Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Who watches the Watch Dogs?

My gamer interest was piqued last week with the announcement at E3 of Watch Dogs, a new game from Montreal's Ubisoft, creators of historical blade-em-up series Assassins Creed.

In “Watch Dogs,” players enter the dangerous world of Aiden Pearce, a new class of antihero whose ability to hack into any connected system could be his most powerful weapon. Whether it’s triggering a 30-car pileup by manipulating traffic-lights to trap an enemy during a downtown shootout or tapping into the city’s omnipresent security cameras to access anyone’s personal information, Pearce is capable of coercing and controlling almost every element of the world.

It's an interesting real-world adaptation of the free-roaming AC successes and a sure step-on from the sardonic and, although always impressive, now slightly tired world of Grand Theft Auto.

Unavoidable of course is the anti-hero's legitimisation of information retrieval and surveillance. He turns the city in on itself, utilising grids of official and unofficial data to map out a story for himself. The environment is open-play, but so appears to be the narrative. Bank details, criminal convictions, health records – all are open for potential exploitation in the name of, well, whatever. Whether you'll be more Lulzsec than Jack Bauer remains to be seen.

Other interesting twists in the story involve Ubisoft's own, almost unparalleled, success in keeping the title a secret, plus the potential for this to pioneer second and third screen gaming. Mobile integration looks to be key and in an involved way that goes beyond the rendering of stats or some habitual, meaningless 'real-world' element. One to watch.

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