Don’t call it a come-hack. Seriously, that’s a terrible pun, but if you were a little underwhelmed by 2014’s Watch_Dogs then Ubisoft’s newly announced sequel looks well set to remedy your disappointment.
Set in an alternate vision of San Francisco that’s populated by big tech companies, hacktivists and weirdos who like to party in giant horse masks, Watch_Dogs 2 builds on the techy mechanics of its predecessor to open up a world of new opportunities for players. You’re now free to wreak havoc as you please in a city with real personality and a malevolent underbelly. Chiefly, that means the ability to hack any person, car or network you fancy, rather than those deemed to be a ‘target’.
As you’d expect from Ubisoft’s big release for Christmas this year - its official release date is 15th November - there’s plenty to dig into with Watch_Dogs 2, which is why we got a sneak peak at the game before its official announcement today. So, without further ado, here are the six most exciting revelations we learnt about the new cyberpunk epic.
1) You can hack what you like
As anyone who’s seen Mr Robot will attest, realism is key to creating something meaningful around hacker culture. Otherwise, you might end up with beefy heart-throb solving complex coding matters with an AK-47. Yes, Michael Mann’s Blackhat, we’re looking at you here.
Despite its meme-tastic aesthetic, Watch_Dogs 2 is grounded in the idea that if you want to hack something or someone, you can. That’s a big leap forward from the more limited Watch_Dogs and means San Francisco should be much more of a playground than Chicago ever was. The footage we’ve seen so far shows the protagonist Marcus Holloway setting off the phones of every person surrounding him. Hopefully, he’ll be capable of even more devilish feats by the time November comes around.
2) It's got a nerd as an action hero
Although we don’t know that much about Marcus yet, Ubisoft has released enough details to give us a rough idea of what to expect from Watch_Dogs 2’s anti-hero. Hailing from Oakland and having formed a mistrust of authority after being accused of a crime he didn’t commit, his is a thoroughly boilerplate backstory. To add to the heavily generic vibes, this ruffian is not only a computing whizzkid, but a parkour master as well. That’s quite the Tinder profile.
3) And his melee weapon is brutal
Ubisoft certainly deserves credit for featuring a non-white character in the lead role (that's far rarer than it should be), but what’s most interesting about Marcus is his array of toys. You see, this chap isn’t taking on the world’s most nefarious forces on his lonesome. No, he’s got a drone and a remote control to help as well. Oh, and a ball on a string.
Seriously, Marcus’ melee weapon is a billiard ball attached to a paracord lanyard and we wouldn’t want to get in the way of that thing. It’s lightning quick in the hands of our hacker-in-chief and acts as a bruising alternative to the knives, axes and other bog-standard bladed equipment you’ll find in other games.
While the quadcopter serves as an aerial scout of sorts, the RC car is there to sneak about into places you might have trouble reaching. It even has the ability to hack terminals itself, by the looks of things.
4) San Francisco has never looked better
What’s plain then, is that Watch_Dogs 2 will have a clear emphasis on exploration with a great deal of the Bay Area having been recreated by Ubisoft. Pear 39, Coit Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge and Palo Alto are all set to feature in some guise.
Although we don't yet know how much you’ll get to interact with these world-famous landmarks and locations, Ubisoft has emphasised that the city itself has been designed to be as 'alive' as possible. Non-playable characters will start fights by themselves and even call the police on each other. It'll be up to you to take advantage of these scenarios as they arise
Elsewhere, San Fran’s tech scene seems to be the driving force behind the game’s plot with fictional corporations Nudle, Blume, Invite and Tidis cropping up in Watch_Dogs 2’s launch trailer. Don’t be evil? Somehow we doubt any of these companies will live by that mantra.
5) It's got a great sense of humour
So yes, Watch_Dogs 2 is firmly tongue-in-cheek when it comes to capturing the tech zeitgeist. DedSec remains as blatant a nod to Anonymous as you can imagine and ctOS is the operating system that you hack to take control of the city surrounding you. Maybe iOS 10 will allow us to the do the same when it launches at Apple’s WWDC conference next week. If we were Tim Cook, we’d keep that feature for causing trouble to ourselves.
Away from these old reliables, Watch_Dogs 2’s launch trailer crams in several other clanging nods to the cutting edge of tech. There’s a guy using VR while sat on a tram, a 3D printing machine for metal firearms and more hashtag activism than you can shake a stick at.
6) You'll be able to hack along with your mates
If that all sounds like the kind of world you want to inhabit, then good news: you won’t be alone. Literally.
Just as the first Watch_Dogs’ multiplayer allowed you to jump into another player’s game and kick up a kerfuffle, Watch_Dogs 2 has expanded this concept Dark Souls-style. Instead of simply hacking another player’s phone, you’ll now be able to join forces with them and tackle tasks and missions together.
While it’s still unclear how this approach to multiplayer will work in practice, Ubisoft promises that more details will be revealed over the coming weeks.
So then, that’s our take on what we’ve seen of Watch_Dogs 2 so far. Stay tuned to Stuff for a full hands-on in the not so distant future and don't forget all the latest news from E3.