My preliminary examination of Watch Dogs yielded less than favourable results, causing me to mumble opaque profanities and questionable conversations with friends at a wedding recently, much to the grievance of the Groom. Me: “Hope your ready for the informal agreement of marital celibacy and monogamy? Just kidding. How are you?” Groom: “Oh mate its been so stressful, after all this time, all the planning, it’s just so surreal.” Me: “I know, disappointing too.” Groom: “Yeah…what?!” Me: “Watch Dogs. Terrible isn’t it?!” Groom: “……What?!” So I diminished for a while after my spiteful retort to Watch Dogs belated inauguration, consumed large quantities of humble pie, wiped its bitter excretions from my mouth (sounds wrong but go with the analogy) and compiled a more poised evaluation. You see there is a trending propensity at the moment to denounce Watch Dogs, with the internet abound with expansive derision and I felt abashed to do the same. There’s a hesitancy about affirming my initial corroboration with Watch Dogs too, re-evaluating my complied deviation from its underwhelming entrance, with expectancy a fault collaboratively pertained by both developer’s and gamers. It’s a subversive influence that impedes our primal instincts that can usually detect the legitimacy of the product, so I’ll happily accept partial blame for its failings, though still vocalizing with a firm contention that expectancy should be met with credible reciprocation. But Watch Dogs is certainly a victim of its own inflated volition with accompanying coverage replete with all the charms of a dashing Lothario on dating site, displaying all the subliminal attributes that suggests a kindred spirit and sharing similar recreational affinities. Only to discover that it’s a middle-aged plumber with a receding hairline that looks as though his remaining follicles are afraid of his scalp. Scurrying in to the bar with a shovel, a bag of fertiliser and enquiring whether his rag smells of chloroform? In other words, not what you were expecting.
To suggest that Watch Dogs is underwhelming is like insinuating that Oberyn Martel probably has a bit of headache; its relatively good, but that’s its problem. Vehicular transportation feels antiquated, like a composite of differing attributes, sort of an arcade simulator that possesses all the pirouetting manoeuvrability of a bovine suffering from tuberculosis, while staring at a vast tapestry of bland textures that are almost monochromatic. But its the lead that is this games biggest encumbrance. Aiden Pearce is a criminal that hacks the bank accounts of duplicitous characters–which seemingly congregate rather conveniently in his immediate vicinity–stealing their accumulated funds through anonymous transactions. But that’s OK because he has a harassed sister deprived of a niece and a mute nephew that requires tender protection. These are hardly situations of earnest commendation, and it never extends to anything more than cajoling criminal elements without the moralistic sensibilities or self-awareness of his own felonious actions. How can I empathise with a melancholic criminal when his reasoning for vengeance is so muted? I would be happy to forgive a dodgy story if the character was even remotely endearing, but I’ve presented more expressions when using the toilet! His reputed anaesthetized personality is corroborated by the periodic sheathing of his sterile features that are masked by the woollen scarf that entwine’s his jaw, with only his desolate steely gaze piercing through his mantled anonymity. Its clear from the offset that he is intentionally stunted emotionally, that his life is plagued by the crippling visions of his past, but the content is so driven by this one horrific event–un-witnessed by ourselves other than tangled segments of implication–that it becomes a trivial catalyst. The visceral catharsis of such devastating heartache that could absolve or exonerate his nullified persona is diminished by the latent conveying of devastation.
There’s no identifiable empathy accredited to his benign demeanour, just the personification of that grumpy uncle you see every Christmas, drunk and slumped in a chair grasping the empty glass that moments earlier contained a matured bourbon, cursing his self-inflicted diabetes almost as much as he resents his betrothal to his wife of 20 years. His character feels motivated by a pale imitation of the events presented in the movie Taken. “I don’t have any (of my own) money, I don’t know who you are (without a computer), but I will find you (with said computer) and I will bore you.” And what the hell has been so traumatic that it sounds as though Pierce has deep-throated a rusty chainsaw?! I imagine this is what Clint Eastwood would sound like if he were suffering from an inflamed larynx while trying to imitate Batman! You know you have issues when the extraneous cast are more sympathetic than the fragmented paradigm of conflicted heroism. He’s supposed to be emotionally numb, I get that. He is deliberately incredulous to his cellular espionage and the consequences of his criminality to retain some redemption for his perished niece, fine, I get that too; but I just don’t care! It’s not an engaging tale of a man tortured by a personal affliction of guilt, his precipitous alienation from the people he loves or an allegory of bespoke symbolism; it’s a serviceable last generation game that feels adequate to stem visual/scripted/technical furtherance with fancy decorative trinkets and admittedly intriguing gimmicks such as hacking.
Like any opinion, this an advisory, very subjective sentiment bolstered by openly expressive resent for Watch Dogs frailties. But I implore you not to be as dismissive as I–and many others besides have been. That may sound like hypocrisy considering my condescending sardonic tone and proclivity for over analysing details that is ably excessive, details that would be considered negligible by most, but there is fun to be had despite how hard it seems to restrict that amusement. The breadth of inhabitance that populate the metropolis creates the illusion of a densely populated community, living singular lives and completely oblivious to your presence (as long as you don’t incinerate them). They don’t just feel like peripheral extras in a movie, waiting for directions which gives the fictionalised portrayal of Chicago vivacious credibility. This is an exemplary ruse that not even GTA have managed to achieve! It’s unfortunate then that Ubisoft didn’t promote a game based around a poorly textured city, arbitrary revenge story, turgid vehicular transportation and a largely forgettable protagonist with all the sympathetic merits of a homophobic racist that hates woman, puppies and chocolate cake. Because I may have been surmising something half decent. As it is though, it feels lacklustre, derivative and more disturbingly, dated.
What did you think of Watch Dogs? Have people been too quick to criticise it? Let me know your thoughts.