I used to work with Aiden Pearce. Okay, not actually Aiden Pearce, but that guy. That guy who fancied himself a “DJ”. That guy who dressed eighty percent for utility and twenty percent in hopes that somehow his “utility” would make him seem fashionable.
My Aiden Pearce always seemed a bit tired. He was always late to work. My Aiden Pearce would leave voice mails saying that his till was “two hundred dollars short” and offer no explanation. My Aiden Pearce would miraculously find this money on his next shift. None of the bosses I worked thought it was a big deal that he was stealing from the till to buy coke, because he always found a way to return it. And why not, there were no consequences.
The Aiden Pearce of Ubisoft’s, “Watch Dogs” lives a life free of consequences. He isn’t a DJ, but he probably does a lot of cocaine (off-screen). He’s a “hacker”. We know this because he wears a stupid looking leather duster that he apparently owns in fifteen different colors, along with a matching baseball hat. He keeps odd hours. He sleeps in a series of converted shipping crates spread around Chicago. He doesn’t own a car, because it takes two seconds to steal one from a passerby. On the rare occasion a victim decides to report his stolen car to the police, Aiden can jam the phone call.
When driving this stolen car, Aiden might accidentally run over a pedestrian. This presents a real problem for Aiden. This hurts his “reputation”. Having a bad reputation means that random people might call the police on you. If the police chase, he will have to drive faster to escape them. Aiden improves his reputation by stopping crimes around the city. While preventing these crimes, Aiden usually steals a car to get to his destination and ends up killing person committing the crime.
How do we know these crimes will be committed? We don’t really. Aiden uses his “profiler” aka his mobile phone to calculate the probability that these crimes will be committed. Aiden then hides nearby to see if the crime will actually be committed (they always are. Unless the perpetrator sees Aiden lurking about, then the crime never happens and Aiden gets no points.) These crimes always take place in an alley. If Aiden manages to stop the crime by beating the suspect with a baton before the victim is injured, then he gets the maximum points that add to his reputation.
When Aiden Pearce isn’t out preventing crime, he’s committing it in the streets of Chicago with his “profiler” by draining the bank accounts of unaware suckers waiting for the bus. I don’t understand the economy of Watch Dog’s Chicago. Aside from replenishing your bullet supply, having money doesn’t improve the game experience one bit. Aiden’s “profiler” also provides him with trivia about the people he’s ripping off. He can hack into security systems and watch family dramas unfold. He can listen to stranger’s phone calls. He knows the little old lady in the park is into S&M magazines.
Aiden Pearce has a family. He has a sister, a nephew and a dead niece that apparently his hacking caused the death of. This is what drives Aiden Pearce. To find out who called in the hit that caused the car accident that killed his niece. His nephew doesn’t talk because that makes the story more “real”. Aiden’s sister suspects that he is still hacking, as if his ridiculous jacket wasn’t a dead give away.
Later in the game, a guy with a leg brace and a soul patch whom Aiden has pissed off at some point before the game starts, abducts his sister in hopes that Aiden will pull off some great hack.
You team up with Lisbeth Salander (well, the French Canadian version) and Rob Zombie (who talks like Cooter from the Dukes of Hazard) and proceed to hack a lot of shit. This involves solving some kind of puzzle.
You also have a well-dressed friend who has a penchant for calling you at random times to ask you if he can kill some guy you kidnapped in the first level of the game.
You take on a street gang holed up in the projects, eventually shooting the leader to death in order to steal data that is immediately stolen by a guy who looks like Deadmau5. Then you go to Deadmau5’s club, chase him and then run him over with your stolen car. You visit graves and infiltrate compounds and steal money from phones.
The game is filled with boring mini-games that are shorter versions of the same kind of gameplay as the campaign. You can also catch a serial killer who is leaving bodies around Chicago. You can take an “audio trip” and play as a giant spider in a virtual world and kill cops for points or fly through the air and bounce on a flower, etc.… You can also just explore the city, which is supremely dull.
It’s hard to play “Watch Dogs” without thinking it took most of its best ideas from “Grand Theft Auto 5”. The advantage “GTA5” has is that when it gets boring, you can switch and play a different character. “Watch Dogs” is Aiden Pearce 24/7. The narrative seems to have been lain atop a completely different game. At the end of a mission where Aiden has to kill someone to complete it, he ruminates that he isn’t a “killer” after he has killed dozens of people over the course of the game.
I did enjoy the “Online Hacking” aspect of the game, where other players can hack into your game and steal points from you, unless you can track them down and stop them (by killing them). It’s an interesting addition that works most of the time. It does seem that many players either exit the game to avoid being fully hacked or exit when they are discovered hacking another player.
As I neared the end of the single player campaign, I ran into some annoying glitches that seriously tried my patience. Once involved an NPC that I was supposed to protect, refusing to follow, until I exited out of game and replayed the level.
When I finally reached the end of the single-player campaign, I was underwhelmed. I realized that for a game about “hacking”, killing solved most of Aiden’s problems faster than his phone.
In the end, I had killed all the people responsible for causing the accident that killed my niece (not really), stopped a serial killer (kind of), and accidentally killed fifty innocent bystanders while doing so (whoops). I was then dumped back on the street to ostensibly to become the vanguard of Chicago.
I looked at all the uncompleted side missions; drove around town once more for old time’s sake, removed the game from the PS4 and traded it in for a gift card. Aiden Pearce can kiss my ass.