A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
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.
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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.
- Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: UbiSoft
- Release date: May 26, 2014
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures
- ESRB rating: M for Blood, Intense Violence, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.