'Watch Dogs' Preview: We Play Test Ubisoft's Hack-Till-You-Drop Adventure

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''Watch Dogs' is the a startlingly ambitious open-world adventure, giving you the ability to hack a city and its residents with the help of a mobile phone. It's out for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC and next-gen consoles in November.

The Pitch:

"You play as Aiden Pearce, a brilliant hacker and former thug, whose criminal past led to a violent family tragedy. While seeking justice for those events, you'll monitor and hack those around you by manipulating the ctOS from the palm of your hand. You'll access omnipresent security cameras, download personal information to locate a target, control traffic lights and public transportation to stop the enemy... and more."

Key Features:

  • Open-world gameplay in a realistic Chicago - go anywhere, do anything
  • Ability to 'hack' and control everything from street lights to mobile phones, security systems and vehicles
  • Intense and imaginative action, with multiple strategies always possible to solve objectives
  • Stunning next-gen graphics

ubisoft

Our Impressions:

At this point it's no shock to say that 'Watch Dogs' is a brilliantly ambitious and graphically stunning new take on the open-world action genre.

But it's only after playing the game that it becomes clear just how transformative the game could be - not because of its timely narrative focus on digital privacy, but how those concepts are embedded in every part of the game once you're online for real.

Our play test began in comparatively prosaic style. We drove to a nearby security base, hacked the cameras, devised an attack strategy and took down the guards. We learned how to manipulate the world's electronic systems, and took in some of the spectacular Chicago scenery on our way downtown. We also hacked a few people around us, learning about not only their lives and phone conversations but also their bank details. Ker-ching.

And then the game threw us a curve ball. Somebody was being hacked. And it was us. No, the villain wasn't just a computer character or scripted event. It was another player - in this case somebody in the Gamescom demo room, though in reality they'd be online - who looked like just another NPC, and was hacking us to steal our money and details.

We had to find the hacker before it was too late, but spotting him in the crowd of drones was difficult, and we ran out of time. Still, the potential was obvious, and enormous. At its best, you're never going to be playing Watch Dogs alone. And you're never going to be safe.

Multiplayer was even better. With one player taking control of a free iOS or Android tablet app and another in another location on a console or PC, you can play a game of digital hide-and-seek in which the tablet player is laying traps and tricks - epxloding manholes, changing lights - to stop the gamer in his tracks. It's fantastic fun, and a genuinely decent second-screen experience amid a flood of mediocre efforts in that area.

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