Watch Dogs hands-on: playing it cool as an incognito hacker in cyber-Chicago


Watch Dogs has some GTA in its genes, but playing it doesn't feel like playing GTA. It's not satire and it's not silly. There's nothing funny about driving over pedestrians or shooting into a crowd. I ghosted the CtOS facility because killing those guards didn't feel like something Aiden would do. Now I'm finally playing with my handgun, and when I pull it out the crowd reacts with fear. I point it at a civilian dialing 911, and they drop their phone, hands up. I could pull the trigger, but that doesn't seem like fun.

While GTA 4 is populated by massproduced cardboard people running on tracks, Watch Dogs feels less like a carnival game. Even shooting the bad guys is a more affecting experience.

I spot one of these outside Sears Tower (Aiden's CtOS access gives him special insight), chase him down, and shoot him in the back. Then I stand there contemplating justice as he crumples to the sidewalk. I have to be told to use my disposable cellular jammer and hijack an escape car, which I do clumsily. The police are already onto me.

Escaping the police is seriously hard. It's all about breaking their line of sight with sharp turns, but my inexperience sends me drifting into sidewalks and dividers, ploughing through pedestrians. It turns out, though, that there isn't much punishment for being killed or captured anyway. The worst thing that will happen is that your reputation will be diminished, but it won't affect the story: there's only one ending regardless of how you play, though I'm told its meaning will be up for debate. I'm also told that the story can't be completed without using a gun. I hope little else infringes on my preference to play a low-key Aiden Pearce.

That's because when I was skulking around the CtOS facility I was living in the world, immersed in all the little stories around me. I could have pulled out an assault rifle and murdered the guards, shrugging off the approaching sirens, but that would have stripped away the world's fidelity – to borrow a concept from Assassin's Creed, it would have desynchronised my Aiden from the 'real' Aiden in my head.

At the end of the demo, I was fully desynced. I wasn't in Chicago anymore: I was in a sandbox, exploiting game rules to act like a maniac. The action was fast and exciting, but I found it less fun than stopping at red lights.

Will your PC run Watch Dogs? Check out the system requirements to find out.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.