For many, the original Watch Dogs was something of a letdown after months of pre-release hype suggested it could an open-world classic. The good news is that Ubisoft Montreal says it’s listened to fans who felt underwhelmed by the first game, and made specific changes for Watch Dogs 2 as a result – with particular attention paid to fixing the first game’s driving and hacking mechanics.
“We got a lot of player feedback, and it definitely impacted our decision making,” admits senior producer Dominic Guay. "Now, the good news is it matched our own opinion. If it had diverged, that would have made things harder. It really reinforced [our plans] on every level. Mechanically, driving, we’ve tried to make it a lot easier to get into, to get control of the vehicles. That’s something we got in based off feedback. The hacking is interesting. We opened it up. You can target anyone and anything now, instead of just the people predetermined to be hacked. You’d think, ‘well, that must make it harder,’ but actually it makes it easier – because now it’s more natural. It’s more intuitive. By making it deeper, we actually made it simpler."
According to Guay, the narrative is also framed, this time out, by a variable sense of morality which was never quite there in the first game. Now you’ll truly be able to choose your path – a little like Sony’s inFamous games, hopefully – again as a direct result of fan feedback.
“It’s a balancing act between the narrative – what we control on the dev team, in a sense – and player agency, player choice," explains Guay. "One problem we had in Watch Dogs 1 is some players were like, ‘we want to play it on the other side of the spectrum, we don’t want to kill anyone, we want to go through the whole game like this.’ There were points where we didn’t allow that for narrative reasons. So that’s what we’re doing now. We’re saying that the story should not force you to use weapons. It shouldn’t force you to have moments where it feels like it’s not the Marcus you want to play. The game accepts that the player has his own image of how they want to play. If he starts shooting everywhere, if that’s how he wants to play, that’s his choice. We’re going to support it.”
Ah yes, Marcus. Previous protagonist Aiden Pearce is out, replaced with Marcus Holloway, a laid-back yet cunning hacker accused of a crime he didn’t commit. Marcus can control cars, cranes, and security robots, as well as create drones using his own 3D printer (!) – and represents one area of the game Guay says wasn’t based on fan feedback.
“To me, [Marcus’s character design] is kind of grounded in the setting change. Aiden fit our version of Chicago really well, and we wanted to tell an almost-noir story that fitted well with a rainy Chicago – a North Eastern city. [But when] you go for West coast, San Francisco Bay, free spirit, the sunny fun… it kind of comes with it. So we built our character, Marcus, out of that setting. Yes, that positive side to him was something we wanted.” Watch Dogs 2 is released on PS4, Xbox One and PC this November.