Multiplayer is an important part of Watch Dogs 2, so much so that our very first experience with the game included a co-op mission that began when another player seamlessly wandered into our single-player session. This sort of integrated cooperation ties in loosely with the game’s storyline – as members of hacktivist collective DedSec, you’re obliged to get along – but as we’ve learned from the Gamescom 2016 demo, the gloves come off when police get involved. Bounty Hunter is a PvP mode that lets you hunt down your fellow hackers when they attract too much police attention, and whether you’re a hunter or the target, it’s a frantic experience.
The object of a Bounty Hunter, as a hunter, is to take down the target by any means available. If you’re the target, meanwhile, your chief goal is to survive long enough to break your pursuers’ line of sight and escape. Doing so gains you new followers – who in turn are your key to progressing through Watch Dogs 2, powering your hacking abilities, and unlocking new missions – as well as a multiplayer score, and you can rack up bigger rewards by taking down your hunters. If you’re feeling up to the challenge, you can even dig in and eliminate wave after wave of rival players for an increasingly better payoff, but be aware that dead hunters will just be replaced by new players, and escape is the only way to get the biggest rewards.
Bounties can be triggered two different ways: First, causing a high level of chaos can cause the resulting police chase to spill into other players’ games , giving them the opportunity to join in and help the cops chase you down. Alternately, you can start the hunt manually (using the Contacts app in protagonist Marcus Holloway’s phone) by hacking your own wanted status, which lets other players join the hunt. (You can also turn multiplayer off entirely or shut off the modes you’re not interested in playing , so being hunted is only a threat if you want it to be.)
So what’s it like to be hunted? Our first experience with Bounty Hunter began on a quiet skyway at San Francisco’s Embarcadero Center, where we partnered up with another player for co-op and then triggered the hunt manually. While entirely optional, having a co-op buddy along designates them as your defender, and tasks them with keeping any pursuers off your back. This also limits your hunters to two (whatever their roles, up to four players can participate in a Bounty at once), and gives you a considerable edge.
You’ll need it, too, because while the police are persistent and deadly, other players are a different kind of threat entirely. Not only are they smarter and tougher than computer-controlled characters, they can hack everything in the world just like you can, meaning you’ll need to be wary of exploding scenery and deliberate traffic pile-ups. More than once, we lost control of our vehicle, and the telltale icon floating above it let us know it was because another hunter was hacking our ride to slow us down or swerve us into a wall.
There’s no immediate counter to these moves apart from speed, gunfire, and hacking them back, although the latter two can be tricky to pull off if you’re driving. Having a partner who can ride shotgun and worry about that stuff while you slam on the gas (or who can smash unsuspecting hunters off the road in a support car) makes a huge difference. Also, while escape is your ultimate goal, you don’t need to make a run for it right away. As we mentioned above, you can dig in and take down waves of hunters, so we dashed for a nearby parking garage and laid down a perimeter of defenses.
Our main resource here was Marcus’ stash of grenade-like iEDs, which can be tossed out and then hacked to give them a proximity trigger, creating a dome-shaped tripwire that instantly cut down anyone who crossed it. Our battle to defend the garage racked up big score bonuses, and the growing pile of wrecked cars at the entrance eventually slowed our pursuers to the point that we could make a getaway out the other side.
Bounty Hunter isn’t the only PvP mode coming to Watch Dogs 2, either. While it wasn’t part of the demo, the Hacking Invasion mode from the first Watch Dogs is returning, letting you invade another player’s session and try to stay hidden long enough to hack their data. There are a few tweaks to the mode’s Watch Dogs 2 incarnation, however; for example, the hack and data download now begin at the same time (where in the original there was a delay between them). Also, the addition of drones makes camping in a hiding spot – particularly one high up off street level – a potentially disastrous idea if you’re the hacker, as the target can use Marcus’ flying drone to find and drop taser bombs on you.
All of this is in addition to the co-op, which not only lets a friend seamlessly wander into your world and join your game, but also comes with a set of cop-op specific missions you can replay repeatedly. These aren’t directly connected to the campaign storyline, and you can even take them on by yourself (but expect an extremely tough challenge if you do). Win or lose, all online modes will net you at least some followers and an online score, which feeds into a global leaderboard and can qualify you for low- or high-end cosmetic rewards depending on the size of the score you accrue during a leaderboard season.
Watch Dogs 2 will arrive on November 15 for PS4, PC, and Xbox One. For more on the game, check out our previous coverage: