scorecard'Watch Dogs 2' is the best 'Grand Theft Auto' game to come out this year
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'Watch Dogs 2' is the best 'Grand Theft Auto' game to come out this year

'Watch Dogs 2' is the best 'Grand Theft Auto' game to come out this year
Tech5 min read

The "Grand Theft Auto" series is a juggernaut.

Grand Theft Auto 5 (cash)

Rockstar Games

And why is that? Because it's an incredible achievement. Creating a massive open-world game is hard enough before adding in stuff like driving cars and piloting helicopters and what have you.

That's a big part of why there are so few games like "Grand Theft Auto." Many have tried, few have succeeded. That was certainly the case with the first "Watch Dogs" game.

Watch Dogs

Watch Dogs

The man above with the gun is Aiden Pearce. He's an awful protagonist.

Released in May 2014, the first "Watch Dogs" was a lot of fun to play - its major flaw was in its narrative. The main character and the game's plot were dreadfully boring (if I'm being nice).

With "Watch Dogs 2," the series is coming into its own. It's an open-world, third-person action game with a delightful main character and a story that doesn't take itself too seriously. In so many words, "Watch Dogs 2" takes the best parts of the first game and fixes the worst parts.

"Watch Dogs 2" is the game that will set the standard for the series going forward.

Watch Dogs 2 trailer initial reveal


This is "Watch Dogs 2" protagonist Marcus Holloway. Of note: he's got a gun in one hand, a smartphone in the other. Those are your two main forms of interaction with the world of "Watch Dogs 2."

So, uh, what do you do in "Watch Dogs 2"? The same kinda stuff you do in "Grand Theft Auto" games!

There's a main story that's loosely important to what you're doing, but it's just a vehicle for your character, Marcus, to sneak into X location, hack something, and get out. That's the main stuff you do in "Watch Dogs 2" - sneak and hack.

The sneaking part is self-explanatory - you do it by taking cover and carefully avoiding the watchful eyes of security guards, dogs, and robots.

The hacking bit is where things get really interesting. It's all done through Marcus' smartphone, like so:

Watch Dogs 2


In the instance above, Marcus is taking cover behind a low wall. Since he's physically close to the door at the bottom of the steps, his smartphone automatically shows what he can do - in this case, he's able to electronically unlock the door.

The concept of hacking becomes far more interesting as the game stacks new options. Hack into a building's camera system, then use those cameras to virtually sneak around a building, hacking laptops and tablets along the way that enable you to sneak passwords. Those passwords the could lead to uncovering, say, the dirty actions of a major tech company's chief financial officer.

And that's before we start talking about drones, of which Marcus has two: a flying one and a ground-based one (that looks like a "hoverboard"). They extend the reach of Marcus' hacking in delightful ways.

In the example above, Marcus crouches nearby while his drone surveys a confrontation between police officers and two gang members. But the flying drone can be used for much more: surveilling an area before sneaking in, messing with the people inside said area, and even retrieving physical packages in some cases.

A similarly sneaky ground-based drone can also be used - the little guy can even be upgraded to shout profanity at enemies, thus distracting them.

If all of this sounds eerily zeigeisty, that's dead-on. The tone throughout "Watch Dogs 2" is a bizarre mixture of modern internet culture and the classic hero story: The world is corrupt, and only this group of scrappy, young, "digital natives" can fix it. That eye roll you just experienced is one you'll perform again and again while playing "Watch Dogs 2," as its characters bloviate against The System™ in the same way that angsty, part-time Hot Topic employees might.

Hackers (movie)

United Artists/MGM

The same brand of "Hack the planet!" silliness from the 1995 film "Hackers" is drizzled throughout "Watch Dogs 2."

Frankly, it's embarrassing; thankfully, it's never too serious. The game's main characters - a multi-racial, multi-gendered group of hackers known collectively as "Dedsec" - often lampoon the ridiculous world around them. And it's really just background noise to the delight of sneaking through another enemy hideout or fake Facebook corporate office.

You could even go all the way rogue and simply explore the open-world of "Watch Dogs 2." There's a ton to do in the massive virtual version of the near-future San Francisco Bay Area. Want to go-kart race? That's an option. How about simply causing ruckus and surviving as long as you can before the police either kill or arrest you? Yep, you can do that too. And it's especially fun in "Watch Dogs 2" because you're able to hack stuff like traffic lights and underground water pipes. Can't shake the fuzz from your tail? Explode the gas line under that squad car at just the right time! Problem solved.

If you come to "Grand Theft Auto" for the storytelling and vibrant characters, you'll find "Watch Dogs 2" wanting. But if you're in it for the massive open world, the wealth of gameplay options, and the combination thereof, "Watch Dogs 2" is the game for you this year.