Watch Dogs 2 — a video game review (Third Platinum Trophy!!)

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I’ve finished playing the Ubisoft video game Watch Dogs 2. I don’t mean that I’ve just finished playing the campaign. I completed that a couple of weeks ago. I mean, I’ve finished the game, earning all of its trophies, including the Platinum Trophy for earning all of the other trophies.

This is my third platinum, after Fallout 4 and Mass Effect.

I didn’t initially set out to earn the platinum on this game, but I was so close after completing the campaign that I decided to go for it. Of course, most of the unearned trophies were from co-op missions. I’m not a big co-op guy, and I seldom feel like co-op missions are the most fun parts of any game. But, I played them to earn my last trophies.

Of course, I wouldn’t have bothered if I didn’t enjoy the game. That’s something that Fallout 4, Mass Effect, and Watch Dogs 2 have in common. I enjoyed playing all three games. It’s no accident that I didn’t earn a platinum trophy for the first Watch Dogs. In fact, I didn’t even finish the main campaign in that game. At some point, I lost interest in the game, even though it reminded me, in many ways, of the television show Persons of Interest, which was still on the air when that game came out. The Chicago setting of the first game was interesting, but the lead character was a bit of a dud, personality-wise, the automobiles in-game handled funny, and the fighting mechanics were sometimes suicidal for me.

Watch Dogs 2 seems to address most of my complaints about the first game, and provided a gaming experience that was much more enjoyable. I’ve visited San Francisco in real life, and the version of the city in-game seems a bit scaled down to me, but it is definitely recognizable as San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge, the Castro District, Ghirardelli Square, the TransAmerica building, Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, Stanford University, Coit Tower . . . All of the expected landmarks are there, look familiar, and seem to be in the correct positions, geographically speaking. Exploring the city and completing side missions was a big part of my fun in playing this game. It’s a lot easier to get around in the game city than in real life, but this is one area where I don’t want too much verisimilitude in a video game.

The player character in this game is Marcus Holloway, a hacker vigilante who joins the hacker group DedSec at the beginning of the game. He is much more likeable than Aiden Pearce from the first game. Marcus is yours to control, of course. He will engage in shoot-’em-ups if that’s your style of play, but he excels in stealth operations, leveraging the use of his drones, both a flying drone and a ground based RC drone. Both are invaluable tools for scouting areas, marking potential enemies, and even remotely hacking computers or other devices. While I admit that my own playing style is largely firepower based, some of my most satisfying victories came from reducing the number of enemies through prudent drone usage.

The vehicles in Watch Dogs 2 also handle a lot better than in its predecessor. There is a wide variety of vehicles to choose from, scooters to city buses, and you can purchase vehicles or hijack them. There are also water craft available as well, including sailboats that you can race. No aircraft yet. Maybe that will be in Watch Dogs 3.

The plot of the game is your standard hacktivist group vs. Big Brother story. I honestly forget who the Big Bad of the game really was, but I believe it was this man-bun-wearing douche who reminded me of Casey Affleck. Some of the missions involve stand-ins for the Church of Scientology (a popular video game target these days), Google, and everyone’s favorite pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli. Completing missions was always satisfying, involving stealth, puzzle solving, and sometimes just plain ol’ ass-kicking. The scope of the game becomes global. The final mission is the most satisfying of all.

Once again, I’m not a huge fan of co-op in any game. But, I must say that I enjoyed the Bounty Hunt co-ops a lot, both as hunter and as target, though I probably wouldn’t have played them if I hadn’t been trying to earn my trophies. The co-op races were all well done, and you can race everything from go-carts to sailboats to dirt bikes to flying drones.

This game does remind me of Grand Theft Auto V in some ways, and, of course, of Ubisoft’s mega-hit Assassin’s Creed series (at least in how vertical spaces are used), with all of the hacker stuff giving the Watch Dog series its unique flavor. I hear rumors that a third offering may be set in London, England. I will play that one as well, if the rumors are true.

Two controller thumbs up for Watch Dogs 2. Thank you, Ubisoft, for allowing me to earn my third platinum trophy.

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