Watch Dogs

Common Sense Media says

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.


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.

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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.

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
Pricing structure:Paid
Available online?Not available online
Release date:May 26, 2014
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

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall 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, okay 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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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 12 year old Written bydamianv March 5, 2015
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written bygamereviewerofficial February 28, 2015

Good game

I have only finished this game 3 weeks ago. It is very appropriate for kids aged. 11 and up as the only inappropriate mission is in an auction.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Easy to play/use
Parent Written byDigitalShadow February 28, 2015

Fine for anyone aged 15 or over

First off, there is a lot of swaring in this game, but never the c-word. Violence wise, this game is no worse than Call of Duty. A small amount of blood will splatter onto walls if an enemy is stood near them when shot, and your reputation depletes when killing innocent civilians. The only scene of very strong violence is the first mission, when Aiden (the person you play as) is torturing the man who killed his daughter. You don't actually see him torturing the man, you just see him stood in front of him holding a bat, and the man's face is covered in blood. But other than that, there's no strong violence. There is a small amount of drinking and gambling, but nothing worse than what you'd see in a pub in real life. You can hallucinate, but using audio hallucinations rather than drugs, which is a fun and harmless way to see Chicago in a different light. This game is honestly one of my all time favourites, and it's perfectly suitable for anyone aged 15 or over.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much swearing


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