On November 15, Watch Dogs 2 returns to the always-connected (and extremely hackable) world introduced by Watch Dogs. The basic concept is the same – you’re set loose in a city where absolutely everything is online and lorded over by sinister tech giants – but this is a world that went through a lot of changes after Aiden Pearce rampaged through Chicago’s criminal underworld on a quest for revenge, and all of those changes are designed to make Watch Dogs 2 a more fun, flexible experience than its gritty predecessor.
The shift from Chicago to the San Francisco Bay Area comes with a brighter, more idealistic outlook, with the focus now on undermining a corrupt power structure instead of chasing a tragic vendetta. In place of Aiden, we have Marcus Holloway, a bright, upbeat hacktivist who carries a broad arsenal of custom weapons, drones, and hacks that let him approach problems in multiple ways. Where Aiden was mostly a lone wolf (and colder than a Chicago winter to the few allies he had), Marcus has a sense of humor and plays well with others – not only is his collaboration with hacker collective DedSec a key part of the story, but he can partner up and tackle missions with other players online if going solo ever feels lonely.
A more lighthearted atmosphere and hero are just the start. Watch Dogs 2 is a fundamental overhaul of the Watch Dogs experience, and with that in mind, let’s take at what else is changing.
Watch Dogs’ biggest gameplay innovation is hugely expanded this time around. Not only can Marcus hack just about every electronic thing around him, but he can also hack them in multiple ways. He can use his phone to remotely steer cars, which doubles as a fun way of creating havoc and an empowering tactic for tripping up pursuers during car chases. Meanwhile, hacking an explosive lets you detonate it at will or turn it into a proximity-triggered trap, and hacking someone’s phone – anyone’s phone – lets you distract them, steal a little power to fuel your hacks, or mark them as targets for police or gangs. And where Aiden had to maintain a line of sight with the things he hacked, Marcus can extend his reach through the camera-eyes of his two drones: a flying drone that drops stun bombs, and a wheeled RC car that can jump, slip into tiny spaces, and manipulate objects in secure areas.
Marcus’ close-quarters weapon of choice is the Thunderball, a combination of billiard ball and lanyard he keeps tied to his wrist. Not only can you use it to chain together quick knockout combos, but the lanyard doubles as a garrote for choking out guards. Watch Dogs 2 improves on the original’s gunplay as well, with Marcus able to unlock and customize a wide selection of 3D-printed weaponry, including a long-range Taser for those who prefer nonlethal shootouts. The sticky-cover system feels a little more nimble and responsive this time around, letting you dart between cover points more efficiently (and sneak more quickly, if nobody’s seen you). And if you ever feel hopelessly outnumbered, calling in police or gang “reinforcements” is as easy as hacking an enemy’s phone.
Get behind the wheel of any vehicle in Watch Dogs 2, and you’ll immediately feel the difference. The driving has been completely reworked, with highly responsive rides that hug the road and minimize skids even at high speeds. Cars turn quickly and won’t easily drift out of your control, and every vehicle features a turbo boost, just because that’s awesome. Also, unlike Aiden, Marcus can shoot while he’s driving, something that works especially well for those who prefer to drive with a first-person camera.
Whether you’re shooting, sneaking around to stay unseen, or using your drones to hack your way through from a distance, Marcus’ expanded abilities give you much more flexibility in how you approach missions in Watch Dogs 2. In fact, there’s no single, linear path from start to finish; every mission area presents multiple ways to get in, achieve your objectives, and escape in one piece. Whatever mix of tactics you want to employ from Marcus’ arsenal in pursuit of those goals is fair game.
Free-running is a bigger part of exploration and escape in Watch Dogs 2, and Marcus tackles the urban landscape with more speed and finesse than his predecessor. Not only can he vault quickly and fluidly over obstacles, but the Bay Area is riddled with opportunities for reaching high places, turning the rooftops into your playground.
Seamless Co-Op and Competitive Multiplayer Modes
Watch Dogs 2’s multiplayer modes are seamlessly integrated into the campaign, creating organic opportunities for players to take on missions together for some cooperative play, or participate in competitive offerings like the refined version of Hacking Invasion or a brand new mode called Bounty Hunter. Create enough chaos and it won’t just be the police hunting you. Other players will enter your game and try to take you down so they can raise their follower count. Want to jump into multiplayer right away? You can trigger the events manually by activating them up on Marcus’ phone, but if you’re feeling more like a lone wolf, you can turn them off entirely.
Where Aiden could wear different variations of his standard cap-and-overcoat outfit, you have a lot more options for customizing Marcus. Visiting stores and completing certain objectives can yield tons of different outfits and clothing items in a wide variety of styles, and even Marcus’ drones and weaponry can be customized with new skins, thanks to the extremely robust 3D printer DedSec keeps in its hideout.
Watch Dogs’ version of the Bay Area – which includes San Francisco as well as Oakland, Silicon Valley, and Marin County – is a huge place, filled with secrets to uncover and opportunities for creative hacking. You’ll be able to explore it for yourself starting November 15, when Watch Dogs 2 arrives on Xbox One.