Watch Dogs: Whats Missing Here?

Watch Dog Gun

So the day has come and gone. The release of Watch Dogs has made it to my console of choice via digital download. There I was, excited to see a new gen sandbox that doesn't seem like a tech demo (I'm looking at you Krank), and frankly I was impressed. Fancy shiny graphics, imaginative game play, even a protagonist who doesn't seem to be a hodgepodge of any of my prior adventures in the electronic frontier. "Does this game have it all?" I ask myself. A few hours in and it occurs to me, something is missing. Something is wrong. Some spark that turned me on to the GTA franchise, some missing piece that also plagued the SaintsRow franchise that made it a "play" rather than a "strongly recommend".

Did the same clown shoe wearing intern who programed the car physics in SaintRow do the same crap job in Watch Dogs?

So there it is. That one little insignificant pebble in my shoe. Can I still walk up to the store, buy a beer and walk back, and ultimately still enjoy my beer when I get home? Of course I can. Will that annoying little hitchhiker be the reason I don't go for another tomorrow? Quite possibly….

I'm not ready to shoot this horse over a minor limp just yet. The game has tons to offer- Mission types thought up by what must have been the Watson super computer, Massive map and beautiful graphics, countless moments of amazement at the depth of the world and the AI set free inside. But there it is again, that tiny stone rolling around getting lodged under my heal for a moment or between my toes only to poke me just enough to require a quick shake of the foot to reposition it to a new less antagonizing location in my shoe. So let's just rip this shoe off, ignore the frosty cold beer that had me excited in the first place, and dissect why this hurts so much:

SaintRow has an excuse. When a game is over the top enough to do fart jokes and pink tutu's on a grown ass man, it has some poetic license other games don't when it comes to physics. Get hit by a truck, fly 40' and land on your head only to stand up and do the funky chicken. Cool, it works here. Do a flying jump thru the driver's side window just to do a massive burn out for spectators nearby and rack up some point. Great, this fits the game. Watch Dogs does not have this luxury, the tone of this game isn't "The wacky antics of X", rather it is a bit more serious. When everything else is so realistic, why should it feel like it just partied with Lindsey Lohan all night before hopping into this taco truck?

It's not bad because it doesn't work; it's bad because it feels wrong. Say what you will about the GTA franchise over the years, one thing they always got right (and this is completely subjective) is car handing. Not so much as they always got a 100% perfect simulation of car physics, rather it always matched the tone. The more whack-a-do the game premise, the more over the top the handing became. Compare GTA4 and ViceCity for example, ViceCity was over the top, just like it's driving physics whereas GTA4 was toned more realistic and thus the realism in the driving. Watch Dogs driving mechanics simply feel like an afterthought or worst a SaintsRow clone. Here I am looking at a polished world, full of exciting and dark humor; I spot a sweet sports car and hop in only to find floaty clown shoes on rails. I half expect to round a corner to see Mr.Zenkie standing there.

If that wasn't so bad who ever programed the AI cars and their interaction with other traffic needs to be punched square in the face. Early mission, It's me (not Mario) chasing my first criminal thru town. He isn't in a super car, nor am I. Just a couple d-bags mashing thru traffic mid-day in a pair of what look like Daewoo Lanos; OK, this looks good. I can stomach the controls enough to weave thru traffic without becoming an unwanted bike rack on back of a minivan. Finally catching up to my prey, there he is right in front of me. I speed up and get beside him. Excellent, there is a van in the oncoming lane. I'll just nudge him over and…. Poof. Van actually has a "poof" animation as it disappears from the screen…. sparks and all. No crash just poof. Fine, if I was on a chase mission, cool, and the bad guy NEEDED to get away for the story to progress but no. This was a simple stop mission, my objective was to stop this guy and the game decided pushing him into an oncoming car was…what… too easy… too soon? What? Never has this happened again, did I witness a glitch? Did the mission need me to get further up the road? Nothing about it made any difference other than to frustrate me. For fucks sake can I get some consistency?

So here I am, back home with my beer in hand, my tinder tootsies a bit worst for the wear but hey, I can enjoy my beer. The game has a ton of content. It's not a racing game or specifically a car sim. The driving physics can be looked past or ignored without feeling like the ticket price to play this one was a rip off. No one promised me anything other than a hacker sandbox so I'm satisfied and a bit buzzed from all the excitement (maybe just the beer). But one last little thought keeps running thru my mind: I played SaintsRow4 because I had a month before GTAV was released. Once something better was out, the game got shelved. Will Watch Dogs be the same? Will this pebble be the same little annoyance that ultimately had me bored after 30 hours of SR4? Given that once you upgrade your player in SaintRow4 you could actually navigate the entire map without ever getting into a car, this isn't looking good for Watch Dogs. My overall impressions point to fewer trips to the store with this game's driving mechanics in my shoe. I've been spoiled by really great sandbox games on the last gen, maybe I just expect too much; maybe I just expected this game to be more GTA and less SaintsRow..... Of all the things to be reminded of while playing this game, SaintsRow was not something I expected. I need a beer that doesn't hurt, sadly Watch Dogs will have me walking a lot more than I'd like.

Oh yah and whomever programed the loading screen to just be the Watch Dogs logo drawn out over and over.... fuck you buddy. You give me a headache.