Watch Dogs 2 (opens in new tab) isn’t out yet on the PC, but there’s a possibility you’ve played it through twice by now, or at least know whether you’ll get it or not based on reviews of the console launch a week ago. Most of the reviews are pretty favorable, so it probably came as a surprise to some after visiting Steam or Uplay to see that it doesn’t release on the PC until November 29.
While it’s a bit anticlimactic to get a PC release a few weeks after the game hits the general public, this is a case where the developer is steering clear of releasing a subpar port in favor of making sure the PC version runs and controls well. I got to spend a few hours with an early PC build of Watch Dogs 2, and while I’m not too excited about the game itself yet, Ubisoft is taking a few extra steps to ensure it feels like a genuine PC game.
That said, performance is still up in the air. We’ve seen plenty of games before their retail release run well on computers with highly specific hardware configurations only to bite it once the public has a go. Watch Dogs 2 has been tested on plenty of different system specs, and it ran well at a preview event on Nvidia hardware decked out to run it. But until we can test it for ourselves, we won’t know. Watch Dogs 2 runs well on at least one computer in the world: confirmed.
See Nvidia show off some graphical features in the video above.
I experienced a few framerate dips on a mountaintop overlooking the city, moving from what felt like a smooth 60+ to somewhere around 45 fps or so (we didn’t have benchmarking tools, so I’m eyeballing here)—nothing detrimental to play or control. Everything was cranked up for the preview, all the post-processing effects (opens in new tab) were switched on and the game was running at 2560x1440 and looked great. It’s not the best looking game on the PC, but it’s still juggling a huge open world packed with ‘hackable’ NPCs and infrastructure. Without much experience playing the full game, it’s unclear what else factors into the city simulation that may hurt performance.
Even if you do experience huge framerate dips for whatever reason, they shouldn’t factor into mouselook. It's read on a hardware level, meaning the input is disassociated from the framerate. For context, Dishonored 2 shipped with a mouselook tied to framerate, where it would only read mouse position during each frame the game was rendered. And since framerates fluctuate, it made looking around a jittery inconsistent affair. If it's read as raw, on a hardware level, the cursor will always be where you expect it, regardless of framerate.
The interface is built for mouse control too. Every menu, from the phone interface to weapon selection, allows for mouse input. It’s especially visible on the map screen. You can use the scroll wheel to zoom in and out and click and drag to move around—it works as expected, an otherwise invisible change from the console version. Menus also have a hotkey associated with them, so you can jump between them with quick key presses. It’s not a necessary feature, but the kind of extra accommodation for PC players that I’m happy to see.
Driving inputs have been adjusted to mimic the fine movements of a control stick by turning faster the longer you hold down a direction. It’s a nice, if imperfect, way to work around the on-off nature of keyboard inputs, and certainly better than nothing. My favorite little addition is the ability to hold CTRL to pace your car with the one in front of you. No more awkward accelerate-brake-accelerate-brake chaining. Your bumper deserves a break.
What remains to be seen is whether it’s any fun to play. With only two hours of hands-on time, I didn’t get a true grip of the hacking abilities or where the story was going. It’s certainly a goofy take on the first game, and I’m utterly relieved to see an action game from a big studio that doesn’t star an angsty white dude in a big jacket. Watch Dogs 2 is trying to be fun above all else, and I’m hoping that works in its favor. We’ll know for sure when the PC version releases on November 29.