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'Watch Dogs' preview: New details of Ubisoft's connected open-world

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Watch Dogs gameplay

© Ubisoft

Aiden Pearce will be able to detect and intervene crimes.



New details of Watch Dogs - including hacking into homes, in-game phone apps and sandbox enemy complexes - have been revealed by Ubisoft.

The upcoming open-world adventure will feature a Reputation system, which is the media's perception of Aiden Pearce based on how the player completes story and side objectives, and whether they result in civilian deaths.

As the story starts, Aiden will be a nameless, masked vigilante in the eyes of the media, but as the game progresses citizens will be able to identify him and alert him to the police.

One example shown in a hands-off presentation was in a pawn shop. As the player browsed items to buy and decided which loot to sell, a news report in the background made the store clerk suspicious.

Watch Dogs gameplay

© Ubisoft

Aiden is able to profile and hack into the data of Chicago's citizens.



In this instance the clerk sounded an alarm, but depending on Aiden's Reputation some citizens may identify with his plight or consider him harmless, letting him escape.

"Every time you intervene and how you play, your Reputation is going to sway in different ways, and that's how going to have an impact on the entire city and they will perceive you," creative director Jonathan Morin said at a press event attended by Digital Spy.

"Let's be careful here, the Reputation system isn't a game rating of what you do, that's not it at all. It's the perception that the media will have on yourself, as a player, or as a character of the game.

"It's not a judgment call on how you play. There's a lot more depth in that to our system."

Reputation is one of many steps taken in attempting to create a multi-layered story, where Aiden is able to witness citizens affected by crimes and personal problems, as well as his own personal story of protecting his family.

The main story will be open to interpretation much like a painting, said Morin.

Watch Dogs gameplay

© Ubisoft

The story of Watch Dogs is teased to be open to interpretation.



Hacking into homes in a "homage" to humanity

Also revealed was the ability to invade their personal privacy of their homes by hacking WiFi Hotspots located around the streets of Chicago.

By using cameras dotted around the home, such as on laptops and tablets, the player can watch day-to-day regular and strange activities of individuals living in the city, adding layers of story beyond Aiden's own.

"We want to have a broad look at humanity," explained Morin.

"You're going to see mundane, funny situations, see very dark secrets, we really want to make sure we pay a homage to humanity, and we're not critiquing them 100% of the time. That would be bad."

As well as telling stories, it will be possible to hack into smartphones and other equipment to steal information. One newly revealed case was licence plate information, which could be sold to underground car dealers, giving Aiden a library of vehicles to call upon during the open world.

Watch Dogs gameplay

© Ubisoft

During chases, Aiden is able to hack into city defenses to help him escape.



Far Cry 3-style Control Centers

It was also revealed that Aiden won't be able to access citizen profiles or hack CtOS (Chicago's Central Operating System that runs the city) equipment in a region until he infiltrates and hacks a local Control Centre.

Control Centers are patrolled by enemy sentries, and can be tackled by any means the player wants, such as through stealth, action, hacking or a combination of the three.

Hacking and using the view point of a camera allows you to mark enemy locations, access personal profiles and identify the guard that holds the passcode to access the mainframe.

Such an open approach to taking enemy complexes appears similar to Far Cry 3's Outposts, and since that was arguably the most enjoyable side activity in last year's open-world adventure, it's no bad thing.

"When you're doing an open world game, I think one of the best practices is to connect your fantasy, the fantasy of the game to the world itself," explained Morin about the comparison in a follow-up interview.

"For example, us, we're talking about monitoring the entire city of Chicago, it makes no sense whatsoever if you don't have to do something in the world to eventually get access to the system.


"It's how it works in real life, and it also connects the player with the world a bit more with its progression. That's pretty much where it stops in similarity between Watch Dogs and Far Cry 3 with those things."

Inside the complex's walls, Aiden can then hack objects around him such as forklifts and walls to create distractions when in stealth or cover points during combat.

"We always want to let the player choose how we can to approach a certain situation," explained AI and gameplay lead programmer Eric Baillargeon.

"It's really important for us with every combat layout that we put these ingredients in so the player can decide to use them to their advantage.

"For us everywhere in the city is going to have the same kind of dynamism, but we want the player to choose how they approach a situation, and that's the reason why we have so many ways of playing the same things. Every time I watch somebody play, they play different."

It was said that the standard range of third-person shooter weaponry would be available to players - such as pistols, automatics, sniper rifles - as well as IEDs that are constructed from components sourced from pawn shops or loot.

Players can also make use of 'Focus' on combat, which sees the world around Aiden slowdown, giving the player extra time for aiming or deciding what to hack during combat or car sequences.

Watch Dogs gameplay

© Ubisoft

Aiden's phone will have multiple purposes in-game.



Your smartphone will play games, music and with friends

Finally, it was revealed that Aiden's cell phone will be able to run apps and games, each having different functions in the open world.

An augmented reality games shown was 'NVZN', which sees players shoot alien invaders, and features a progression system and leaderboards to complete with friends.

Aliens will appear in Aiden's immediate area and attempt to latch on to citizens, creating new combat situations based on where you play in the city.

Elsewhere, in-game music that plays from speakers can be identified using a 'Sneak' app, which Aiden can then buy using in-game currency and add to a custom playlist.

Other apps include Wall - a social communication feature - and Survival Guide, which will provide tips for the player.

Watch Dogs gameplay

© Ubisoft

Investigating crimes can often lead to car chases.



Also revealed was 'City Hotspot', which is suggested to tie into multiplayer functionality, allowing players to leave hints to 'check in' with friends and interact with one another.

While multiplayer has yet to be revealed, a Venn diagram shown at the press event explained that while Watch Dogs would be a game with hundreds of single-player missions, it would in part overlap with other players' cities.

It was added that an external smartphone app would allow players to challenge and monitor friends in their cities, and offer real-time gameplay away from the main game.

More details on specific multiplayer features and the smartphone app would be revealed soon, presumably at the E3 gaming expo next month.

Watch Dogs will be available on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U, PS4 and other next-generation systems on November 22 in Europe and November 19 in North America.

Gallery - Watch Dogs images:

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