So, I finished Watch Dogs 2 a few weeks ago and, initially, I made a wall of text on my facebook about my feelings on it as the credits rolled. Now that I’ve had more time to think about it, I think I’m ready to more coherently express why I hated it and why I hate that I hated it.
I want to start with the story. On its own merits, without considering gameplay at all, the story and characters all really annoy me. It seems like whoever wrote them actually hated them and was actively trying to show their distaste for who they think “those” kind of people are. The way they act and how the story plays out feels like what a right winger feels like a left wing community and story would play out. I felt very pandered to and I didn’t like it. Not only that, but why does the story suddenly take a detour into “Death Wish” after killing off the only other black character (which also felt unnecessary and forced). Then they never even address it after that short questline and none of the characters exhibit any change at all. It feels like they shoehorned that in just so we’d be given a reason to hate those “evil gangs” they spent so much time and effort putting into the game or to draw some sort of contrast to Dedsec and the “real criminals”? I don’t know, but it felt cynical and I really wish they hadn’t done it. I also think that the ending was a letdown. I really would have liked a choice in how to deal with Dushan and have had more powerful figures to take on.
Now onto why the gameplay also played a big part in why I hated it. Simply put, I found it, at both times, too hard and too easy. It would be really easy to just use your drone/RC to drop unlimited grenades in any restricted area (since they regenerate), but if you try to minimize their use, the wallhacking enemies that can call for unlimited waves of more enemies will easily overwhelm you if you’re committed to staying nonlethal. This ties back into why I hated the story and characters. They’re clearly written to be goofballs and killing seems so out of character for all except that old white dude (can’t remember his name, can’t be bothered to look it up) but if you REALLY stay non-lethal, then (even on the easiest difficulty) the game becomes a LOT harder as ranged non-lethal attacks are only temporary measures with ticking clocks you can see so it makes your gameplay stressful and more “permanent” measures are either lethal, or have to be done undetected or else they become lethal.
Also, side note: there is no way to disable attack dogs without killing them. I hate fighting dogs in any game and I think they should stop using them as enemies unless they’re going to give me a way to permanently disable them as enemies without killing them. It hurts my heart every time I see Marcus smack one of those doggos in the face and it does that little whine before it dies. It seems cruel to me to make them such common enemies and not give me a way to disable them without resorting to killing them.
Back on the gameplay in general: I hated that they put so much time and effort into putting gangs in the game and shoehorning their relevance into the story. I would have preferred if it was either JUST sons of ragnarok (and made them more explicitly right wing, because, as it stands, they only made passing mentions to them being white supremacists) or had no gangs at all. Because I feel that it just reinforces white supremacist stereotypes to have a “Mexican” gang and a “Black” gang constantly getting into shootouts with each other and the police (which the game prominently displays on your screen every time it happens). Doesn’t help that when you hear their radio chatter they sound stereotyped as FUCK. Except with the sons of ragnarok, for some reason, where it’s just very generic chatter.
When it comes to the stealth, it feels “broken” in the “it isn’t working” way. There were more than a few times I would be “detected” while an enemy was just getting up from being knocked out. Like, even before they stood up, they had already alerted the whole area and started calling for reinforcements. I feel like it would have been MUCH better if the game allowed for save-scumming. Because without it, it’s entirely possible to have to redo 10+ minutes of gameplay for over an hour as you try to do a perfect stealth run through the mission or if you just fail because the checkpoints are NOT generous. There were more than a few times the incredibly fickle placement of the checkpoints would cause me torment.
Moving on to driving, and especially when you need to escape from pursuers, I once again have to bring up that the lack of nonlethal ways to permanently disable opponents feels out of place. And moving the camera around wildly to (hopefully) get the auto target to target the right pursuer and not suddenly switch to a civilian or the wrong target in the moment before you press a button or select the direction that you want to send your pursuer wasn’t fun to me.
The autotarget for the hacking was a bane of my existence because you couldn’t really choose your targets and had to make sure you were facing JUST the right way to make sure you did the hack on the right object. This wasn’t an issue if nothing was really happening, but the moment any action kicked up, it would get annoying fast.
I also hated the weapon/power wheel and desperately needed them to either cut it down and just make it easier to switch things with just one button press on the controller, OR they should have made it so time would slow down/stop when switching your powers and weapons like they do in a LOT of other games. When you’re in the heat of the moment and need to change your power from “mass communication disruption” to “mass electronics shutdown” in a second for the situation you find yourself in, milliseconds matter, and not having the game give you those seconds while you’re fumbling around in the wheel feels like a poor decision.
There were some things I liked, but, in retrospect, seem like they were just cynical pandering. Namely the “anti corporation” and “anti big brother” stuff. It just feels like they put that stuff in there as a way to pander to me and not because they genuinely believe these things.
I also liked the way they put the world together. I LOVED that you could pet dogs and take selfies. I liked that you could get experience (followers) for taking pictures of landmarks and even let you know if you were near one. I liked that you could order unlimited cars so you didn’t really need to steal any. I liked the interactions you could do with the populace and, as always, Ubisoft does a GREAT job at making their NPCs and worlds seem alive. I love seeing street performers (like the robot people) and seeing people hanging out and holding hands and cuddling and just all those little details. I could tell the environmental designers REALLY loved what they were doing and I love them for it. Though I was a little disappointed they reduced pretty much all of east and south bay to “silicon valley” and completely cut out a major city like San Jose.
The soundtrack was mostly a disappointment. Not enough bay area artists (and those of us from there know that there were a GREAT many to choose from). Also, the lack of a custom radio station on the PC version was a GLARING omission.
That’s all I can think of right now. I hate that I, overall, hated this game. I felt like I should have been having more fun than I was and it bummed me out. So many missteps that you’d think they could have worked out, but I feel they never will since I guess it didn’t sell that well. If they do decide to give it another go, they REALLY need to get actual leftist writers and revolutionaries onboard so it won’t come across as cynical and stawmanny.
Are there any games that you’ve played that you feel like you should have loved but ended up hating and feel bad about hating?