The alternate-reality Chicago that Ubisoft’s upcoming “Watch Dogs” presents is filled with dangerous criminals looking to take advantage of you. But some of the biggest threats that protagonist Aiden Pearce faces come not from within the streets of Chicago… but from your own real-life friends. “Watch Dogs’” innovative approach to multiplayer involves numerous nontraditional elements, including the ability to jump into other gamers’ single-player campaigns and steal their powers. Yes, you can hack your friends.
It’s a risky move: While being hacked, your display shows a rough estimate of your invader’s location. As the hacking progress bar fills, that area on the map gets smaller, allowing you to better pinpoint the hacker. Finding him is like scanning any other non-player character, except he’ll be the guy who takes off running as soon as you get close (which is a pretty big hint).
When you’re hacking another player, you can’t kill them — but they can (and certainly will) kill you if they find you. So it becomes more of a game of hide-and-seek, as opposed to a straight-up deathmatch. You have to stay close enough to your target to keep the signal, but not so close that he can bash your skull in.
The first time we hacked another player, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Jumping into his game, we found him in the middle of a firefight with a dozen cops. It was easy enough to duck into a quiet a quiet corner, zero in on the target, and steal his info while he was pinned down by gunfire.
A few minutes later, after trying to start a mission, we were alerted to another player looking to turn the tables. Spotting the culprit on the crowded street led to a foot chase that felt like something straight out of “Assassin’s Creed.” The would-be hacker managed to hop in a vehicle and flee, but the attack was successfully thwarted.
For some players, this feature might sound invasive — but that’s kind of the whole point. It turns the concept of the game back on you, and forces you to take it as well as dish it out. But for those of you who don’t want their single-player experienced disturbed, Ubisoft says you can turn this feature off and enjoy “Watch Dogs” by yourself.
The closest thing “Watch Dogs” has to a traditional multiplayer experience is the integration with its mobile companion app. Using a tablet, you can load up the “Watch Dogs” app, connect to a friend’s game, and challenge them to multiplayer sessions.
On your tablet, you’re fed a map of the city, and follow your console-bound buddy along in a helicopter. You can activate traps and barricades, summon police cars, and target the opposing player for some sniper shots. And your target — usually in a car, from what we’ve seen — has to hit checkpoints and make it to a certain area before time runs out. While it’s not the typical multiplayer experience that gamers have come to expect, the “Watch Dogs” app provides a new and interesting way to play local multiplayer, especially for people who want a quicker, more casual experience.
What makes both of these multiplayer components particularly cool is that they play out within the framework of the single -player game. You don’t have to enter a different game mode, and afterwards, you can seamlessly jump back into your solitary adventure. And the entire time — no matter what mode you’re in — the game feels distinct, unique, and like nothing you’ve ever played before.