Under Fire: Why I’m Not Excited About Watchdogs

As I already said in my write-up of the Ubisoft press conference, Watchdogs did not excite me at all. I didn’t think that would be a big deal until I logged onto the interwebz that night and when I returned to my daily Twitter routine post-E3. Many people were clamoring that Watchdogs was the game of the entire show. They are excited about the unusual concept Watchdogs presents and how it allows the player to really manipulate the environment to play the game how they want to. I admit that all of that is exciting. So what has me so not-excited for it? It’s mainly because I already played a game this year that was very, very similar to Watchdogs and I hated it. It was called Syndicate.

Syndicate is the first-person shooter reboot of the classic RTS game of the same name, and it takes on many of the same ideas as Watchdogs. With the main character’s hacking abilities, players can fight their way through the main story by using any of them they wish, whether they choose to hack electronics or hack people’s heads. And yes, you read that right; you can hack into people’s heads (and it’s disturbing, to say the least.)

All of that got me super pumped up for Syndicate. I loved the idea of having true freedom in how you play a game, and I loved the Syndicate idea of corporate warfare. And then I played the game and quit about halfway through because it was boring. The gameplay was fun in the beginning, but the novelty of hacking into things to work your way through a level got old a little too quickly. To make matters worse, the story never became interesting and the gameplay was more linear than open.

I realize that Watchdogs is a third-person shooter and is under a completely different studio, but I’m still overly cautious about welcoming it with open arms. As I learned with Syndicate, just because something has a really neat idea does not mean it will be implemented and executed well. We saw a 20-minute demo at the Ubisoft press conference, a demo that was created just for the show. Who’s to say that the entire game will be as open or as adaptable as that 20 minutes. And what about the story? Who is to say that the story will be enough to carry the story-gamers through?

If it’s the intro to Watchdogs that grabbed you on the background and potential story of the game, then allow me to also present the intro to Syndicate.

Watchdogs trailer from Ubisoft press conference:

Intro to Syndicate upon starting a new game:

They are way too similar for my comfort.

It would great if Watchdogs “fixed” everything that was awful with Syndicate and truly gave this concept both fun gameplay and an entertaining story. In this case, I would love to be proven wrong. As it is right now, though, Syndicate has left too bad of a taste in my mouth for me to get excited about the possibility of yet another game on this topic mucking it up.

Please, Ubisoft, please make me eat my words.