If you steal my data, I’m going to hunt you down and kill you. That’s the premise behind the multiplayer mode in Watch Dogs, the highly anticipated video game about a hacker who controls a city with his smartphone.
Ubisoft’s designers tried to make the city come alive, and one of the ways they do that is to insert your human friends as characters inside your single-player experience. Those friends can walk around in disguise, looking like any other artificial intelligence NPC on the streets of Chicago. When they get near, they can challenge you and ignite a frenzied multiplayer session.
In one of their most innovative gameplay ideas, the Watch Dog designers enable your friend to follow you without you knowing it. When they get close enough, they can activate a hacker attack on your smartphone. It will take them about a minute to break into your device. Once that happens, an alert notifies you that someone is stealing your data. Then you have about a minute to figure out who that person is and kill them before they finish downloading your data.
The tough part for the invading hacker is that he has to stay in range in order to complete the download. So the player being attacked has to run around frantically, looking at all of the NPCs to see who really looks human. You can start killing NPCs, but that’s sure to bring down the cops on top of you. So what you have to look for is anybody who is running around or walking erratically.
Ubisoft showed the multiplayer gameplay last year, and now it is integrated into the single-player campaign.
You can choose to turn on the multiplayer invasions or turn them off. In the single-player game, cyber-vigilante Aiden Pearce can hack into the central computer system of Chicago and obtain data on everyone. He uses that information to hunt down criminals and other enemies and deliver street justice. Aiden is all-powerful, acquiring secret codes, stealing money, buying upgrades, and making cars crash by changing the street lights. But the authorities in charge can use the same technologies to hunt him down. That basic tension drives the experience.
But multiplayer mode has a couple of flavors. You can use a companion app on a tablet to try to direct the police as they trap Aiden during a car chase. The player with the tablet can see the chase happening on a city map. He can direct a chopper to chase after you and can control other forces as he tries to trap Pearce.
The multiplayer invasions involve a lot of deception. It’s similar to the way that multiplayer works in the Assassin’s Creed games, which Ubisoft also makes. In that series, you try to find an assassin or target in the crowd and take that person out. Then you try to blend back into the crowd. But this is a modern-day version, where players duel with their smartphones rather than their knives.
I was able to sneak up on someone and then activate a download. I calmly walked away while the other player was running all over a plaza. I hid behind a concrete barrier and waited there as the clock ticked down. The player never found me, and I scored a bunch of loot.
When the tables were turned, I had to figure out things in a hurry. I managed to find the other player, who gave himself away by running away from me. I pulled out my machine gun and tried shooting him. He was weaving all over, so it was hard to get a good shot. I finally slowed down, took aim, and brought him down. I felt like I had bagged an elephant. The multiplayer feature is a great deal of fun, and it worked fine.