Fugitive Aiden Pearce knows the truth. He knows how you think. He sees the digital shadow you cast. You lie to everyone else, but you can’t lie to him. He has access to all your information, and in Ubisoft Montreal’s new open-world action-shooter, Watch Dogs, he’s going to use it. And as you’ll see below, he’s not alone.
Ubisoft unveiled its latest game with a 10-minute demo that showed off stunning graphics and hinted at a seamless, drop-in/drop-out online co-op, set in a city where everything can be hacked, and you control every digital key that exists.
Pearce’s current target: media mogul and wrongly acquitted criminal Joseph Demarco. Just walking down a stunningly realistic street, Pearce can access data points on the many passersby. But his attention is focused on the digital art gallery where Pearce’s latest vanity project is on display. Waiters in QR-code masks serve drinks. A contact hands Pearce a gun.
Blowing out every cell phone in the line creates a nice distraction so he can get inside without a hassle; but he’s not unnoticed. He wants to be seen. Pearce has cast himself as bait to draw Demarco out, and Demarco bites. Pearce breaks into a cell call ratting him out, so now — after taking out a security guard who tries to box him in — it’s time to spring the trap.
Pearce heads back out onto the streets. It’s raining out, hard, gusty. It’s convincing; lights reflect off wet car metal in real time, bringing this world to brilliant life. Civilians move with independent life. The city feels fully realized. Soda cans kick down the street, umbrellas blow in the breeze. You can feel bad weather coming on, even above the hum of people and machines.
An open-world setting suggests multiple ways to solve your problems. In the demo, Pearce deals with an inbound homicidal maniac and his cadre of hired killers by hacking traffic lights to cause a 12-car pileup, neatly wrecking the car Demarco and his thugs are in. The gunfight that ensues feels deliberately paced and cover-based. Pearce spares a moment to drag a civilian passenger out of a car and out of the line of fire. The driver looks dead.
Watch Dogs allows for more aggressive tactics as well. Pearce dives over a car hood to take out another goon, stealing his machine gun and lighting up a car, killing the last of his opposition in the explosion. By comparison, Demarco himself proves easy. After dragging him out of a broken window, Pearce sends a message to Demarco’s masters via a bullet to Demarco’s head.
As police sirens close in from every direction, the action shifts to a second player on a nearby rooftop, “Bixxel_44.” Bixxel catches a message — and a mission — via the network: Protect Pearce…for now. Bixxel, controlled on Ubisoft’s stage by a second player, runs off to intercept the incoming police and provide cover for the fugitive as the demo closes.
Ubisoft has yet to confirm a release window, but Watch Dogs will release on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.