercurrents.
“You need to feel as if this city is alive, even if you do nothing,” says Dominic Guar, the game’s senior producer. NPCs start fights with one another, dogs chase people down streets, guys in strange lobster outfits preach the word of the almighty Crab God (we assume) from their soapboxes.
We’re getting a real GTA 5 vibe so far, and that’s no bad thing. San Francisco looks alive and ready to play with.
Marcus is a very different character
Sure, our new protagonist might also be rocking Aiden’s iconic baseball cap and bandana, but he’s got some new tricks up his sleeve and new toys to play with.
Marcus Holloway is another member of the DedSec hacker collective. He’s been accused of a crime he didn’t commit, and is now intent on fighting back against the system. Fight the power!
The developers say they wanted to create someone who embodied both internet culture and the San Francisco vibe. We’re also promised a more expressive character, which is just as well, as Aiden had about as much personality as a wet potato.
Marcus is better at parkour than Aiden was, we’re told, chaining moves together for added badassery, which should make for some more interesting combat. And one of his weapons is a billiard ball on some rope – yes, really.
However, you might have noticed that he’s missing Aiden’s iconic trench coat, and probably for the best – just imagine how sweaty it would get in that San Francisco climate.
This could be the Watch Dogs game we wanted
“I personally spent months reading forums and reading all the player feedback I could see on the web,” says Dominic Guar.
Watch Dogs was a solid game, but not the landmark hacking experience it had largely been hyped up to be.
The developers have clearly taken many of the criticisms on board to improve things in the new game. “On Watch Dogs 2 we could really deliver on the fantasy of being a hacker,” says Guar.
There are now more things to hack, more vehicles to play with, and generally more mayhem to cause. We’re told that every car, every character, and many of the electronic devices around the city are now hackable, and, like the first game, your style of play will change the way you use these exploits to your advantage.
While in the first game only marked characters were hackable, you’ll now be able to use your tools on anyone. You can even “mass hack” NPCs; the demo shows the player hacking several people around them simultaneously, causing all their phones to ring at once.
There are lots of new toys
Watch Dogs was about plonking you in Chicago, handing you a bag of tricks and letting you run wild. But while there were plenty of ways to manipulate the city and its inhabitants, it wasn’t quite as open-ended and ambitious as we’d hoped.
The Watch Dogs 2 footage suggests ambitions are now bigger when it comes to gameplay ideas, and this was partly why San Francisco was chosen. “It almost feels like the Wild West of technology,” says lead writer Lucien Soulban.
Technology has moved on since the last game too, and Watch Dogs 2 is capturing the zeitgeist, from drones to virtual reality, to the ability to take selfies in the game.
Marcus has some new toys, including a RC jumper car that you can drive around and use to hack terminals with its robotic arm – or just be a nuisance to others. You also have a drone that you can fly remotely in first-person view.
Going by what we’ve seen, it looks like this can be used to be an eye in the sky or complete certain tasks (one moment shows a drone lifting an entire server), but you’ll be able to use it in other ways. We also saw it being used to navigate an assault course – which looked a bit like this.
And as if that wasn’t 2016 enough for you, some of Marcus’s guns have even been 3D printed, including a taser that can be used for the more peaceful takedowns.
There’s more to the multiplayer
Multiplayer was one of Watch Dogs’ stand-out features, and it’s taking a step up in the sequel. The video didn’t reveal a lot, but you’ll be able to jump into other people’s single player games and form a co-op team.
We’re promised that the seamless online experience has been expanded, and Ubisoft has said there’s much more information to come on how the new multiplayer system will work.
Driving has been improved
It sometimes feels unfair to criticise driving mechanics in games where driving isn’t the core focus, but like GTA, driving is a big element of Watch Dogs – so it was a shame it didn’t feel as polished as it could have been in the first game.
The developers say they’ve worked on the driving element of the game to make it feel more realistic and account for the different vehicle types, while keeping it accessible.
But who says you have to even get in the car to drive it? You’ll be able to hack any vehicle and control it remotely, leading to no end of madness. For example, in the video we saw someone controlling a hacked forklift truck to pick up a police car and drop it in the water.
It’s out this year!
Every other game on your most wanted list might be getting delayed right now, but you can look forward to getting your hands on Watch Dogs 2 this year on November 15.
We hope to see more at E3, which is now just around the corner. We’ll be there to bring you the big stories as they happen.
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