Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Watch Dogs - The Other Great Thing from E3

I have to find it a little funny that this seems to be the year (or season, at least) of the Dog.  First off, Sleeping Dogs is announced and shown off and looks fan-friggin-tastic, then you have The Last Of Us from Naughty Dog which has been kicking around for a while and was just shown off wonderfully yesterday, and yesterday also brought us something that....as far as I can tell, went completely un-leaked.  Somehow.  The game is Watch Dogs, a new IP by Ubisoft that is just....well, you have to see it in motion, I think.  This is the point in the post where I implore you to watch the above video (Yes, even you Haplo, I know you've been ducking out on doing so, but you know you wanna) because it really just adds a whole other layer of understanding to what I'm going to say about it since, otherwise, it's kind of like me talking about magical things and you being like "Pshyeah, right" even though it's pretty much clearly there in the video.

So, I'm guessing that you'll have only read to this point if you watched the trailer, have it loading so you -can- watch it, or don't care, so with that said, let's just get right into it.  The first impression that the game makes is that it is a very, very nice looking game by most standards and in fact looks like Grand Theft Auto IV in presentation when it starts with our protagonist very casually walking down the sidewalk.  I will have to mention, of course, that the video shows the game running on PC, which means that this is the very best we could hope for it to look like.  Which is very, very good....for PC people, and it leaves us planning to play it on consoles to wonder just how it'll look for us.  I imagine the answer is "Very good, but not PC great" which is sufficient, but it is one of the small few factors that has me anticipating this game less than The Last of Us.

That's not really the point, however, as what likely counts a little more than the actual graphics and presentation of the game is the style behind it, and the game has that in spades.  It's definitely not completely modern day, but it's not -too- far in the future, either, stopping well short of something like a Blade Runner or Deus Ex setting.  Granted, when you're just watching the guy walk down the sidewalk, it's hard to see why I would say it deviates quite a bit from Modern Day, but it becomes pretty obvious soon enough when the Smartphone-like device that the main character has sends out what amounts to digital tentacles to tap into nearby electronics wirelessly.  And then even moreso when he walks to the outside of the club, ruins shit and walks into it to show you a guy wearing a four-screen TV over his head that shows literal QR Codes.  I'm not convinced this is stuff I would look into seeing in the span of five-ten years and if you did, it would be fairly cutting edge.  Which I imagine it is in the game but shut up, I'm tired and this is awesome.

Now, despite the obvious comparisons a lot of people have made (though this might also be an obvious one), I get a really strong Hitman vibe from the way our MC enters the club after distracting the bouncer by bringing down Cell Service in the general area.  It's a very Hitman-esque thing to do, to cause some sort of disturbance that allows you to slip in casually so as to not raise suspicion.  It's stealthy, but a very -controlled- type of stealth, not one that relies on wall-hugging, vent-crawling and shadow-hopping.  It's that whole mindset of being rather subdued, yet incredibly dangerous and deliberate that attaches the thread for me, so to speak, and what draws me to that thinking.  Regardless of if it's just me or not (I doubt it's just me), it's a very, very good thing.  Really, the whole gameplay is full of very very good things.

When it gets to the cutscene at the bar, it really starts to shine even more, because the dialogue between these two characters and the acting is quite fantastic.  The familiarity between the two is clear from just a couple lines between them, and that does a whole lot of good for the interaction between them.  The friendly yet derisive back and forth is entertaining just to watch, and some of the lines are really, genuinely enjoyable.  My personal favorite is, "Ah...you're using yourself as bait!  Oh my God, I love it, because it's such a horrible idea!", though part of that is also in the delivery as well.  Later on, when there's another....er....dialogue between our main character and someone else, it's similarly nice despite the entirely different mood.  Basically I'm saying that it's nice that Voicework and, well, acting in general has sort of stabilized on a really high level across AAA games, and yet it's still worth pointing out because it is good.

