It's amazing what you can achieve with your mobile phone these days. Our connected devices to enhance or ruin our life is pretty extensive and that is the kind of potential that Watch Dogs plays on. In fact with all that Watch Dogs' hero, Aiden Pierce is capable of is enough to make your average technophile smash their shiny new iPhone 5S and go and live in a cave on a remote Scottish island.
Watch Dogs places an immense amount of technological power in the hands of the players so much so that they can control the environment around them to make it very difficult to function let alone stop Pierce from doing what he needs to do.
I've sat and watched live gameplay of Aiden taking on one of the games story missions as well as gameplay videos of the free-roaming aspects of Watch Dogs and I can tell you that this is no ordinary sandbox game.
While GTA V still revels in offering players the chance to do what they want Watch Dogs shows players that they need to conceal themselves carefully because their actions have consequences.
Taking a stroll through one of Chicago's poorer areas Aiden needs to gain access to CTOS, the system that controls most of Chicago's services in order to gain access to the immense power of his profiler, the device in his phone that instantly gives him access to information on the people around him.
The server he needs to hack are locked away in a heavily defended building and so he must use his surroundings carefully to deal with the guards to get close enough to hack the servers. His surroundings are hackable – everything from access hatches to forklift trucks – and he can use them any way he sees fit. Need a distraction? Then raise a forklift's carriage. Need cover? Then pop open an access hatch to hide behind.
Ubisoft Montreal's aim with Watch Dogs is to offer players a choice on how to approach each situation and there is a wealth of options. Hacking the server can't quite be done from a distance but the tools are there to storm the building and kill all of the guards in a big shootout or sneak in round the back and hack the sever without anyone noticing.
What follows from this is a changing public perception of Aiden's actions. In the same demo that shows off the hacking of a CTOS server this is very evident. The player takes a fairly violent approach which translates later into a news report appearing on the television in a gun store where Aiden is buying ammunition. The shopkeeper recognises Aiden from the TV and trips a silent alarm. Now Aiden has to make his escape again.
Once the cops have been alerted Aiden can evade detection by avoiding the areas they are scanning and hacking their communications.
Aiden can help out people as well. He can use his profiler to access identify potential crime victims and follow them to see if they become victims. Doing this successfully can mean the difference between the people seeing him as a criminal or a heroic vigilante and could affect whether or not the next shopkeeper calls the cops or not.
Preventing crimes can have multple outcomes. Sometimes the criminal will run; sometimes they will stand and fight. At other times they migth even surrender adding a varied flavour to the side missions.
One other interesting thing about Watch Dogs is the ability to seamlessly jump in and out of other people's games to hack their phones and steal infromation. Get away with it and you will gain some bonus information but there is always a chance you'll get caught and have to fight your way out of the situation.
There's plenty going on in Watch Dogs both inside the story structure and in the greater game environment. Players will have to work for a bit of progress and it seems like every action will affect how the city's populace will treat Aiden.
This is a nice touch that shows that Ubisoft Montreal don't just want to create a good game but also a vibrant and lively environment that responds to player actions in a more realistic way tha ever before.
By offering to extend the gaming experience beyond just making a current-gen style of game with better graphics Watch Dogs has worked its way to being far the most interesting and ambitious of the next-gen launch titles. This is definitely the one to watch come November.
Watch Dogs is due out on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC, Xbox One and PS4 on November the 22nd (except in Europe where it hits PS4 on November 29th).