There isn’t a more fitting setting for Watch Dogs 2, or a more appropriate home for the Central Operating System (ctOS), than a fictional take on the San Francisco Bay Area. Considered by many to be the hub of technology and connectivity – a place where the populace happily embraces tech and has little concern for how their data is used – the Bay Area is a natural fit for version 2.0 of ctOS, a new and improved version of the sprawling software that collects and controls information in the world of Watch Dogs. Keeping all that data under tight control can lead to abuse of the system, something Watch Dogs 2’s protagonist learned the hard way when ctOS wrongly identified him as a highly wanted criminal. Having learned what happens when technology turns against you, he’s now bending ctOS to his own purposes to fight back.
Meet Marcus Holloway. He’s a young hacker from Oakland who uses his unique talents to bring the fight back to ctOS with the help of hacker collective DedSec. Just how good of a hacker is he? For starters, Marcus can hack just about every mechanical or electronic thing in the game. That could mean the phones of every nearby pedestrian (which now make a great distraction), parked vehicles and even cranes or forklifts that can be moved to reach a previously inaccessible area. This ability extends further than before, because Marcus can also remotely take direct control of other vehicles as if he were driving them, which in immediate terms is handy for creating distractions, making roadblocks for enemies, and indulging in a little recreational mayhem.
Marcus can get a little more personal than that. All of the people walking through the streets of San Francisco can be hacked in some way, letting Marcus manipulate situations from a safe distance on a person-by-person level. If direct confrontation isn’t your thing, he can even tag an enemy as an immediate threat, prompting the police to interfere and arrest people. The hacks only get bigger from there, as electric, traffic, communication, and other large-scale systems are all vulnerable to Marcus and DedSec.
In instances where Marcus needs to get up close and personal with some unsavory folks, he’ll have the tools for the job. His advanced 3D printer enables him to craft everything from disposable drones to weapon upgrades, but in general terms, Marcus has an assortment of both lethal and non-lethal options (including a taser and his trusty thunderball, a cue ball attached to a length of paracord) to get any job done as he sees fit.
He’s also a better driver than Aiden Pearce was, and big steps have been taken to make driving in Watch Dogs 2 a more accessible, more rewarding experience. Each vehicle offers a unique feel, and you’ll probably want to try them all while bombing down San Francisco’s iconic hills at a hundred miles an hour.
Marcus has personal reasons for going after ctOS 2.0 and those that control it (or who want to control it), but the broader goal in Watch Dogs 2 revolves around DedSec, its anti-ctOS hacks, and how Marcus’ leadership helps expose the corruption of the system and help his group’s popularity grow. The main goal is to attract more followers from around the Bay Area, who will in turn put their resources and computing power behind helping DedSec achieve its missions.
Success is based on completing missions in Watch Dogs 2, but the mechanics of how Marcus and DedSec accomplish that is entirely up to you. If you’re the kind of player that wants to incite chaos from a distance, creating distractions with vehicles or Marcus’ personal drones, then you can do that. If you want to take a more direct approach and rush in shooting, you can do that. Maybe you want a mixture of the two that involves sticking bombs to a hacked vehicle? Or maybe you want it to stay completely unseen, like you were never there at all. Whatever your preference, Marcus’ abilities are there to help you accomplish the open-ended missions in any way you see fit.
It’s not just the missions themselves that are open-ended, either. Watch Dogs 2 tears open sandbox narrative like never before: the world is littered with missions that you can do in any order, each with storylines attached. You can also ignore them in favor of side missions, or just explore the world on your own time. Whatever you do, it will contribute to your follower count and bring you closer to the game’s ending.
And you won’t necessarily be completing these missions alone. Watch Dogs 2 features a seamless online experience that will bring other hackers into your game without the need for menus, loading screens, or other such dividers from the main experience. You can initiate contact with players on your friends list, but it’s also possible to cross paths with random players while just wandering the world – and whether these encounters are competitive or cooperative is largely up to you.
Watch Dogs 2’s interpretation of the San Francisco Bay Area includes representations of six well-known Bay Area regions. including San Francisco (the game version of which has three distinct regions), Oakland, Marin County, and Silicon Valley. There are neighborhoods within each of these regions that are filled with the kind of people, architecture, and landmarks you would find in their real-life counterparts. For example, the Silicon Valley area has a lot of techies, students, and sprawling tech-company campuses; the Downtown area offers more verticality with its skyscrapers and construction aesthetic; and Fisherman’s Wharf even has its trademark colony of sea lions.
Watch Dogs 2 is scheduled for release on November 15 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Keep your eyes on UbiBlog for more Watch Dogs 2 coverage.