It’s just about E3 time, and while most of everyone is getting ready for the exciting reveals of this major industry event, publishers and PR crew the world over are going into overtime as they leak, announce and reveal ahead of E3 itself. One of the most recent of these announcements is WATCH_DOGS 2, the sequel to WATCH_DOGS.
The announcement originally came in the form of a trailer that showed up for users on Twitch, and has since become more readily available as Ubisoft ramp up their campaign. You can expect to see more of this game between now and its release this November.
With no heed for the accepted casing, we’ll talk a little bit about what Watch Dogs might mean for us. The original was set in a near-future, where surveillance, privacy and data security were major themes, and as the protagonist Aiden Pearce, we went around hacking people, cameras, and really making some kind of dent on the digital environment inside the city of Chicago.
The game itself was marred by a noticed drop in visual fidelity from early footage to the eventual release, and with a more-or-less unlikeable character at the player’s control, just didn’t hit the right notes. It also had the type of content one would expect from a Ubisoft game, meaning small events, collectibles, and unlockable areas which all contributed to an overload of things to do. Most of those activities were either things we’d done in other Ubi games, or that seemed to not contribute much to the world.
While it did acknowledge the themes that were a part of its psyche, it never cast out where it stood on them. Much in the way that The Division approached private military and chain of command, Watch Dogs glossed over the themes of security, privacy and vigilantism.
The new game will bring players to a virtual San Francisco, in the shoes of a hacker named Marcus Holloway who will skim accounts, hack cars and probably cause a tremendous amount of damage. It’ll be a living, reacting world, no doubt.
Accused of a crime he didn’t commit, Marcus’s activities will no doubt lead us down a slippery road where he will face some kind of morality issues, and be justified in invading privacy for a good reason. He will probably also be adamant that it’s something others shouldn’t do, and the game will not say which is right and which is wrong, but instead more or less shrug and say that grey morality is problematic and who really knows what is right anyway?
Aside from the videos that show off the fluid looking parkour gameplay, players should probably expect lots of puns about enemies being taken offline, trouble going viral, or RAMs being downloaded. That’s how you know it’s a tech game.
There’s already five editions of the game announced for Australia, which covers a Standard, Deluxe, Gold, San Francisco and Hacker edition. So that’s something.
Really though, we’re hoping it makes a stance. These are some mighty relevant themes for the society we’re in, especially when it’s been activities like those portrayed in Watch Dogs that led to the leak of the Panama Papers (which makes for a much better case-for than hacked celebrity nudes), or for those in Australia, the AFP raids over leaked NBN documents.
Governments of the first world have also been reducing protections over whistleblowers that (again locked down to Australia) have brought many scandals to light, and while they’re not concerned with hacking directly, they completely hit on security, privacy and transparency.
These aren’t just abstract brushes to paint a scene or add to flavour text, but real, relevant issues. There’s no reason a video game can’t tackle these issues with nuance or weigh up different sides or doctrines, and I expect we’ll see some of that – but it’s also time for a stance to be taken too.