The job and aim of a sequel is to improve upon both the technical fundamentals and expanded narrative of a previously established I.P. The Assassin’s Creed series annual popularity didn’t stem from its opening voyage, but rather it’s refined second outing. Grand Theft Auto doesn’t sell meteorically because of bad sequels to the instrumental Grand Theft Auto 3. No they sell an un-paralleled amount of copies due to the ever expanding depth each new entry into the series adds. One series that has definitely seen change for the good, through its sequel, is that of Watch Dogs. The original Watch dogs promised a truly next generation experience, and provided mediocre familiarity. Watch Dogs 2 although not game changing, smoothed over previously rough edges, and quietly released to the public. So let us consider some of the ways in which Watch Dogs 2 manages to achieve this.
The first aspect to discuss, is the sharp U-turn in the series tone. The first Watch Dogs attempted a gritty and moving tone. The death of his niece moving Aiden Pearce to become a hacking vigilante. The game revolving around Pearce trying to protect the surviving members of his family while punishing the seedy underworld of Chicago for their sins. However due to a mixture of poor writing, low quality facial animation and sub-par voice acting, Aiden and his way of life were hard to empathize with. The game’s narrative felt like it was trying too hard to tell a moving story and Aiden himself was dull and unrelatable. Watch Dogs 2 takes the opposite approach. A story that doesn’t take itself too seriously. A colorful cast of characters who at times can be cringe worthy with their millennial slang and hipster fashion sense, but simultaneously grow on you as the game progresses. Watch Dogs 2 doesn’t feel the need to shove a super-serious story down your throat. It provides a cast of characters, a lovably hateable villain and a narrative with enough motivation to carry you from one hacking endeavor to the next.
Then there are steps forward, the actual mechanics of the game take. First off is the combat and hacking abilities the game is built around. Within Watch Dogs, you had the ability to hack people’s cell phones to distract them or gather information. You could hack into security cameras to establish intel. There were plenty of ways hacking allowed the player to progress in a narrative sense. But within combat it wasn’t entirely fleshed out. Of course everyone got used to brutally setting off grenades to blow guards to smithereens. But stealthy options were few and far between. With moments of conflict often ending up in traditional shoot outs. Where security guards unfortunate enough to be stuck with the night shift were gunned down by a man fighting for ‘justice.’ It’s pretty hard to sympathize with someone over the loss of a loved one, when you spend a large portion of the game killing or injuring innocents. Plus the guns blazing approach doesn’t really align itself with most players image of a ‘hacker.’ In Watch Dogs 2 you are given the option to tackle situations in whatever way you see fit. With an extensive and diverse skill tree, protagonist Marcus Holloway can enter a room firing bullets in every direction. Or he can take a non-lethal but still aggressive approach using his taser. Or he can use either his Quadcopter drone or RC Jumper to silently sneak in and steal all the date necessary without Marcus even entering the building. Not to mention the litany of hacking abilities available to compliment these playstyles. Watch Dogs 2 allows you to deal with conflict as a hacker or a vigilante. And allows you to decide how brutally Marcus will act. However I do wish as a small touch, that all weapons fired rubber bullets. They would still fire and work just the same, but seeing the blood splatter of police officers dying seems to be in great conflict to the character Ubisoft create within Marcus’ narrative.
The final avenue in which Watch Dogs has been improved upon by its sequel is its traversal mechanics. Both the way in which your character moves through the world and the vehicles he can commandeer. Firstly, Watch Dog’s sense of movement felt clunky at best. Moving through the world to reach high up, or difficult to reach locations was a chore. Watch Dogs 2 takes care of this issue with a fluidly animated parkour system. That is both pleasing to watch and control. My only gripe with it being that only pre designed segments of San Francisco can be traversed rather than the whole city. And the driving segments of the game have been vastly improved. No longer will you drive in circles unable to evade police, monotonously causing the same steam vents to explode in the hopes of halting your pursuers. Now you can realistically escape police by outrunning them, and using hacks such as speed boosts or the ability to move cars out of your path in order to avoid unnecessary crashes. You escape in the manner a hacker would actually escape in Watch Dogs 2. By using hacking and speed to escape your chasers. Rather than killing them in a repetitive and time consuming manner.
Watch Dogs 2, despite releasing to little fanfare, served up exactly what it should have. A sequel that fixed many of the issues with the original game and took other aspects in a completely new direction.