What follows that is something I really really like not only for the technical aspect of it, but because of the friggin' detail work that it requires and I can only hope that it carries over into the Open-World portions of the game rather than just being dependent on missions that require you to scan.  Basically what happens is that the MC is prompted to hack into a nearby person's cell phone via a prompt and upon doing so, he hacks into the general vicinity, and is allowed to take a little peek at everyone through the information stored on their smartphone and, I'm assuming, the general 'network' of information out there.  This person is a Foster Parent, this person has been Charged with Plagiarism, this person is HIV Positive.  They all have names, they all have (likely only semi-unique) portraits/pictures/headshots, and they all have a few bits of other information that is, in most situations, completely superfluous, I would imagine.

It's through this hacking situation that he can zero in on the person who has been watching him since he entered, someone who works for his target, and listen in on her phone conversation with the target.  He tells her to keep him there, that he's driving over, and she responds that she's sending the bouncers after him.  Dutifully warned, our Main character scans the approaching bouncer, learns that he teaches Krav Maga, and promptly decides to exit fucking stage left.  Turning around, he heads for a rear exit and scans another bouncer in the area who, despite being a military man, is dispatched rather swiftly through the use of a Riot Baton out of friggin' nowhere.  Or, you know, from the giant coat the MC is wearing, one of the two.  Probably the latter.

Upon escaping the club, he approaches the side of the road when he sees an indicator that points out his target's car.  In most games this would be breaking the fourth wall, but not really so much here; it fits pretty decently with the whole theme of network information and all.  Deciding now that subtlety and directed attacks are for wusses, he pulls out his gun, pulls up part of his shirt as a mask of sorts, and initiates a hack on the traffic lights, turning them all green.  This works exactly as you think it might and in an event that is possibly heavily scripted and not-unique unfortunately, a rather large traffic accident occurs, trapping the target in his car which is trapped among several other cars.  Some of which seem to have had bodyguards in them, as a few men show up, spot our MC and notice him for the threat that he is.

What follows next is your normal third-person shooter affair - take cover, regenerate health, shoot mans, you're use to it by now.  There are a few subtle intricacies here and there - for instance, upon moving up next to a car that still had occupants, only one of which was still living or conscious, the MC is prompted to 'rescue' the man, which amounts to opening the door, tugging him out and telling him to get the hell away for his sake.  Another little thing is a jump-from-cover move used on one of the bodyguards who finds himself on the opposite side of a taxi cab from our MC.  He jumps and slides across the hood, shooting the goon in the process and taking him down before an explosion rocks the area from the side (of a car from the accident blowing up), bringing to note that explosions cause that familiar ringing of the ears or game sound for 'immersive' purposes.

The last use of the really impressive multi-tool that you have at your disposal, more or less, is pretty much the very last thing shown off in the trailer proper.  Having taken out his target, our MC runs down a road only to see a Police Helicopter flying overhead with cars approaching.  Taking a left, he runs to a car that had been prepared for him by his 'buddy', hops in, and drives off, likely shaking off some of the pursuit forces, but deciding to add in a whole other layer of 'getaway'.  He approaches a drawbridge and, as he drives onto it, sets it to raise up so that, as he crosses it, there's really no way anyone could follow him over as the angle would be too much.  I'm.....not really sure how that's supposed to stop the helicopter that was literally just there, but details. It made for a rather impressive ending for sure.  Of an equally impressive concept and, well, proof-of-concept in the IP itself.

This game is firmly on my radar now if only because of this video, and I look forward to any and all information that will come out for it in the following months.  S'far as I can tell, the only bit that we know is that it's coming out for PC, PS3 and XBox 360, though the when, the how and such is still up in the air.  As is....well, pretty much everything about the game aside from what's in the video.  You can extrapolate from it, as I am wont to do, and I think I have done somewhat, but it's about all that you'll find out there, I believe.  Which is good enough for now, I must say.  I'm just going to think about being the jerkiest of jerks that ever jerked for a little while in the open-world portion of the game.  Disrupting cell service while dicking around with traffic lights could have hilarious results if you are a real sadistic bastard.

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