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Watch Dogs preview — No GTA 5 on PC? No problem

Crime and punishment

For the sake of time, Ubisoft used a dev hack to call off the police, but when we're really playing we'll have a few options. There are preventive measures—smacking a pedestrian before he can call 911, or escaping the area before patrols arrive—but if the cops do pursue you, you'll have to break line-of-sight to escape. It's basically your system, GTA, but in this case we'll have the advantage of movie-magic-style hacking. Ubisoft demonstrated how messing with traffic lights, raising blockers, and opening and closing garage doors can create spectacular and helpful crashes, which the camera pulls around to show off in slow-mo, Burnout-style.

And that was only the first half of the demo. We also saw Aiden empty a guy's bank account, chase down and murder a murderer, decide not to intervene when a man shoots an alleged rapist in an alley, ID a song with his smartphone and add it to his playlist, and take a moment to play an augmented reality game called NVZN (pronounced "invasion") which has him running around Chicago like a crazy person, shooting at aliens only he can see.

NVZN of privacy

There's a lot to do in Watch Dogs' Chicago. One thing I did hope for is the ability to talk your way out of situations using stolen information, but hacking is a much more binary mechanic: turn this on, turn that off, assume the POV of a camera, and complete an objective. It can also be used to identify potential crime victims, though, and in his most invasive display of technomancy, Aiden connects to a free wi-fi hotspot, hacks into some poor fellow's laptop, spies on him as he relaxes with his mannequin lover, then steals his car registration info. And all this—the nearly hour-long demo—happened without once touching a story-related mission.

Also getting little mention was the multiplayer, which we've glimpsed briefly before in gameplay footage. Ubisoft is saving those details for now, but we did learn that you can opt to play the story offline, while online play will allow others to invade your Chicago and work against you. There's also a companion mobile app which allows remote hacking of systems in other people's games. We don't know quite how it all works, and if there are other modes, we don't know about them yet either.

We also don't know all the details on the PC version. The demonstration was played on a PC with an Xbox controller, which is fine, but I do hope for remappable controls and some extra care put into the PC interface. As always, we want an optimized experience, not the console version with Steam achievements, and we've got some questions about PC optimizations out to Ubisoft. For now, at least we already know we can play it on our preferred system—Watch Dogs releases on PC November 19 in North America and November 22 in Europe.

Tyler has spent over 900 hours playing Rocket League, and slightly fewer nitpicking the PC Gamer style guide. His primary news beat is game stores: Steam, Epic, and whatever launcher squeezes into our taskbars next.