Watch Dogs

 
(i)

 

Thrilling but very violent, mature high-tech tale.

What parents need to know

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

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.

Violence

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.

Sex

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. 

Language

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

Consumerism

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.

Privacy & safety

The game can be played online with others and with full voice support; no one is monitoring or filtering the conversations. As a result, it’s possible to hear profanity or other inappropriate and potentially offensive comments from other human players.

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.

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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk 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

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 (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

This review of Watch Dogs was written by

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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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
Educator and Parent Written byTeacherr May 31, 2014
 

Great Game, But know your child

It is a wonderful game, but your child may encounter some sexual stuff.
Parent of a 11 year old Written byslartibartfast September 9, 2014
 

totally overrated

as you can see another free roam game run a round kill some dudes but hey have you ever thought of being the good guy you can just go around fighting crime and evil. its your choice
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models

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