Although it’s only been two years since Watch Dogs: Legion was released, enough time has passed that many are nostalgic for the world’s biggest hacking series and its unique technological take on open-world games. With that title only getting a lukewarm reception at best, however, it’s largely the original two games, and especially Watch Dogs 2, that fans still talk about fondly.
That raises the question of how much of this is due to its top-notch gameplay and how much is simply nostalgia for a game that came out at the right time for a lot of its biggest fans. Although it’s fair to call Watch Dogs 2 a big improvement over its predecessor, there are some drawbacks to be found when playing through it again now.
Watch Dogs 2 Is Completely Different From Watch Dogs 1
When Watch Dogs 2 first came out, it was easy to be swept along in the hype of just how big of an improvement it seemed over the first game in the series. From the improved hacking mechanics to the much bigger and vastly superior San Francisco-based open world, its leaps forward were obvious from the start.
However, replaying the games reveals that the two are even more different than it initially seemed. The characters and tone are completely different, the story has none of Watch Dogs 1‘s gritty ambitions, and it doesn’t push the player towards the same bloodthirsty approach to missions. All of this makes it seem like the two might as well belong to a different franchise.
The Tonal Shift For Watch Dogs 2 Is Still Jarring
Though it might have seemed like a lot of the less-positive reaction to Watch Dogs 2 and its more light-hearted tone was from die-hard fans of the first game that were disappointed the sequel was changing so much, a replay only highlights that it’s not an issue that’s so easily dismissed.
Whether the lighthearted dialogue and constant humor from the characters in Watch Dogs 2 actually work is a matter of opinion but it’s undeniable that there’s a clash between this and the sometimes violent gameplay. Whereas the darker tone of Watch Dogs heightened the oppressive threat of ctOS, Watch Dog 2‘s tone arguably detracts from it a little.
Watch Dog 2’s Hacking Set A New Standard For Video Games
Whereas there are plenty of great games for a different kind of hacking, it’s fair to say computer hacking is usually relegated to a small and often forgotten mechanic even in more futuristic video games. That’s why it was awesome how the Watch Dogs series actually made hacking one of its main selling points.
However, Watch Dogs 2 is on another level even from Watch Dogs 1. Whereas there were still complaints about the limitations of hacking with one, 2 gave the player actual freedom to try different things and complete missions in different ways using the hacking tools given. Ultimately, the downside is that it makes it harder to accept hacking being relegated to a scripted minigame in every other futuristic game.
Marcus Just Isn’t Watch Dog 2’s Version Of Aiden
Aiden Pearce may have been something of a divisive protagonist, but it’s fair to say he’s still one of the defining characters of the Watch Dogs series. Serious, morally ambiguous, and willing to do anything after losing his niece, Aiden set the standard for Watch Dogs‘ protagonists and that’s exactly why Marcus couldn’t really live up.
Marcus exemplifies Watch Dog 2‘s new, lighter tone and sense of humor, and that’s the reason why he’s perfect for the game. Unfortunately, replaying the title reveals why Marcus hasn’t really come to represent the franchise as a whole in the same way as Aiden, lacking the grit and intrigue that made the latter compelling.
Watch Dogs 2 Takes Too Long To Get Going
Whereas Watch Dogs begins with a massive story moment that makes it easy to be instantly hooked, Watch Dogs 2 opens with a tense, Mission Impossible-style break-in mission. It might not seem like the most major difference but it’s a lack of any major hooks that makes it easy to begin flagging around the 1-2 hour mark of a replay.
Of course, Watch Dogs 2 rewards the player for their patience by being a significant improvement over the full course of the game’s story but it’s a shame that some may have never gotten to experience the best of what it has to offer because of its more low-key opening.
Watch Dog 2 Has A Forgettable Story
Watch Dogs 2 is a distinctive and memorable game in a bunch of ways but there was one crucial aspect where it didn’t exactly manage to excel. Whilst it might be unfair to compare it to its more story-focused predecessor, it’s hard not to look at Watch Dog 2‘s narrative unfavorably in light of the first game’s success.
Although the story of Marcus’ technological revolution is fun, it has few of the highlights needed to make it really stand out. Likewise, there’s some satisfaction in seeing the bad guy get his comeuppance in the end but it could easily have been a much more dramatic moment.
The Humor Of Watch Dogs 2 Falls Flat Too Often
Although comedy comes easily to some video games, there’s a reason why it’s often considered harder to write humor than serious drama. In attempting to leave behind the dryness of its predecessor and give players something to laugh at, Watch Dogs 2 did take a risk by including more jokes in the dialogue.
Though it’s easy to forget after the fact, playing through Watch Dogs 2 again makes it abundantly clear why it isn’t exactly considered a comedy masterpiece. A lot of the quips and dialogue that’s clearly aimed at a younger audience simply fall flat and it can be painful to listen to at times.
Watch Dogs 2 Doesn’t Flesh Out Its Characters Enough
Despite its more light-hearted tone, Watch Dogs 2 does a respectable job of giving its central characters interesting backgrounds and explaining how they ended up on the front lines of a tech revolution. From Sitara, who was rebelling against her own wealthy family, to Josh, who’d been discriminated against for being on the autistic spectrum, the game gave plenty of reason to be invested in these characters.
Unfortunately, it rarely delivered on its promise and ended up not giving its best characters many moments to shine. Perhaps the worst example is Horatio, who seemed like he could have been one of the more likable characters in the game before he was unceremoniously killed off before anyone could really get attached.
Watch Dogs 2 Set Expectations For The Series Too High
Watch Dogs: Legion may have pleased fans simply for finally providing a continuation to the massive open-world franchise but it’s fair to say the overall reception was lukewarm and a lot of the reason for that is just how many ways Watch Dogs 2 was superior. Replaying the game now hammers it home just how big of a challenge living up to it was.
With the hacking mechanics refined and offering a ridiculous amount of freedom, Watch Dogs 2 remains the pinnacle of open-world hacking games and Ubisoft didn’t have much choice but to try something drastically different with Watch Dogs: Legion. With the franchise seemingly on hold, it’s hard not to wonder if Watch Dogs 2 set the series up to disappoint.
Watch Dogs 2 Is Best For Younger Players
With its lighthearted tone and quippy, irreverent dialogue, it’s hard not to feel like Watch Dogs 2 is aimed at a slightly younger audience compared to the first title, though they received the same-age certification. Of course, games aimed at younger players have been impressing adults for a long time, so there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that.
However, anyone replaying the game now who played it when it first came out is inevitably significantly older than they used to be and that makes it a very different experience from the first playthrough. Whilst still fun, it’s undeniable that some of the thrills of playing have disappeared over time.