Watch Dogs: How The Game Actually Works
Navigating and Exploring
Like the Grand Theft Auto series, it seems exploring Chicago will be a big part of Watch Dogs, and you’ll be able to do so using any vehicle you come across. We see Aiden snag a car and use it to escape the police with third-person driving mechanics during the game. In order to lose his pursuers, he also uses a bridge control ability to raise a bridge and then jump it as it opens.
Aiden also has a small minimap that’s always functioning in the world as part of his heads-up display, and on it he can see other characters and those with whom he can interact using his abilities. When he triggers the communications jammer, for example, the shockwave is displayed on the map. When he’s being chased by the cops, more information about his pursuers is there as well, showing him their locations.
Among Aiden’s abilities, we’ve seen the bridge control and the traffic light control. There are eight abilities on the wheel, and another has a train for an icon, so presumably he can have some effect on Chicago’s public transit system. Two other abilities on the wheel remain as-yet unidentified. It was also implied that there’s a degree of verticality to Chicago, and Aiden should be able to reach areas such as rooftops through some means or another during play.
In keeping with the theme of connectivity, Ubisoft Montreal also intends to release a Watch Dogs tie-in tablet app that will allow players to interact with the game even when they’re not playing. The entire city map of Chicago is included in the app and you can get a wealth of information from it, like floor plans of interior spaces, biographical information on your targets and their whereabouts, as well.
Any character that has been “hacked,” Short said, can be tracked all over the city from the tablet app. And once you have their information from hacking, you can access all of it locally in the app — so those shadow bank accounts can be hacked from your tablet by spending “in-game money,” Short said. How that mechanic works, though, we’re not sure.
You can also see your friends across any platform on the tablet app and watch their real-time progress. With that information, you can check their mission logs to see how they dealt with certain problems. You can also see and revisit your own mission logs for stats and other information.
A Strange New Brand of Multiplayer
Even cooler, you can actually interact with your friends while they’re playing in what might be Watch Dogs’ coolest feature. When your friends are playing a mission, you still have your range of hacking abilities and you can see every hackable object on the 3-D map of Chicago. So as your friends are eluding the cops, say, you can hack things in their surroundings to help out — raise bridges, change traffic lights, and generally, potentially, create havoc to assist your pals.
There’s also something Short called the ability to “challenge” your friends. This mechanic wasn’t fully explained: we’re not sure what the actual challenge that you can put to your friends is just yet. It may be that you both can attempt the same mission and the person who is measured to be more successful wins, but how that success is measured, or what you might achieve by winning, isn’t clear.
What is clear is that you can actually mess with other players using this mechanic. When you challenge a player, instead of hacking the world as their ally, you can hack the world as their adversary. That means that instead of raising bridges to stop the cops in pursuit, you can raise bridges ahead of your opponent to cut off their means of escape, or create traffic accidents near them to screw up their plans. The possibilities for griefing are as endless as they are awesome, from the sounds of things.
With more information at our disposal, the E3 Game Front team was fairly well re-blown-away by Watch Dogs. The game offers you a really original and far-reaching set of capabilities for affecting the world around you, but it also seems to include a lot of mechanics we’re used to, such as bullet time and cover-based shooting. We’re still fuzzy on a lot of details, and much of what you see here is us extrapolating what we’ve seen and what we were told to try to understand how the game will work. Ubisoft is still keeping a lot of this close to the chest.
However, you can check out our more specific impressions, leveled by Mark Burham, Mitchell Saltzman and myself, Phil Hornshaw, over at this post.