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the melancholy of loving a commercial failure – watch dogs 2

I originally didn't give watch dogs 2 a chance. I remember feeling betrayed as a fan of the first game that they were abandoning the gritty dystopian, almost cyberpunk esque mood of the first game to "chase gta5." I bought it and I played it for maybe 3 hours and wasn't impressed. I didn't want to be impressed, I wanted to hate it and I was successful. I didn't like the warm color palete soaked in pastels and vibrant colors and I definitely didn't like the "cool" guy characters that felt like they were made to sound less cool and more like internet cringe comp stars. So I stopped playing and ignored it all together until after legion came out. While playing legion I saw a Noah Cadwell Gervais series retrospective and I expected to hear him eviscerate watch dogs 2 but he didn't. Then whitelight came out with a video on it as well and he didn't hate it either. Turns out 2 of these reviewers I watched for their love of video games actually really dug watch dogs 2, so I tried it again free of the expectations that it would be like 1 or legion. It was one of my best gaming decisions. Watch dogs 2 is a joy of a game, in my opinion it is a masterpiece and one of if not the best of ubisofts entire gameography. The gameplay is buttery smooth, a system of free running that felt like a natural response to assassin's creeds movement system. If combat had any glaring flaw, it would be the lack of badass gunkata takedowns that where so much fun in the first game (it didn't include them because the tone was now more about being hackers and homebrewers than vigilantes). Besides that, the combat works like a puzzle in which you have all the tools to solve it and it feels fucking awesome to unleash hacks and cause havoc. The game design is very similar to immersive Sims, crafting mechanics that overlap with each other in ways that make you feel like a badass hacking hooligan. You can ghost through levels without ever being seen or taking down anyone almost every mission. The story is full on cheese but in an endearing way trading the exaggerated dystopia of the first game to one that is identical to our own. The main cast being hacker archetypes that evolve into quirky little characters as the game goes on. I wanted to hate them but I can't. They're cynical but hopeful, they see the world being awful and they decide to help people directly not just themselves. It's basically socal Robin hood. Throughout the story you fuck with corrupt pharma assholes, destroy a cult, expose government corruption, stop abuses of power and humiliate the asshole ceos that ruin the world with their greed. It's cathartic to see the same kinds of problems that are destroying our world be represented in game being taken down and mocked in the ways we wish we could see for real. You hack parodies of Google, Facebook, scientology, the fbi, Raytheon, and more. This leads to big sandbox missions that allow you to be the ghost in the system, moving through the buildings using things like your drone and rv and if you are skilled enough without ever being seen. The presentation is still excellent to this day, production values through the roof and excellent lighting and music make the atmosphere of each infiltration unique. When you arent doing missions you have side activities which can be shopping for new clothes and vehicles to races. My favorite side activity involved taking pics at landmarks across the city, giving you new poses to use when taking selfies in game. It made me explore San Fran to find all the cool, wierd and unique spots across the city. I beat the game 100% and genuinely loved it. Then it hit me that ubisoft had made actual art and it flopped. It had made an actual genuine anti corporation game and then were revealed to be the same kind of assholes we took down in game. The sadness crept in that ubisoft might never be this experimental and fun again. The characters I loved were probably just done here ( I know that watch dogs legion does have content including 2 of them) and the game design philosophy was most likely going to be toned down to be more mass market appealing, more shooting and less hacking from now on. The fans had moved on. When I was ready to really discuss the game the discussions were mostly gone. The game wasn't going to be remembered as a masterpiece like it deserves. I'd loved to be proven wrong about all my assumptions but so far all of ubisofts games have given me franchise fatigue. If you haven't played it and you love stealth games, you might just love this one. It's in my top 10 of all time.


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