Watch_Dogs Preview — The E3 Primer

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Posted on May 10, 2013, Mark Burnham Watch_Dogs Preview — The E3 Primer

Game Front’s E3 Primer series is focused on providing previews of key games, companies and gadgets leading up to E3 2013 (June 11-13, 2013). Bookmark our E3 channel and check back for more in-depth preview coverage leading up to the big show.

UPDATE 05/14/13: A new preview of Watch_Dogs has given us a host of new details to pore over. Skip to page three for more.

UPDATE 05/10/13: New details about Watch_Dogs emerged this morning about multiplayer and vehicles. Skip to page two for more.

Ubisoft Montreal stole the show at E3 last year with Watch_Dogs. It surprised critics and gamers alike with a brand new, impressively realized game world, already two years in the making. Set in an alternate, technology-driven modern day Chicago, the world of Watch_Dogs is one where all electronic systems (traffic lights, cell phones, ATMs) are interconnected, and hackable.

Enter main character Aiden Pearce, a trenchoat-wearing hacker obsessed with surveillance technology, who lurks around the city of Chicago, hacking stuff, dealing justice and causing all sorts of mayhem. Through several carefully orchestrated developer walkthroughs and trailers, we’ve seen Aiden do some very cool stuff by seemingly taking control of any electronic system in the city.

This is, to be sure, an intruiging premise for a video game – one that promises (among other things) multifarious gameplay possibilities.

But then, we still know very little about Watch_Dogs, honestly. We know what we’ve seen in trailers, and scattered developer quotes from interviews. While we’re hoping for more information at E3 this year (and, you know, a chance to play the damn thing), until then we know only what we’ve been shown and told.

So let’s dig into that, shall we? Here’s the Watch_Dogs E3 Primer to get you caught up to speed.

Setting, Story & Main Character

It started in 2003, when a disgruntled state employee named Raymond Kenny used a virus to cause a massive power outage for 55 million Americans in the Northeast. It was bad. New York was completely dark, and 11 people died. Ten years later, in 2013, the world’s security, information and infrastructure systems have advanced rapidly, all powered by ctOS–the Central Operating System.

This is the part where it starts to sound like a dystopia: ctOS controls everything (personal bank accounts, bridges, cell phones, security cameras, etc.), so throw privacy right out the window. Worse, we’re told that corporations use personal data gathered by ctOS to more efficiently sell the citizenry products. That’s bad, and there’s a sense that everyone is trying to use ctOS for their own means.

Then there’s Aiden Pearce, our “hero,” supposedly. Pearce can control ctOS seemingly on a whim, hacking into systems all around him to get what he wants. But what he wants is sort of unclear — it’s implied that he’s been wronged in some way. “They crossed a line,” he says in one of the early trailers, so there’s an implied sense of revenge.

It appears that Pearce is not an agent of ctOS itself, or the police, as trailers imply he’s a sort of “intruder” to the system. So far at least, we’ve been led to believe he’s a rogue hacker with a huge chip on his shoulder, walking around Chicago dealing out bits of vigilante justice. We’ve seen him hunt down and eventually kill “bad guy” Joseph DeMarco, a shady club owner who supposedly solicited murder. In a separate sequence, we see Pearce stop a potential mugging in the making, hunt down the attacker and beat him pretty severely. He’s not Kratos. It appears he’s a good guy, though his affiliation and motives are unclear.

All of this takes place in a modern, technologically-exaggerated version of Chicago, which looks amazing, and that’s the first thing most people note about the game. Built on an entirely new graphics engine called Disrupt, Watch_Dogs gives you plenty of eye candy. The way rain falls, gathering on the street and reflecting blurry street lamps; the dimly lit night club full of smoke, flashing monitors projecting art all over the place. Visually, Watch_Dogs is part Blade Runner, part Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

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