Watch Dogs: Is the Hate Deserved?

Watch Dogs: Is the Hate Deserved?

Posted by on Jun 3, 2014 in featured |

You’ve probably read all the buzz about Watch Dogs but in case you haven’t, here’s the short version: there’s a lot of hate for it. This weekend I decided to try it out and see if that hate is well-deserved or not.

First of all, I’m among those who suffered random crashes to desktop on the PC version. I noticed that it was eating up a lot of memory, which would in turn crash when it couldn’t take any more. So scratch trying the game out on PC.

Next stop: Xbox 360. No stability or performance issues there. The game was playable and stable. I did find one major bug though. One of the side missions refused to acknowledge completion so I ended up creating my own workaround for it. Specifically, a gang hideout mission ends by either killing all the bad guys or moving away from the mission area. I did the former but got no completion notice. After reloading and retrying, the same thing was happening. I decided to try the latter. I knocked the target out then walked away from mission area. Success! I then went back and killed everybody anyway.

From what I’ve gathered, the hate is coming from Watch Dogs not meeting expectations, primarily because of the graphics. As a multi-platform, triple-A title, players were expecting to see next-gen graphics on their PS4s and Xbox Ones. What they got were visuals that looked only slightly better compared to previous console generations. See for yourself:

Watch Dogs on PS4:

Watch Dogs on PS3/Xbox 360/Wii U:

Gamespot’s side-by-side graphics comparison:

Another point of contention is the gameplay itself, which feels like it’s borrowed from other games. First, there’s GTA. It has all of GTA’s ingredients: an urban sandbox, shooting, driving, stealing cars, committing thefts, with all of it done from a third-person perspective. Second, there’s Deus Ex. You can hack cameras, tablets and cellphones and use them against your enemies. Finally, there’s Assassin’s Creed. The protagonist’s penchant for wearing overcoats and acting inconspicuous leave little doubt to the company behind the game.

All this begs the question: is borrowed gameplay a bad thing? History tells us that the answer is no. All first-person shooters owe their success to Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. For something closer to home, the Saints Row series grew out of GTA’s shadow by the time SRIII rolled out, gaining recognition based on its own merits instead of being simply a GTA clone. Sure, it took three games to do so but it eventually did. So where did Watch Dogs go wrong?

Ultimately, the answer is that it fails to be distinct enough to feel unique. I mean, if Rockstar released a hacking DLC and put it in GTA V, it would be Watch Dogs. Don’t get me wrong. If we were living in a world without GTA then Watch Dogs would be a great game. But since we’re not, the game is lying in the shadow of its better-polished, more experienced big brother. Is the hate deserved? I’m adamantly saying no, but the potential is so there’s it’s annoying you can’t do anything to coax it out.