Hackers at the Bay – Watch Dogs 2 Review

Considering the reaction of the gaming community to the release. Watch Dogs is number one. The success of its legitimate sequel came as a surprise. Suddenly, all the jokes about downgrades after E3 disappeared, the hatred towards Ubisoft and their sandbox games evaporated – only universal love remained, along with “very positive” reviews on Steam. It was impossible not to wonder what happened.

And honestly, we still don’t know what happened. Although Watch Dogs 2 tries to disguise the predecessor’s flaws, it can’t be called a completely different game. What was, essentially, remained the same.

Taking selfies

This is still a modern fairy tale about the struggle against megacorporations and an information network that has engulfed all aspects of life, but in different tones. Instead of rainy Chicago, we are offered to bask in the sun in San Francisco, and the role of Aiden Pearce with his “boo-boo-boo, revenge, long coats” is taken over by Marcus Holloway, a member of the hacker group DedSec, which hacks into the updated software core of the city for fun. Well, and a little bit for the sake of justice, of course, but that’s secondary.

DedSec already appeared in the first part and proved themselves as an organization with a serious face, but their branch here does not share this style. Among the California anonymous, there are mostly young people with an insatiable thirst for self-expression. They are noisy, dress with obvious disregard for the secret status of their group, are passionate about parkour, and reinforce any action with a colorful low-fi video where pixelated kittens defecate on top of an informative video feed.

DedSec's underground hideout

It’s a complete horror, but it works. The script remains a collection of clichés from cheap techno-thrillers, but thanks to the vibrant aesthetics of the youth scene, it is somewhat interesting to observe. The characters are eccentric, active, and not pretentious (at least not in the usual sense), and the action is spiced up with a healthy dose of humor and cultural references. All of this creates a rather unusual mood that allows you to overlook the worn-out plot devices.

But there is also a downside to it. You probably remember the video spectacle about new phenomena in the Russian language that was circulating on the Internet about seven years ago. Well, refresh your memory Do you feel how they speak, and are you ashamed? Get used to this feeling if you’re going to play Watch Dogs 2.

In the manner of speech inherent in local dialogues, one cannot help but notice an attempt to connect with the target audience: look, we’re all insiders here and we also know what “lulz” are. The theme is indeed familiar, the words are familiar – but it looks and sounds like blatant posing. The persistence with which such specific terminology is pushed into everyday conversations, on the contrary, repels and hinders understanding of what is happening. Although, it must be admitted, an emotional connection is established: you blush for the virtual characters who vividly quote “Lurkomorye” left and right, as if they were real.

Aiming with precision

But now it was hurtful.

A significant part of the blame lies with our terrible, repulsive localization. Not to mention the consistently inappropriate voices, practically every line in the Russian translation is adorned with internet slang to such an extent that it couldn’t be worse. They even managed to insert a common joke about Karl anywhere they could. About Karl, Karl!

The only excellent news regarding our dubbing is that it can easily be avoided by switching the game to Chinese. You’ll have to navigate blindly to the necessary settings to bring back the glorious and mighty subtitles, but believe me, it’s worth it.

An array of stylish cars

By the way, car management is now noticeably better.

However, the characters in this case are not as significant as the backdrop of the whole performance. San Francisco is the main reason to try Watch Dogs 2. It is a vibrant city with an incredible amount of delights per square meter. Everywhere you look, there are landmarks, restaurants, shops, and scenes with passersby, both planned and spontaneous. In the alleyways, people are dancing. those same hooligans, gunshots can be heard from the troubled area, coffee shops are filled with hipsters discussing diets, and people openly laugh at the beach when you pose for a selfie.

In a word, it has happened. Someone has truly caught up with, if not surpassed, GTA V in creating a rich and beautiful world. In it, you want to take leisurely walks, discover beautiful places, eavesdrop on gossip, and “shazam” songs coming from expensive cars – in other words, you want to live. Without shooting, hacking, and high-speed chases. This is what we were expecting from. Mafia III, and it turned out quite differently.

