WATCH_DOGS 2 Review
Hack n’ Backlash Adventure:
WATCH_DOGS 2 is a third-person action adventure title developed by Ubisoft Reflections that incorporates stealth elements in a fictionalised San Francisco. Following off from the events of the last game, San Francisco becomes the second city to have installed ‘ctOS’, a big brother-like system which connects everyone to everything, and with a system like this in place, its only a matter of time when those in charge become corrupt.
We play as Marcus Holloway, Ubisoft’s answer to the first game’s rough n’ gruff Aiden Pearce, a protagonist who was fueled by revenge who at most points to me felt like a very shallow character, Marcus however is someone who can take and make jokes, and someone that is easy to relate to (even more so if you find yourself referencing pop culture often), sharing the same philosophy with his like-minded friends, Sitara, Wrench, Horatio and Josh, and together they form DedSec, all striving for a common goal, to take down ctOS and expose the corruption of the FBI and similar organisations.
This game looks wonderful, the character models are detailed and well designed, props to the creative team for Marcus, Wrench and Sitara, they all have such cool and interesting designs, my personal favourite being Wrench of course, I mean, who wouldn’t want a pair of those goggles? San Francisco has never looked better, the environments are also heavily detailed and one of my favourite parts of the game was just being able to drive through the city and appreciating the world around me, Ubisoft often get the world looking immaculate in their games.
This is a big step up from the first game, as there was lots of controversy on how the final product looked compare to trailers shown at E3.
As mentioned above, you might have realised this is third person shooter with stealth mechanics, it feels akin to Assassin’s Creed, another popular game series under Ubisoft’s belt, which it most notably takes inspiration from, with its large open world (this case being San Francisco and it is beautiful) to explore and parkour (or freerunning) elements.
As Marcus you can take take cover, flank, hide, climb, combat and sprint your way through most of the game, as to be expected. This all feels very solid for the most part, especially the melee combat, however the climbing feels fairly stiff at times, and the gun and stealth play leaves much to be desired.
Lets not forget the hacking! Unlike the first game, the hacking mechanics are much more flexible in this sequel, giving you much more options for objects you would like to hack, giving each mission that little bit more variety, though that doesn’t help much, and you’ll see why I think that!
You can tackle missions through means of stealth, or going through guns’a’blazing, however this introduces my biggest gripe of the game, the missions aren’t fun (disclaimer: SUBJECTIVE), they feel very repetitive and dull, which is a shame because I do enjoy the story, but felt exhausted doing the same missions over again. The stealth gameplay does not feel rewarding as it was not handled very well, if anything it felt shoehorned in, there’s not enough thrill in the action, at least not to my expectations, you can stun enemies or can cause distractions by hacking nearby objects and taking them out with a well-executed melee attack, which all sounds well and good, until you factor in that your silencers for weapons seem to not be silent at all, and the AI is like a hivemind, if someone spots you, everyone is now alert, unlike other recent stealth games where you at least had the chance to stop them before contacting everyone if you were nearby, this would be fine for arcade-based gameplay like Metal Gear or Max Payne 3, but this game goes for realism, so it honestly just felt jarring. You also can’t hide or dispose of the bodies so you can still easily get caught, so its either attack everyone or no one at all, and if that’s going to be the case, you may as well use your RC gadgets that you can honestly do almost every mission with. You also have the choice between lethal and non lethal weapons, but it doesn’t seem to affect anything in the game, so its more for the players engagement, which I appreciate.
You also have access to a rather large selection of weaponry which you can 3D print in your hideout, which to me is a cool idea, I haven’t seen many games consider this before, it helps makes things feel very modern.
This brings me to my next point, you don’t see this in many action games as of late, taking place in a modern day setting, the game feels very fresh tackling issues of diversity and providing satire on the world’s current state and technology, it makes the game feel different from its competitors, the last triple A action game to tackle a modern day world in a while was Grand Theft Auto V, however with its story and characters, its a game you could come back to after a while and still appreciate it (its already been almost 4 years as of writing, and I still enjoy the game as much as I did originally when I went back to it).
However it begs the question, will WATCH_DOGS 2 last? Another big gripe of mine is the constant references to pop culture in the dialogue, as it can easily exclude some members of the audience, no matter how popular what the subject they’re mentioning is, and I’m not alone in thinking that, but I could let that slide, what I’m curious about is whether or not the story will last.
