In this second part of my dissection of Watch Dogs and its potential I turn to the more graspable features of the game. When the previous article dug into the cultural references found in the game and some philosophical comparisons to literature and movies, this one will focus on the presumably next-generation hypes, rumors and facts that this game stands for.
Not next gen hardware, “just” next gen software
I had hoped for more of next gen at this year’s E3, but not much was shown, at least not hardware wise. Sure, we got more demonstrations of Wii U, but that has been known for quite long time now and its graphical and processing power are rumored to not fully live up to the label “next gen”. Valve’s own console, the next Xbox and the next Playstation were nowhere to be seen.
On the other hand, we got to see some demos and games that many analysts think are aimed for next generation of consoles (and PCs). Watch Dogs stood out among these, mostly because it was a “real” game, not just a demo (yes, Watch Dogs is not a finished game yet, but it is already a game in the real meaning of the word, where the player can move around, interact and such).
According to me and many other bloggers and journalists the game is either set in current day or very near-future Chicago. I have never been to Chicago, just seen it in many movies and TV series, but it looked very realistic and very life like. We have had chances to visit real world places and cities in games before, but I am quite sure that this will be one of the most realistic visions of a real world place. There will of course be places, buildings and designs that does not exist or are different compared to “real” Chicago, but that does not take away the realistic feeling. I am currently using the word “realistic” with the meaning “very real looking; it can look like this in reality”, not realistic as “it has to look exactly or be able to happen as in the real world”. A science fiction story can be realistically drawn up and told, but its plot and happenings can be quite unrealistic, hence the double nature of the word (at least in my understanding…).
The realism of Watch Dogs‘ looks and layout comes to a high extent from the graphics; from the city and its buildings and structures, the bustle of the streets and sidewalks to the flapping of the leather coat of the main character. All of this boils down to a very real-life looking game, where you quickly get the feeling of “being there”. In addition to the graphics there is also the ever important but many times neglected (mostly due to hardware limitations) “other object and movements”. If a street in a city should be able to be taken seriously as close-to-reality looking, it is not enough that the objects and movements are superbly drawn up; there has to be “ambient” people and objects outside the main view of the character also; there has to be leaves blowing in the wind, cigarette stubs on the road and lewd graffiti on the side of the trains. If these small details are missing, a game will lack the final ingredients or features needed to become a “as-close-to-reality-you-can-get” game. Crysis 2, which takes place in a alien invaded, future New York was close to achieve this a few times when it tried to paint up a realistic (although “dead”, due to the happenings in the game’s story) streets with everything you expect from ads, trash bins to small garbage flying around on the sidewalks.
Watch Dogs seems to be extremely close to achieve this; to become really realistic looking, both graphically but also due to the liveliness and attention to big and small details that has been put in the game. When Aiden Pearce walks down the street he meets people who takes no notice of him, there are cars going around and many other ambient features which, as mentioned above, gives a game the final feature or ingredient needed to make it feel realistic and “natural”. This of course requires a lot of process power to render and calculate and here is where the next generation tech talks comes in.
The next gen is near
The demo of the game play from Watch Dogs was played on a PC and they are upgradable, but since most people play on consoles it is highly likely that this game will make it out to the stores when the next generation of consoles also is available. Officially it has gotten PS3, Xbox 360 and PC as aimed platforms, but the advanced and detailed graphics and the very lively and “moving” game world we were shown in the game demo tell us that the PS3 and Xbox 360 version will either be a Watch Dogs “light” or that an upgraded / full version will be released later for the next generation of consoles.
Multi devices are hot
In addition to the next gen talk, Watch Dogs also created some buzz when it was more or less announced that you can interact with Chicago’s central operating system (ctOS) using a tablet or perhaps even a smart phone. Part of this interaction can be direct control of the ctOS but also second hand data, like updates of your position and actions for other (players) to view. Perhaps this is not so next gen, but very few games utilizes this feature so far. Microsoft’s Smart Glass seems to be a ready solution for spreading the game information over many platforms and devices, although it is not so game-driven. In their presentation they mostly mentioned features such as getting extra information on a TV-show while watching it and similar. That doesn’t sound so new to me; it is just another way of opening up Google while watching and search for the information you want. Nintendo is also trying to drive things forward with their Wii U, but this far the details have been a bit blurry how it exactly will interact. One thing I don’t understand is how it is going to work if I for example use the Wii U remote to move or shoot with, but then it suddenly will also be used for maps? I need to get my hands on a Wii U soon to really get some more detailed and first-person knowledge about it. Keeping my fingers crossed that Wii U will be playable at the London Euro game expo 2012. What I most want to see at the expo is of course more of Watch Dogs in all its glory, or maybe even a playable part! That would be great!
In the next part of articles about Watch Dogs I will certainly talk more about which actions and features are at the player’s disposal. This is of course at the core of this game as it is for all other games; what can I as the person controlling the character actually do / perform? Stay tuned!