But shooting, hacking, and racing is necessary because there are missions here. Many, very many missions. Oh…

Surveillance with a drone

The game displays such luxurious landscapes…

A close-up look at the action

…as well as impressive large-scale plans.

Unfortunately, the artistically improved Watch Dogs 2 is only slightly better to play than the original. It still combines action and stealth, sprinkled with a multitude of hacking abilities. We are given a task – go there and hack that – and we are free to choose the proportions in which we combine aggressive and stealthy styles. But honestly, neither of them provides the desired satisfaction.

The shooter aspect not only clashes with Marcus’ moral principles, but it is also executed to the point of nausea. Bend your fingers: cover, rolls, flat weapons, fragile main character, and enemies with thick, indecently thick armor. In the end, the game stops pretending that it cares about shootouts and starts throwing natural juggernauts at you. It is around that time that the desire to use freshly unpacked guns completely disappears.

Intense gunfire

Stealth is a bit more fun, but still primitive and prone to extremes. By default, if you play by the rules, it’s too easy because the first ability given to the player allows them to deal with any number of enemies by hacking their phones. It seems that Marcus is sending some insanely funny memes, because the enemies completely lose touch with reality and laugh at what they see for a good ten seconds. Neither the sound of falling bodies nor an armed young man running towards them at full speed bothers them.

If you show consciousness and don’t use legal cheats, on the contrary, it becomes insanely difficult. There are no noise indicators or even a rough idea of the NPC’s field of vision, so you have to move blindly. If the prankster smiles at you, you can pass without any problems – otherwise, you should prepare for a clash with the entire security of the area. Yes, this is one of those games where even dogs are connected to a unified telepathic network and become alarmed in a fraction of a second.

Sneaky stealth tactics

All of the above is adorned with a branching wheel of unlockable skills, but it is difficult to call the character’s progress intriguing. The main abilities are unlocked at early stages, and experience points are spent just to avoid them piling up.

It becomes more lively thanks to just two mini-elements. The first is controlling a jumper and a quadcopter. With the help of these brand-new gadgets, you can not only mark enemies while showering them with insults, but also perform remote hacking, effectively completing many objectives without direct infiltration into “red” territory. It turns out that it is quite interesting to play the game, minimizing encounters with its main mechanics.

Next come puzzles integrated into the environment. The word, of course, is loud – you don’t need great intelligence to turn a few tiles in the right sequence, but still. From such leisurely (mostly) intermissions, a decent break emerged, diversifying the gameplay when patience seemed to be running out.

Cooperative play

You can easily do without online modes, although cooperative play is a great reason to hunt for collectibles.

And only in its diluted form does Watch Dogs 2 function relatively smoothly. You do a little bit of everything – and it’s almost a good game that almost doesn’t annoy you. Most of the time.

As you may have noticed, in recent years there has been no shortage of thirty-hour sandboxes, so it is no longer customary to consider the duration of completing a game as a positive feature. On the contrary, the ability to catch the moment of saturation with the game and finish it in time is much more valued. This time Ubisoft’s sense of measure let them down.

Watch Dogs 2 accelerates nicely in the middle, but it doesn’t hold up until the very end. After a series of solid missions, the player is met with an unpleasant surprise that feels forced. Entire story arcs are born out of nothing, having no significance to the main story, the mission structure devolves into “break 4 boxes,” aggressive methods start to dominate, and the design… well… Let’s just say it’s not the only game where the fun ends with the appearance of secret laboratories and military forces.

Exploring the hackerspace

So let’s repeat: we have no idea where the enthusiasm comes from. Rare moments of enlightenment, although they are no less enjoyable than GTA V, do not diminish the gameplay problems. There are simply too many of them, which is unforgivable for a sequel.

Yes, Watch Dogs 2 has turned into a friendly and colorful open world – but the game is still weak.

Watch Dogs 2
PC, PS4, Xbox One
Action, Co-op, Multiplayer
Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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