REVIEW: Watch Dogs 2 is the game you've been waiting for
You can't keep a good dog down...
Back in 2014, I was really excited for the release of the original Watch Dogs.
The notion that a game was finally tapping into the zeitgeist, allowing you to hack into other people's lives and use the data to take down evil corporations and bring the power back to the people, was just cool.
However, the fact that it was so promising made it all the more disappointing that the game was in fact pretty linear and just a little bit less revolutionary than what I was hoping for.
Watch Dogs 2 though, is the game I've been hoping for. It's the game we've all been waiting for.
It's big, it's free roaming and it gives you a tonne to do, the setting is alive and the characters are engaging, the missions are exciting and the driving is good.
This game is fun.
Marcus Holloway, a young hacker from across the bay in Oakland, makes for a fresh, entertaining protagonist. He's funny and likeable, and makes what could be monotonous cut scenes way more engaging. It's his little quips in-game which really bring the experience to life.
This depth of character is matched in the world surrounding Marcus; in Watch Dogs 2, every NPC (non-player character) has a story to tell.
San Francisco has always been a city of eccentrics, and you can encounter loads of them as you walk the streets of the game. Hipsters, yuppies, fitness freaks and boozed-up homeless guys - they're all present and they all have a backstory.
Honestly, one of the most fun aspects of the game is wandering around the city and eavesdropping on people's lives.
My favourite thing about Watch Dogs 2 is simple - the game is lots of fun, and doesn't take itself as seriously as its predecessor.
The missions can often be some inane prank or stunt in an effort to get more Followers, and you can then use them take down the corrupt corporate system.
At one stage, I was sneaking into a billionaire's mansion so I could hack into his laptop and steal the only copy of a new rap album and release it online - a blatant reference to Martin Shkreli gleaning the only copy of Wu Tang Clan's latest release.
Watch Dogs 2 is full of this kind of referential stuff that really grounds it in today's world.
It also has a seamless multiplayer aspect (think GTA Online) that allows you to interact with other hackers in the city organically.
I haven't been able to test this fully at the time of review due to technical issues on Ubisoft's end, but it's something that's being remedied.
What gameplay I did get to test at their hands-on event, however, proved easy to use and entertaining.
This really could be Ubisoft's best release since Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (or since Rainbow Six Siege, an absolute gem that flew under the radar). The setting, the characters, the scope and engaging gameplay combine to make a game that can fully contend with some of the other huge releases of 2016.
If you haven't already, check out our video preview to see my cheeky mug, as well as some slick gameplay from the hands-on event in San Francisco.