Watch Dogs

Game review by
Marc Saltzman, Common Sense Media
Watch Dogs Game Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Thrilling but very violent, mature high-tech tale.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 60 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 99 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Watch Dogs is about a hacker trying to go after a criminal mastermind -- but in addition to hacking into Chicago’s city systems, players can use guns, explosives, and other weapons to kill human enemies, including police officers.

Positive Role Models & Representations

You play as the young Aiden Pearce, a hacker determined to use his tech skills -- as well as spying tools, weapons handling, and driving abilities -- to take down a malevolent leader of the underworld. Although Aiden is a "good guy," he kills several humans, including police officers, and can drive and shoot recklessly throughout the city -- not a great example of model behavior. But you can choose to knock out an enemy when sneaking up behind him, instead of killing him.

Ease of Play

Watch Dogs can be a challenging game, as there are many elements to the third-person adventure; players will use stealth, combat, racing, and hacking electronics to accomplish mission objectives. The introductory tutorial level does a good job of walking the player through all the mechanics. Those familiar with games such as the Grand Theft Auto series might feel right at home with this open "sandbox"-style game.

Note: This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version, but other platforms are available.


Using a wide variety of weapons -- fists, knives, pistols, machine guns, assault rifles, and explosives -- you must kill several hundred human enemies, some of whom are police officers (others are criminals). Some non-interactive scenes depict violence, too, including someone repeatedly stabbed in the neck. There's blood in the game but no over-the-top gore. Players can drive recklessly throughout the city and also can hack into traffic systems to cause accidents that can kill enemies.


Scenes with topless women, as well as obscured scenes of sexual intercourse, oral sex performed on a man, and masturbation. Aiden can read information or overhear conversations; one such bit of information says a male character purchases many condoms. 


Strong profanity throughout many of the dialogue sequences, including "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole," along with "hell," "damn," "bastard," and "bitch."


Although there are no overt product placements within the game, Watch Dogs is the start of a new gaming franchise. There are lots of online sites promoting merchandise based on the game and on the main character for consumers to buy.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Aiden can consume large amounts of alcohol, which impairs his vision. In at least one non-interactive cut-scene sequence, characters can be seen injecting themselves with needles containing narcotics.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Watch Dogs is a very mature game that lets players "hack" into a city’s communications, surveillance, and transportation systems; kill several human characters (including police officers) using a wide variety of weapons; and drive recklessly through an open "sandbox"-style urban environment (à la Grand Theft Auto). Cut-scene sequences show scenes of violence and blood; there's also nudity and scenes with sexual activity (including masturbation and oral sex), as well as strong profanity in the dialogue sequences ("f--k," "s--t," and more). Players can choose to have their character consume large amounts of alcohol, and some characters are shown injecting narcotics.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byMamasmum May 31, 2014
Bit violent but very enjoyable! Tiny reference to sex but you don't have to watch! My 12yr old son said it was the best game ever played
Adult Written byXboxHero January 21, 2016

Best game for child

This is a great game. I have an eleven year old son. At first I was not sure he should get it it but he got the game for free on gold and I had him let me play... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old June 4, 2014

The honest truth

(Visit the ESRB website for the reason behind the "M" rating)

Okay, lets begin with the fact that some of the other reviews written by kids on here a... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byRedneckgamer June 1, 2014

Amazing, but come on.

Alright I'm 13 not trying to be an adult, and I think it is a great game but yall
Don't care about that. There is violence, in between gta and cod, b... Continue reading

What's it about?

WATCH DOGS is set in the near future in an open-world Chicago. The third-person adventure follows a hacker named Aiden Pearce who taps into the city's central computer system, allowing him to digitally eavesdrop on mobile phone conversations, toy with traffic lights to slow down a dangerous target, and access security cameras on demand. Along with the high-tech premise and "sandbox"-style, go-anywhere gameplay -- which incorporates a lot of weapons-heavy shootouts, driving-related objectives, and stealthy on-foot missions -- Pearce also must tap into his connections to successfully complete the game. Along with a single-player campaign, you can opt to connect in-game with others, including friends. Note: All versions of the game -- among PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC -- are more or less the same.

Is it any good?

For all its mature content, Watch Dogs is an extraordinary game. With an underlying theme about government surveillance versus our perceived freedoms in the West, the game tries to do it all. It mostly succeeds: You can be a hacker, a spy, a vigilante, a soldier, a race car driver, a collector, an interrogator, and a detective all rolled into one interactive entertainment experience. For example, on one mission, you're eavesdropping on a subject to ensure it's the right person before you engage in gunfire. Then you obtain a critical piece of evidence before you flee the scene on foot, car, or boat (be sure to raise the drawbridge while you're on it, so your pursuers won't make it). You get the idea.

Those who don't want to game alone can partake in online races and decryption matches (two teams of four) to add to the fun, not to mention four kinds of "digital trip" mini-games and side missions such as collecting or scanning items. Despite its ambition to give you everything in one game, Watch Dogs does in fact live up to its hype. Even though we're introduced to other members of Aiden's family (who play a key role in his motives), it's unfortunate that we don’t become emotionally invested in him. Perhaps Ubisoft will deliver a more compelling character in a future sequel. Still, overall, this multi-platform title is one of the best of 2014 so far -- albeit for mature players only.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the idea that Aiden is supposed to be a "good guy." Do you think that means it's OK for him to use violence and his hacking abilities to stop an evil mastermind? Or is there no real ethical distinction if the actions are the same?

  • Aiden can choose to knock unconscious some enemies he sneaks up on rather than killing them. Does this option justify his motives? Parents, talk to your kids about the impact of violence in media.

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action

Themes & Topics

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