Ubisoft’s “Watch Dogs” came into 2014 as one of the most anticipated video game titles, and it looks likely to leave it as one of the year’s biggest disappointments. Pegged as a potential “Grand Theft Auto” killer following its E3 presentation in 2012, the game simply could not live up to the sheer hype and the reviews were decidedly mixed.
Its hacking element was a novelty, its sandbox was pretty impressive, there was some real challenged involved at times, its side missions were fun and there is a lot of hours of gameplay to it.
Beyond that though the faults were numerous. From the more apparent ones such as an obvious and garish graphical downgrade on the console versions, to the ongoing PC version bugs, to actual gameplay issues including incredibly bad vehicle handling and driving mechanics, repetitive (and familiar) gameplay, a decidedly cliched storyline, an awful lead character, a far too self-serious tone, and the lack of some basic abilities like punch and jump.
Sales wise though it shipped around eight million copies within the space of two months, meaning a sequel is essentially inevitable. Speaking with CVG, Ubisoft Montreal vice president of creative Lionel Raynaud agrees the title is a flawed game and the plan is to make “radical” changes to the sequel:
“There are flaws, obviously. We absolutely want to tackle these flaws and surprise players, and the way to tackle some of those flaws is going to be quite radical. There are parts of the game that will need to change.
We have this ambition to have games that are worlds with systems that offer more agency and freedom for players, that allow them to discover the world in the way they want. We want them to be less narrative or character driven and more creative, with more choices for the player.
This is quite a high ambition and will require us to develop technologies that we didn’t have for Watch Dogs 1, but this combined with fixing and refining what worked well is probably the way to go for Watch Dogs 2.”
Raynaud goes on to compare it to the first “Assassin’s Creed,” saying this first entry established a “brand and promise” with subsequent entries needing to build on that.
The game itself ranged between 77-80 out of 100 on Metacritic, comparable to the 79-81 our of a 100 range of scores for the first “Assassin’s Creed”. The second game in that series fixed many of the first one’s flaws, can the next “Watch Dogs” do the same?
Raynaud has already suggested two ways to immediately improve it – change the game’s cast of characters and introduce a twist to the core hacking concept. He also says they’re listening to not just hardcore gamers but more casual gamers as to what their issues were.
He also says motivationally it’s important for less well-reviewed titles that the team there learn lessons and spend a lot of time analysing different kinds of feedback: “When we’re not happy we tend to think about what could be better and then very quickly we do it. It’s the best way to breed confidence.”