Two weeks ago I got to spend the morning playing Watch Dogs. The press embargo has now ended, which means I’m free to talk about the game.
Considering the deluge of media coverage and trailers leading up to the final hands-on press event, I went in expecting little in the way of surprises. Within minutes of starting the game I was proven wrong: there are a lot of treats waiting for us in Watch Dogs.
For me, the biggest surprise was the reveal of mini games, such as Spider-Tank. In Spider-Tank, you get to pilot a massive robotic spider around the streets of Chicago. Your goal is to cause as much chaos as possible, and that means blowing up cars, shooting down police helicopters, leaping from building to building, and smashing pedestrians in their stupid faces with your massive front legs. It’s glaringly silly in concept, but it’s the most comical fun I had during my hands-on with the game.
Eurogamer has managed to get their mitts on some b-roll footage of Spider-Tank in action; I’ve embedded it below. But first, you’re probably wondering how on Earth something like this ties in with the game’s fiction. Mini games, like Spider-Tank, are known as “Digital Trips” in Watch Dogs. Think of it as protagonist Aiden Pearce getting to swallow Morpheus’s red pill from The Matrix. Finding and playing a D-Trip rips Aiden out of the “real world” of Chicago, and pops him into a game world where you can cause chaos… in things like giant robotic spiders.
There are numerous of these D-Trips to play, and each offers a new type of mini game. There were only two accessible to us during our hands-on, but Ubisoft said to me that there will be a lot more than just two in the final game.
In addition to the Digital Trips, Aiden can access a set of augmented reality games via his cell phone. Yes, you won’t only be using you cell phone for hacking; you’ll get to do stupid stuff with it as well, like shoot pixelated, hot pink aliens out of the sky. You can read more about that in our full preview in the May edition of NAG.
I think the reason this resonated with me is that it provided such a massive tonal shift from the game’s usual events. Watch Dogs is a pretty serious title, and Ubisoft was well aware of that. As such, the Digital Trips and Augmented Reality shenanigans provide a welcome reprieve from all that human trafficking, drugs, assaults and murder. They’re not just distractions either, as certain skill upgrades are tied to specific achievements only obtainable via Digital Trips and Augmented Reality games. In that sense it’s similar to Far Cry 3‘s hunting missions, which allowed you to unlock the top level equipment and upgrades.