Any book, movie, or video game which bears the burden of lofty expectations is vulnerable to a possibly undeserved critical attack. After all, if you’ve pumped yourself up for a particularly meaty experience, anything short of perfect will feel too lean, and seldom is anything perfect. On the other hand, when an experience has sold itself as a rich, rewarding one and you are left feeling neither rich nor rewarded, a backlash is only natural.
The two experiences aren’t mutually exclusive, of course. I’m not sure yet which side, if either, Watch_Dogs falls upon.
When footage for Watch_Dogs was first shown at E3 2012, it was dazzling. The gameplay demo promised the slick, cyberpunk offspring of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and the first Assassin’s Creed. Needless to say, I was salivating; but I thought to reserve my judgment. After all, Ryse was originally supposed to be a 360-exclusive, Kinect-based gladiatorial combat sim and we all saw how that turned out.
The story, as I understand it, is as follows: The player character is Aiden Pearce, whose guttural voice immediately charmed me – I started having Adam Jensen flashbacks. After a mass conversion to technology based on a “Central Operating System,” one thread of technology governs all aspects of life. The game is set in future Chicago. Aiden is a hacker with a bone to pick, and has managed to work his way into the system.
The gameplay shown thus far is what has attracted the most attention ... or it should be what’s attracted the most attention. The player is able to use the CtOS against the city authorities. Aiden can remotely interact with all manner of things in the environment. From changing the street lights to accessing the life story of literally everyone you bump into, there doesn’t seem to be much of a limit to what Aiden can do. He’s also a skilled hand-to-hand combatant and marksman.
The artificial intelligence in Watch_Dogs looks surprisingly sophisticated. It might not be as good as what was shown in the gameplay demo, but I’m hoping it’s at least somewhat as good. It looked as though civilians would be able to respond contextually to Aiden’s presence and antics.
On the graphical front, I really wish the look of the game was not the current topic on everyone’s lips. If the game delivers on every other front, then I don’t mind if it looks more current-gen than next-gen, but I also realize why that’s not satisfying. I’m hoping that the actual game can deliver the pretty gloss it has shown in the trailers.
I’m hopeful for this one, though I’ve been let down enough to be cautious at the same time.