It’s great to be back in the company of Marcus, Watch Dogs 2’s painfully cool protagonist. It’s like settling down for a coffee with an old friend (who could probably hack your entire life away and put you in prison), he’s easy going, looks great in all kinds of absurdly hipster shirts and knitwear, and he’s still got that lethal stringy billiard ball that one returning familiar face amusingly refers to as his “little ball gag.” Human Conditions, Watch Dogs 2’s second DLC pack out on Tuesday 21 as part of the season pass, is made up of three new single player missions and is a welcome invitation to rub shoulders, once again, with the dangerously cool members of DedSec. No, if I’m honest I don’t think I drink enough chai tea soy lattes either and my street art is terrible.
Watch Dogs 2 was almost overwhelming on release last year with so many things to do in Ubi's expansive San Francisco. Plus it’s easy to forget that it’s a full on sensory overload. 911 calls reporting your grand theft auto in real time, TV media reports popping up to let you know your activities aren’t going unnoticed, and Marcus constantly tapped into the lurid world of DedSec - all spinning skulls and psychedelic imagery. Overstimulation is not the word. Feed Watch Dogs 2 into your eyes with a Red Bull chaser and it’s like plugging into some kind of millennial matrix while having Hudson Mohawke blasting into your eardrums. Well the good news is that Human Conditions gives you even more of that. Adding three main missions to the map - Automata, Bad Medicine and Caustic - the DLC is a sizable chunk of new gameplay and helpfully doesn’t need you to have finished the main story.
Like all of Watch Dogs 2’s missions, they just pops into your DedSec app, ready to play. I only got hands on with two of the three. Automata, where Uber clone, Nudle is planning a self driving car that steals all the biometric data of its users, and Bad Medicine, a chunky mission that sees the return of original Watch Dog’s Jordi Chin who aids Marcus in taking out the villainous Russian Mob, Bratva, who happen to have a hand in health service data stealing. It turns out that if there’s one thing that hackers don’t like (other than not being allowed to use emojis), it’s people messing with healthcare.
While some missions are already tricky enough without further distractions, Human Conditions introduces a new enemy type called the Jammer. Unhelpfully, he does exactly what you’d think, jamming all the signals within a certain radius clearly indicated in a red forcefield around his general vicinity. It makes things immediately more interesting as I hunt down the blueprint of Nudle’s new vehicle as part of the Automata mission. Suddenly doors the Jammer lurks near are locked shut because there’s no hacking when he’s nearby, he can’t be distracted by phonecalls or have the mob set on him, and don’t even think about remotely zapping that electrical box nearby to send him to sleep.
While all this might sound like a nightmare, the Jammer shows exactly the ways that Watch Dogs 2’s mission design excels. It demands you make choices and think on your feet. Hacking becomes elevated to an art form of wider distractions and takedowns. How do you send the Jammer away from where you need to be? Bullets or brains? Whether you want to go in all 3D printed guns blazing or stay stealthy, every mission lets you play the way you want. I don’t even enter the facility as Marcus, instead flicking between the drone, remote control jumper and available cameras, making sure that the toys don’t get spotted in the process. Every challenge is clever enough to let you take it on exactly the way you want. Add in the brilliantly written DedSec crew and you’ll find yourself looking forward to meeting up with the emoji-eyed Wrench for some down time between hacking action.
While the final Automata mission ends in a spectacular chase that becomes a serious test of your hacking abilities in a moving vehicle, Bad Medicine takes a different approach that’s no less grand in scale, just more focussed on not being spotted. Stealthing into Mob guarded strongholds is brilliant fun, especially as Jordi takes down enemies in his own way. A section that takes place on a yacht manages to be exceptionally tense, feeling more like Hitman than Watch Dogs as you hack through various security features within the claustrophobic enclosed corridors. And the joy is that you can do it all without even leaving your own boat. I do the whole thing with a combination of drones and the Jumper but of course you can jump aboard and not leave a single person alive. Dead men and all that…
Ubi says the full DLC is around five hours of extra content and I can believe it. I play two missions in around three hours, probably taking longer to fully stealth each one, but there’s a genuinely entertaining story to each and those looking for more Watch Dogs won’t be disappointed to have these on their map. There’s no info on the third and final mission, Caustic Progress, just yet but if the first two are anything to go by, it should be more of the same slick writing and action. It’s even more exciting that Watch Dogs is teasing a relocation to London as the series clearly wants to stretch its hacking prowess. DedSec isn’t going away anytime soon and that can only be a really good thing (unless you don’t like skulls).