Hack The Planet In Watch Dogs 2
Didn’t get that “hack the planet” reference? Then you haven’t seen the deliciously cheesy film Hackers, in which a bunch of misunderstood teens spout remarkable one-liners (see above) nonstop and have totally sick aliases like Cereal Killer and Zero Cool. Why am I writing about a 20-year-old cyberspace caper? Well, it is about hacking, but like Hackers, Watch Dogs 2 is best enjoyed as a comedy—even if it sometimes doesn’t know it. Also, unlike the game’s broodier and blander predecessor, it’s a lot of fun to play. If you’re looking for a more contemporary pop culture parallel, think of Watch Dogs 2 as a cross between Mr. Robot and Silicon Valley.
Pretty much all the characters in Watch Dogs 2 are humorously clichéd caricatures of computer hackers, including our hero Marcus, who’s a hoot to dress up in psychedelic cyperpunk gear for some serious selfie snapping all over the San Francisco Bay Area. While Marcus begins as a low-key hacker with a heart, his skillset gets increasingly complex, and it’s not long before he’s basically a tech wizard controlling every street in the city.
Watch Dogs 2 is refreshingly lighthearted throughout its hardy campaign, even when Marcus has no qualms taking out dozens of bad guys while wearing a tuxedo and a Rasta hat (he’s really fun to dress up, okay!). Always an upbeat dude during the cut-scenes, this does make for a somewhat jarring contrast, but who’s counting corpses when causing chaos can be this much fun.
While there are plenty of action-packed moments in the game, what makes Watch Dogs 2 so unique and enjoyable is its balance between action, stealth, and puzzle-solving. Thanks to Marcus’ super-powered smartphone, he can manipulate objects like cars, cranes, drones, and security systems, or set intricate traps with all of them combined. There’s a ton of stuff he can work off of to make each task feel different from the last—something the original Watch Dogs lacked. More often than not, missions are far less daunting when Marcus stays out of the line of fire and leaves the dirty work to his Quadcopter, RC car or drones.
With such nifty and eclectic skills at Marcus’ disposal, it’s very tempting to play out every side mission not only to gain more social followers so he can level up and test them all out, but also to try out these newfound skills in different areas and scenarios. However, some of the first skills you’ll want to upgrade early on are: Botnets (so you can hack more, faster), car hacking (so you don’t set off alarms and attract unwanted attention), and, most fun of all, gang attacks and arrest warrants, whereby you call a hit or arrest on an unsuspecting enemy and instigate an all-out gang war. Entertaining and a useful distraction.
More memorable than Marcus, his trendy posse of hackers (known as DedSec), a bad guy with a man bun, and a Martin Shkreli stand-in combined, the city of San Francisco is the game’s true star. Easily one of the most vibrant and fun-to-explore sandboxes to date, it’s brimming with landmarks like the Castro Theater, districts like Haight-Ashbury, and more than a few Silicon Valley send-ups, like Nudle, which is clearly a parody of Google. Whereas the first Watch Dogs was set in a rather gloomy Chicago, San Francisco is popping with colour, and is a great place to show off the PlayStation Pro and Xbox One S’s HDR capabilities.
As for the previously disabled multiplayer, it’s now up and running. On hand are two-player co-op missions, which are double the fun when there’s multiple instances of hacking, and Bounty Hunter, a PvP mode that lets you track down other hackers once they’ve maxed out their warrant meter—or inversely allows fellow hackers to track you down after you’ve attracted enough police attention. Whether you’re playing as the hunter or hunted, it’s a clever and addicting cat-and-mouse addition to an already packed game. “There is no right and wrong. There’s only fun and boring.” Yes, that’s a Hackers quote, and yes, this game is very fun.
Watch Dogs 2 is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Don’t believe our praises? Check out the latest “Accolades” trailer below: