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Watch Dogs is primarily a single-player game, but it also features an online invasion aspect. While you can disable invasions with a setting, I personally I think they add to the game and increase immersion since the story is about hackers chasing each other around most of the time. Someone could strike any time, but so could you. If you’ve ever played the Assassin’s Creed multiplayer modes, this should feel somewhat familiar. You need to quickly blend into your surroundings while accomplishing a goal (in this case, tailing or hacking a player without getting spotted/killed). Assassin’s Creed is much more action oriented due to having multiple players and a focus on killing your enemies whereas Watch_Dogs is all about the one-on-one, cat-and-mouse chase. This makes things much harder since your enemy is now only looking for one target, and you don’t have some of the tricks available to you in Assassin’s Creed like blending into crowds, smoke bombs, or the like. However you do have a few options and there are several things that can instantly give Fixers away. The main game types are Tailing and Hacking. Tailing requires you to keep in visual contact with a Fixer while remaining undetected, the target can try to escape or move out of range and you’ll have to follow carefully. Hacking requires you to stay in the same area while the Fixer tries to find you before the hack is complete, forcing you to find a good vantage point or confuse your target. It should be noted that if you haven’t been spotted yet and your target is highly suspicious you can quit the mission at no loss of reputation. If someone took off on a motorcycle and is 1000m away, you can quit and find a new target. However if you profile or get profiled and then try to leave, you’ll be penalized.
1. Aiden’s Phone
Suddenly you are trying to start a mission when you hear the screech of your phone alerting you to an intrusion. What do you do first? Well before that happens I’ve found that Aiden will put his phone away when someone first invades your game. I’m not sure if this was on purpose but after testing it several times, it’s clear. If Aiden suddenly puts his phone away while you’re profiling people, get ready because someone is loading in. It may take a bit depending on connections and latency but someone is on their way. The faster that you catch that, the faster you can get to a solid position or craft some Jam Comms to prepare.
2. Dead giveaways: Hold on a second. Is that old Asian lady jumping a five-foot-high fence? That’s a fixer. This one is really pretty simple. NPC’s just do not act certain ways, and learning what they do and don’t do can give you a serious edge. NPC’s won’t hide behind cover, carry guns, do parkour moves, drive erratically (barring occasional fender benders and messing with traffic lights), run unless there is a reason such as an explosion or a player wielding a gun, drive motorcycles/cop cars/emergency vehicles, or walk on railroad/subway tracks. These are all very obvious tells that many people try badly, however you’ll need to be able to get away with some of those tricks yourself so keep that in mind. When you’re on the other side of the coin you’ll have to implement these things into your strategy with finesse. Which brings us to the meat of the game..
3. Location, Location, Location: Regardless of if you are being invaded or you are the invader, location will largely determine how things play out. Right off the bat, being in a low population area with few escape routes and cameras such as the docks or parts of the Rossi-Freemont area can really suck as an invader. The lack of NPCs, vehicles, and cameras will make it hard not commit any suspicious activities while staying hidden. If you are tailing, you want to find an area with lots of cameras so you can stay as far away as possible while remaining in line of sight. Breaking line of sight will stop your observations and start a timer that will boot you from the game if you don’t get back in sight. Cameras really shine here, find a good little nook and ride the cameras to success. Keep within 50-90m so you can catch up quickly but not suspiciously if your target begins to move, which they likely will after the hack percentage starts moving. Mess with electronics across the street and anything away from yourself to add some confusion. If you’re hacking, you’ll have to stay in a specific area. Enemies can use Jam Coms to temporarily stop your progress giving them some breathing room to look for you. The circle of your location will hone in on your location every 25% and by 75% it’s usually a very small area to search. Keep moving around unless you’ve found a great spot or nice car to hide in to keep the player guessing and re-checking areas. Stand behind crowds of people so that the player profiling will likely target an NPC instead of you. When you see a player checking cars, they’re checking to see if you’re “hidden” in the car, when you see them run towards your car after checking several others, it’s time to hit the gas and escape with whatever data you managed to find. Blackouts can be very useful to frustrate a savvy player trying to use cameras to find you and won’t interfere with your hacking progress (may have changed since patching). Use vertical space to your advantage. Hide on subway platforms if your enemy is going to find you soon. You can also hide in the rail cars but moving out of the hacking zone will alert the Fixer which tells them that you are at the edge of the circle somewhere. Also note that when you do things like blow a steam pipe, start/stop the tram, ect the player will be able to see that it is being used by you via a small symbol, so don’t hit the traffic lights randomly unless you want to be spotted quickly. Combine all of this and it should be pretty hard to track your whereabouts.
4. One of these things is not like the other: In Watch_Dogs the world will retain anything in the player’s immediate area like if bridges/blockers are up, if steam pipes are burst, if there is a car in the middle of the street from you, ect (although depending on the system there could be issues with things disappearing/reverting despite being close, like cars vanishing when you turn the camera). Remember what the general area looks like. Are the lifts up or down? If it was down but now it’s up and you didn’t raise it, there is a good chance the Fixer made his way up on the roof. Is there a ctOS generator that a fixer can blow up to create a Blackout? Listen for hacks like explosions, rail cars starting/stopping, blockers being used. Even cameras will make the same noise as in single player when a Fixer first gets control of it. All of this can be used to your advantage and if you know a fixer is on the way (Aiden’s phone!) then you can raise blockers, stop trams, and blow up steam pipes. It’ll throw the player off and they’ll have to lower the blockers, exposing themselves, so they can continue following you.
5. Play it cool: This is really the best advice I can give if you’re already a pretty solid player. Sometimes when you start an invasion, players will be several hundred meters away from you. The urge of the average GTA player is to speed directly to the center of the hacking zone like a bat out of hell. That’s a great way to be seen immediately. You have 5 whole mins just to get to the enemy and start working. Follow traffic rules until you are in range. Drive like a NPC. Here’s a good example of playing it cool. As stated above, I drove robotically and slowly towards my target to profile them and sat in traffic for a moment while they looked around but I didn’t start my hack/profile yet (this can easily confuse your targets and give you time to find a new spot before starting the intrusion). The enemy immediately went into a frenzy and began running around with his gun out (causing NPCs to run frantically which allows you to run around less suspiciously or change cars). They began to check some cars near me which made me start to sweat a bit so I rode a camera over to a ctOS generator far away from me to create a Blackout and throw him off my scent. After he saw through the false flag, he ran back towards the huddle of cars I was apart of (Cars will not move if you are blocking the road too much, this is another very easy tell. Make sure to pull over fully to avoid blocking up traffic) checking each one carefully. Luckily he didn’t find me and ran off in the other direction, however he pulled out his grenade launcher this time and aimed at the group of cars I was in. I thought “This is it, he found me and wants to make me into a firework display” and he fired on me. Again luckily, I was at the back of the group, still hiding in the van I’d been hiding in and didn’t explode or catch fire. This was a perfect situation to lose my cool. I was a second away from racing off or jumping out of the vehicle but I held my ground. He jumped on top of the mess he’d made of vehicles and ran towards the tram. Around the 95% mark when the Fixer was really desperate, I stepped out of the van and slowly walked towards him. When I walked right past him, he didn’t even notice because he had lost his mind at that point trying to find me even though I boldly came out of cover. I can only imagine how frustrated he was because I got a simple but angry message along the lines of “Way to go cheater, I checked that van 10 times”.
In closing, like most games, it’s best to learn the mechanics and habits of the game you are playing before you get into the online aspect but by default invasions are on in Watch_Dogs, so it’s best to prepare early. As soon as you get the mission from Jordi to drive a criminal to safety early on (this unlocks Fixer contracts and will have you hack an NPC as a tutorial before you can continue the story) you can be invaded. The more you watch NPCs, the flow of traffic, how other players use technology to try to find you all adds to your experience and eventually you’ll be pulling off 100% tails/hacks and getting rage mail equally as silly. Watch_Dogs might not have been my favorite game of the year but it certainly provides some very unique experiences.