Given the rise of technology in the last decade, I feel that the story can remain relevant for a long while, even if the tech displayed in the game becomes out of date, it may not be timeless, but its definitely worth replaying in the future, if you enjoy the missions that is. Though I don’t feel a new playthrough is needed immediately after, as the game has plenty of sidequests and collectibles to keep you playing, especially if you enjoy collecting achievements / trophies.
Persona 5 Review
Stealing My Heart:
Oh me, oh my, can it be? An installment to the Persona series that isn’t a spinoff?! Incredulity aside, I was very excited for this title, from seeing the announcement trailer in late 2013 to the multiple delays afterwards, its 2017, a full 9 years since Persona 4 released, does the game deliver?
Persona 5 (part of the much larger ‘Shin Megami Tensei’ series) is a turn-based role-playing game with social sim elements, it was developed by ATLUS and published by SEGA, and takes place in the city of Tokyo in an unconfirmed year (20XX) They pulled a Megaman on us!
We assume the role of a transfer student who has moved into the city after being wrongly accused of a crime and being placed under probation, they find refuge in their new caretakers coffee shop, living upstairs in the attic (not the most comfortable living conditions, I know) and start attending high school like a normal every day student, being punctual, taking tests and not causing commotion, however, immediately rumours are spread around leaving you labelled as a delinquent, an outcast to society, its here you begin meeting people who have also been wronged, looking to attain freedom from the chains of modern day society. They will eventually join you for your adventures under certain circumstances (spoiler: things get strange).
You and your team must explore a mysterious world known as ‘the metaverse’, a place in which the world becomes distorted by an individual’s cognition and corrupted thoughts, you must defeat them in battle and make them face their true self and come clean for their crimes in the real world.
Given how long this game was in development for, the team had plenty of time to polish absolutely everything, and it really does show, the visuals are very stylised and pack a punch with its cel-shaded character models, each character design leaves a strong impression on you and can really say a lot about their character, just as a good design should do, even the UI pops out with its cool sense of style separating it from many other games that fall under a similar genre, with its inspirations from pop art, manga and psychedelic vibes, it really gives the impression that you’re in for a unique experience from the get-go. I also really appreciate the red and black colour scheme, its really fitting with the game’s theme of vigilantism.
As mentioned above, you play through half of this game as a regular high school student, this is where all the social sim mechanics come in to place, you can build social links with people you meet throughout the story to unlock bonuses for use in combat later on, or build up your personality traits to enable more choices to make during cutscenes.
The second half however is you running, sneaking, jumping and fighting your way out of dungeons you can explore, the mechanics here aren’t too complex, you can run to get through the area more quickly, however if an enemy is nearby, you will alert them, so you must move slowly and sneak up on them after observing their patrol routes, for the most part this is easy to do, but it will still make you jump if you ever are to trigger an alert, this doesn’t cause every enemy around you to realise your location though, they will simply be more alert after you finish battling.
The battle is the most enjoyable in this, especially if you’re a fan of turn-based combat (think Pokémon or early Final Fantasy titles), you take control of mystical creatures called Persona and they can fight, level up and learn new skills (sound familiar?) and you can combine the ones you already own to fuse into even more powerful creatures.
They all have certain types that are stronger and weaker against others, so you must keep on your toes and switch them out often so you don’t get wiped out in battle.
We’ve seen this a lot in games, but what makes this unique is that you can reason with your foes, if they get scared or almost at defeat, they may try and negotiate with you, from here you can decide to ask for money or a useful item, or even ask them to join your team, through here you’ll have to try and gain their attention by answering questions they have for you, and if satisfied, they will join you. You could compare this to a game like Undertale, or the quirkiness of the Earthbound / Mother series, but the only other game I recall to handle it in this way is the earlier Persona games (2 to be exact).
The gameplay is very solid, the music that plays during regular battles is very fitting, and makes it feel like you’re fighting to the beat of the song, after one fight, you’re left wanting to play more, even if the music becomes repetitive, its just too catchy to not bob your head too, which is exactly why sound design is important to be incorporated into the gameplay, without it things feel less alive.
When you finish the game for the first time, you’re able to play in ‘New Game+’ mode, wherein it allows you to play through it again with some of the skills you’ve already learned, as most of it is unattainable in just one playthrough, and more story branches open up to you in this mode, so its definitely worth going back to, that is, if you have the time, its an 80+ hour long RPG afterall!