Written by Gavin Russell
I’ve thrown around 12 hours into Watch underscore Dogs since I bought it at launch. So far, and feeling very much like a lone voice of approval among gamers, I’m really enjoying it. Only around 40 minutes of that time has been spent on the story though. In typical Ubisoft fashion, the sheer amount of STUFF that litters the map is bewildering, and one of those diversions in particular, among the gang hideout massacres and privacy invasion perving and pointless-but-I-can’t-help-myself-tower-climbing, has captured my full attention.
Or, as I’ve come to think of it, Batman in murder-mode. Here’s how it works; you’ll be mooching around Chicago looking like the boy in your pull up mask thing when your phone will go off and alert you to a potential crime. The trigger for this is an automatic proximity hack- as you walk past a citizen your HUD springs into life and the little white hacker lines will skitter around the screen and then BINGO you know that shit is about to pop off. It’s a bit of a stretch that even in an interconnected city such as this, you’ll be able to ascertain that someone is about to pinch someone’s wallet by strolling past a woman who’s just out on her lunch break, but I can go with it because it allows me to be a predator of awful men who are up to no good.
So anyway, a marker appears on your map and Aiden grumbles something about “getting what’s coming to them” or “teaching someone a lesson” or something else vaguely disturbing and incredibly misanthropic and we’re off! Speeding though the bustling streets of digital Chicago, one finger on the trigger of your silenced pistol and one finger on your phone screen ready to hack traffic lights and cause pile ups just for the fun of it during your journey. Upon arrival, with only a few metres between the main road and a seedy back alley separating you from delivering some hard justice, is where the fun really starts.
Allowing you to see a small radius on the map of where the action will trigger gives you a bit of time to get into character. Sneaking around the surrounding area, you pick out potential cover and map the possible escape routes in your head. The best outcome will see the perp’s body crumpled in the same spot as where he rolled the dice and decided to change some lives, but if it all goes tits up, you need your options. Plan formulated, you walk softly towards your moment in the sun.
Creeping between stacked pallets and overflowing skips, you edge closer to the suspect and their potential victim. Profiling either one of them will trigger the set piece into action, and you can do nothing but crouch and watch as the lives of two disparate people come crashing together. Innocent mother of one, recovering from an illness in the blue corner, a convicted child pornographer in the red corner. They meet. Standing together in the dim light. There’s an inaudible exchange between them. Something has clearly started to go wrong. The atmosphere has gone from tense to seriously fucked and, moving fast, he draws a gun and points it at our victim. Showtime.
You stand, draw your weapon and snap into Focus, a slo-mo concentration mode that ensures Aiden gets his murdering done with optimum precision. Time drains to a near standstill as you zero in on the guys forehead, your arms raising at a glacial pace. You hold your breath. Something goes amiss. The woman, startled, now caught between two loaded guns, bolts. The scumbag notices me, roars an insult (we’re still in Focus mode so it comes out as “ffffrrrnnnnuuuuuuubbbbrrr”) and lets off a round in my direction before he tears off down the opposite alleyway. His shot misses, my shot is momentarily blocked by the innocent victim as she scrambles for safety. It’s all the time he needs. He’s away.
Snapping back into full speed, we pursue, leaping over barriers and dustbins and holstering our weapon. As our man sprints past that electrical panel, we hack it, sending a shower of sparks across the tight gap which achieves a wonderful mess and a loud bang but pretty much fuck all else. This isn’t looking good. I could shoot him in the back, but we’re emerging out into public view and unless I want to get reported by Joe public for letting off shots on a crowded street, I best keep my weapon concealed.
Our chase takes us trough the glass lobby of a towering office building and out the other side, scattering bystanders to either side as a ctOS display bleats out a public service announcement that fades in and out of earshot as we go. Pounding down the concrete steps with the lobby behind us, I’m getting closer, almost close enough for a diving takedown. Our man stumbles down the steps and as he does, he turns, looks at me briefly and fires his gun. It connects, the screen pulses red. That hurt.
Fuck this, I think. But just as I’m reaching for my weapon, we reach the road. A prompt to burst a steam pipe using my smartphone (there must be an app for that) appears on screen and without thinking I do it. The perp disappears in a plume of red hot steam, two cars smash into each other, another skids to a halt and smashes into a pedestrian. people are screaming. The civilian kill count appears in the top corner of the screen. Two dead. Whoops. But where’s our man? Did he make it out? Oh, wait. Mission Complete, says the screen. I find him, crushed under a decimated vehicle, the driver presumably also dead. Maybe the driver is one of the bodies, erm, lying lifeless in the street, drenched in blazing sunshine.
Sometimes you need to risk the lives of many to save just one. That’s one single mother who’ll be going home to her kid tonight. Probably best not think about all this stuff in the road then, yeah?