Watch Dogs Preview: Hacking Other Players’ Games Will Be Easy

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With each new trailer or gameplay reveal of Watch Dogs, I’ve gotten a little more dubious about the game — until E3 2013, that is.

A year after Ubisoft first announced its new IP, a stealthish, gunfighty open-world title in which you can apparently Hack the Planet (or at least Hack the Chicago), each new piece of info we’ve gotten about the game has made it look less open and more combat-oriented. For a while there, Watch Dogs was starting to look like just another cover shooter replete with chest-high walls, but this time, you can mess with the traffic lights.

The various demos shown at E3 changed my outlook on that somewhat, however. In the behind-closed-doors gameplay demo at Ubisoft’s expansive booth, my Game Front colleagues and I were given a look at the moments in between shadowing bad dudes and completing story missions. The open world portion of the game seems a lot more open and a lot less restrictive than we might have previously thought, and takes ideas from Ubisoft’s other open world titles such as Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry 3 — but with some new ideas mixed in as well.

The most interesting thing we saw during the demo was actually the last thing shown, in which another player was able to hack into Aiden’s game in a spontaneous multiplayer interaction. As Aiden was going about his business, using his hacking capabilities to steal money from the bank accounts of random folks in Chicago, another player hopped into his game in real time and started hacking him.

The hack minigame gave Aiden a notification that he was being hit with cyber warfare, as the other player attempted to download a virus onto Aiden’s smartphone. With the information in-hand that he was being hacked, Aiden had to quickly try to identify the whereabouts of the hacker among the rank-and-file Chicago denizens. When another player invades your game, you’re not given a notification straight out — instead, it’s only when you’re attacked that you’re notified that something is wrong. When that happens, you get the information about where the hacker is in a very general way, and your objective is to disrupt him.

Aiden’s hacker software aids him pretty well in this scenario, however, and Aiden’s goal is just to identify someone who seems to be acting strangely. As he wanders around the public commons where the hacker is supposedly located, boxes tick off over the heads of NPCs to indicate that they’re not the culprit. As he walks, Aiden hacks a nearby security camera for a higher vantage point — and catches sight of the hacker. The other player leaps into a run and hauls ass to a nearby car, but though Aiden doesn’t stop him, the hack has been disrupted, and Aiden wins the mini-game.

In order to get a little revenge, the player we’re watching during the demo then does the same thing to his former opponent. Using Watch Dogs’ in-game map, we’re able to see where the other player is currently located, and Aiden can drop seemlessly into his game. When that happens, the goals change, with the player we’re watching now trying to hack the opponent. To do that, Aiden has to get close without being seen, hack the other user’s smartphone, and then find a safe spot to start the upload.

Much like when Aiden was attacked, we then see the other player start to wander the area, searching for the attacking hacker and identifying people who aren’t responsible. Aiden ducks inside a car, which hides him some from the other player, but it’s not long before a security camera is used to identify the other player. Aiden takes off, leading the enemy down an alley, where he can pop out of his car and gun him down. The kill leads to something of a bonus for Aiden, but his hack failed, so he didn’t get the full benefit of the multiplayer interaction. Meanwhile, the other player apparently respawns and is free to go about his business.

We were left with a few questions we couldn’t get answered about the interaction between the two players. For one, it seemed that the opponent player looked not like Aiden Pearce (even though that player would have been playing as Aiden in his own game), which suggests that when you invade another player’s game, you’ll use an alternate player model for camouflage, but we don’t know that for sure. We also don’t know quite what the benefits of such attacks really are — be they experience-point bonuses or what. There were a few other elements that we were left wondering about (and couldn’t make the time to question a developer about), but for the most part, the drop-in, drop-out multiplayer was pretty impressive.

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3 Comments on Watch Dogs Preview: Hacking Other Players’ Games Will Be Easy


On June 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Most intriguing. It almost sounds as if they’ve found a way to truly mix single and multi-player in a logical, non-obtrusive way. I do question how seeing a target of your hack through a camera would be the same as having true line-of-sight to it. Maybe the hacked camera relays the signals..? For the simpler line-of-sight hacks Aiden’s phone presumably overwhelms the target’s internal radios with false signals (hence the depleting power). There’s really no other logic to why hacking would require more juice than simply using the Internet. Yes, I know its a game but when it seems like a dev has gone this far into the realm of pseudo-realism the missing pieces stand out more. I also have a little trouble with the whole “beloved bandit” thing. I mean, it sounds like you’ll be killing cops part of the time, probably whether you want to or not (this seems to be a common theme in games lately). Seems like that would slaughter your popularity unless the police are utterly corrupt. Of course, this is a Chicago where you can apparently just walk into a gun store and walk out with a piece, which is about as far from reality as it gets.

Phil Hornshaw

On June 18, 2013 at 12:20 pm


As to your point about killing cops, I’ve seen a couple demos now in which Aiden seems to specifically target kneecaps, Terminator style, to avoid killing police officers. Seems like there’s at least some consciousness there.

The big new CG trailer we saw also had Aiden using his hacking powers to out a sex trafficking ring, though who knows if that actually means anything.


On June 19, 2013 at 6:09 am

My concern with Watch Dogs is that it’ll end up like Remember me: A unique mechanic wrapped around a generic core. Like Remember Me, Watch Dogs shows a lot of promise, and I’m hoping that this time, a (AAA) game with a unique mechanic can live up to its promise…and have a good PC port, of course