Ubisoft has just unveiled their new IP: Watch Dogs. This near-future thriller plays like an open-world superhero game - only instead of flight or super strength, you have the forces of technology on your side as you manipulate the data footprints of everyone around you.
Watch Dogs takes up an angle not often mentioned in games: how each member of the general public has an increasingly larger "digital footprint," from all the devices, social media, apps, and sites we're constantly using. Those in the know (which we assume to be master-level hackers) can use this data-mined information to their advantage, controlling anything from a cellphone to entire transit systems. "All data is interconnect," the intro trailer stated, "[and] you are a data cluster."
The demo showed a trenchcoat sporting introvert named Aidan Pierce, as he slowly trudged through a busy sidewalk looking suspicious to us but inconspicuous to everyone else on the block. Everything seemed about the setting seemed ordinary, until the player pressed a button and revealed a network between everyone on the street, complete with data readouts as Pierce passed by them.
Pierce crossed the street to gain entry to a nightclub, but the line was stretching down the street. Using an unrevealed tool to demonstrate his technological prowess, he overloaded every cellphone within a 50-foot radius, causing an outburst of confusion from those present - including the club's bouncer. As everyone questioned what had happened, Pierce slipped through the doors completely unnoticed.
Upon his entering, we saw a scene that looked like a mix between paranoid delusion and reality. A man with sunglasses appeared on a TV and seemed to be speaking directly to Pierce, warping in and out of a wireframe form. Things turned even stranger when a waiter approached Pierce to offer him drinks - only, a cube-shaped QR code stood where his head should be.
As Pierce scanned the crowded club floor, more and more readouts popped up onscreen, consisting of people's names and interests. Much like mind reading, Pierce used his hacking skills to gather data on a target of interest, in the search for a man named "DeMarco." Once he found his mark, he used his skills to tap into her cellphone and listen in on a conversation confirming that Pierce's presence in the club had been noticed.
After a brief conversation with a seedy-looking gangster type, who inexplicably gave Pierce a loaded gun, Pierce decided it was time to go. As he approached the door, a readout popped up on the approaching security official, complete with a note stating "Violence Probablity: 71%" and rising. Knowing he couldn't pass without a fight, Pierce flipped the guard to the ground and knocked him out cold.
Ducking into the streets, Pierce was in need of another distraction to get his pursuers off his tail. Once again using his techno-skill wheel, he manipulated a nearby street light to create a four-way traffic collision. In the ensuing chaos, gunfire broke out from the direction of some unidentified thugs. Pierce pulled out his pistol and fired shots back, activating a bullet-time reminiscent of Max Payne's signature move.
As the shootout carried on, the camera shifted focus entirely, bringing us to an unnamed character on a rooftop high above Pierce. He had similar data readouts on his HUD, only he had a mission of his own: "Protect Aidan Pierce." With that, he took to chasing Pierce down the street. As the camera zoomed out on a wireframe view of the city, more and more blue icons were shown, denoting a network of characters all tracking and protecting another's movements.
The concept of Watch Dogs is absolutely fascinating, and being able to control the complex devices we take for granted in our everyday lives is an awesome new way of doing superpowers in games. As the demo concluded, the game's premise was summed up nicely "Everything is connected. Connection is power."