The reviews for Watch Dogs 2 are out, and oh boy people sure do (love/hate/are indifferent towards/have mixed feelings) about that game! Personally, I loved it -- the DedSec gang is far more affable than Aiden Pearce ever was, the hacking is more fluid, and it’s a rare big-budget example of a game trying to explore larger political themes. I’ve finished the game, and have come back with some red-hot tips for those of you who are planning to pick up the game at launch!
- Watch Dogs 2 almost feels like an open-world puzzle game with incidental car chases and the occasional gun. You can shoot your way out of situations, but Marcus goes down real easy, and none of the weapons feel very satisfying to use. You’ll be spending a lot of time doing some puzzle platforming or stealthing your way through an area, with the occasional diversion. Watch Dogs 2 feels more deliberate than its predecessor, adjust your mindset accordingly. It vaguely reminded me of the excellent indie game Gunpoint, if any of you have played that.
- As a result, don’t bother spending your upgrade points in the combat tree unless you absolutely love shooting. (If that’s the case, there are other fantastic games released this year that are more your speed) Your starting stun gun will silently take out most early-game enemies. If you’re worried about stunned enemies waking up later, just melee them. Or, if you’re okay with lethality, there are usually a couple faulty devices in the area that will let you cause a Hitman-style accident.
- Once you do have some upgrade points available, start off with the abilities that let you call police or gang members -- calling in a hit on a specific foe is fun when you’re just messing around in the open world, but I often used the ability to sicc gangs onto another group, using the ensuing chaos to slip into a restricted area and complete my objective.
- It’s also worth spending upgrade points on your RC car and quadcopter. I spent a lot of my time with the game using both of my drones to clear areas, or even to complete entire missions. The more you can do with your drones, the better. You get the RC car for free, but you have to buy the quadcopter -- do that at literally the first opportunity.
- Other worthwhile upgrades: the Mass Distract hack & the ability to hack car locks & even whole cars. Mass Distract will allow you to run through even the most populated areas undetected. Civilians will absolutely snitch if they see you stealing a car, so it’s easier to just walk up and unlock it automatically. And forcing a pursuer off the road during a car chase never got old.
- The main bad guy from Watch Dogs 2 reminds me of the Once-Ler from the Lorax reboot. Once I made this connection, I could not stop thinking about it. Don’t be like me.
- Don’t worry too much about buying additional battery upgrades in the early-game, one or two of the low-level ones should work just fine. Once you get to the mission where you’re investigating corruption in the Oakland PD, that’s about the time you should be investing in battery power. You can immediately siphon charges from nearby NPCs in a welcome change from the first game, but you’ll be chaining together fairly complicated Rube Goldberg machines as the missions become more complex.
- You’ll get most of your upgrade points through main story missions and levelling up, but you can make a solid dent in your XP bar by playing side missions. I haven’t been able to finish every side mission by press time, but I played about a third and really liked what I saw. Most of them are just about on par with the main story missions in terms of quality, they’re absolutely worth your time if you enjoy the moment-to-moment act of playing Watch Dogs 2.
- Some parts of the upgrade tree are blocked by “key data” collectibles, which themselves are often not too far from a bonus upgrade point collectible. If you see a handful near each other on the map, stop for a second and try to get them all. It’s a good way to keep things fresh, plus you’ll likely have to go back and find that key data anyway.
- Sabrina is the right choice.
- Don’t bother with cars: go for motorcycles. They don’t have alarms if you’re stealing them, they’re fast, and they’re incredibly maneuverable. If you’re being chased by cops, it’s a lot easier to ride your bike into an alleyway & climb onto a nearby rooftop than finding a place to hide in your car where the fuzz won’t think to look.
- If you’re having trouble getting to the top of a building, look for a scissor lift -- they’re often not far from climbing puzzles, and are usually a crucial component. Or send your drone out to scout the area -- there might just be a ladder you missed.
- Don’t forget to use your drone during the refurbished hacking minigame. It’s necessary during some sequences, but it’s also a lot faster than running around on foot as Marcus.
- Watch Dogs 2 has a very generous fast-travel system, but you should drive around every so often! The version of the San Francisco Bay Area the game presents is gorgeous, and is worth seeing (especially if you want to see how the game presents its ersatz tech companies). Also, collectibles automatically mark themselves as you drive by, which both encourages exploration but allows you to complete objectives at your own pace. Also also, a couple side missions can only be found by exploring the world and keeping your eye out for an orange hack prompt.
That’s just about everything I can think of! Hope you enjoy hacking the planet. Be sure to let us know what you thought of the insane twist, where it turns out a giant, celestial dog was “watching” the events of the game the whole time!* That sure was a wild sequence.