Watch Dogs appeared on most consoles late last year, but took some time to refactor for the Wii U console. I take this version of the game for a spin to see whether it’s worth hacking.
If you already own Watch Dogs on another console, turn back here. This game and this review is not for you. In fact, if you own another major console (and odds are you do), then you should turn back here, too. Actually, it’s difficult to say exactly WHO this game is for. The game made its console debut in the second quarter of 2014, so its appearance on the Wii U is still a bit of a mystery, but I’m writing this review under the assumption that the Wii U is your primary or only console. And as much as I love the Wii U, we all know that this scenario is fairly unlikely.
Watch Dogs (also styled as WATCH_DOGS) is a third-person action-slash-stealth-slash-hacking game set in Chicago in the near future past. Protagonist Aiden Pearce runs into trouble while hacking into a bank, which culminates in his sister getting kidnapped and his niece getting killed. It’s all fun and games until someone robs a bank. Anyhow, Aiden starts shifting digital heaven and earth to hunt down the folks who kidnapped his sister, and along the way get involved in lots of side-missions. To be frank here, the story is horrible. But it’s not the reason you’d want to play the game.
Watch Dogs was fairly successful when it launched on the other consoles, and on the surface, the Wii U version looks and plays a lot like the PS3/Xbox 360 version of the game. However, the game tends to experience horrible slowdowns when there’s too much action on the screen, especially during the sections where you have to drive around town. Whether this is due to hardware restrictions or badly-optimized code is still up for debate. You’d think that the GamePad would invite Ubisoft to craft some Wii U-specific actions, but you’ll get little of the sort. The GamePad DOES show the map, which is a nice feature if you’re not playing off-TV. The trouble I ran into is that the game’s automatic assumption is that you’re playing on-TV, so you have to turn on the TV to play off-TV. Not a major thing, but still a little annoying. The other issue I ran into was load times; this was particularly egregious when you’re playing a difficult section that involves you dying quickly and then having to wait for the inevitable reload. Other problems with the game are more a problem with the game as a whole, and aren’t endemic to the Wii U version.
There are a number of things that Watch Dogs does get right, despite the problems. Surprising, the online mode is robust and you can hack into other Watch Dogs players’ games on the Wii U just as easily as you can on the other versions. And you don’t even have to have a premium online membership to do so (side eye at Xbox Live and Playstation Network). Furthermore, as one of the very few adult titles on the console, it’s a welcome to see something of this nature on the console. Sadly, it’s also the last adult title for the Wii U from Ubisoft. The GamePad’s use as an insta-map is a boon to those of us who hate having to stop the action to check where the hell we are. And for all its faults, it’s still a lot of fun to play, even as a second-time-around experience.
Sadly, Watch Dogs for Wii U is the worst version of the lot, but that doesn’t mean it’s a terrible game. It’s still a lot of fun to play, and of the big-budget third-party game available for Wii U, it’s still darned good. If you already own this game on another console, there’s no good reason to buy this, but if the Wii U is your only console, you really should give it a go, because Watch Dogs IS a fun experience, substandard story notwithstanding.
Final Score: 6.5 hacked prawns out of 10 (as compared to other versions), 8 hacked prawns out of 10 (as a standalone experience)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Distributor: Nintendo South Africa
Platform: Wii U
Age Rating: 18+