Watch Dogs – 35 Highlights From Four Hours of Gameplay

A lot can happen in four hours. A person can commit a crime. Or stop a crime. Or both. (And not just once.) That same person can take a joyride through one of the greatest of American cities, with any number of speedy cars or zippy motorcycles. Or that person could square off against a vicious street gang. Or hack into a city-wide operating system to siphon off cash or seek out valuable intel. Or engage in a full-on, guns a-blazin’ shootout. Or jump into a spider tank and maraud through the city streets. Or simply eavesdrop on the denizens of Chicago, discovering their quirks, their passions… and their salaries. (You’d be surprised at how much some of those Blume security guards are earning!) Because four hours is a long time and a lot can happen when you enter the living world of Watch Dogs.

Watch Dogs

So what did we do with our four hours of gameplay? Fellow UbiBlogger Anne Lewis and I had a similar experience with the first hour of Watch Dogs, playing through the initial missions that set up the story and the game. But afterward, we experienced remarkably different things. And, when we were jumped ahead in the game for the second part of our hands-on session, we further deviated and experienced completely different aspects of Chicago. Indeed, there’s a seemingly endless array of options for anyone to see and do in Watch Dogs.

To help tide you over until the May 27 release (and to get you even more excited about the game), here’s our list of 35 highlights from four hours in Watch Dogs’ open world. Some of these are spur-of-the-moment observations and impressions, others are bits of actual gameplay, but they all add up to a tantalizing taste of a thoroughly immersive experience.

(Note: Since Anne and I are sharing our observations, we marked each one with our initial, to help you see how we approached things differently.)

Aiden Unmasked

1. Totally kicked the crap out of a guy named Maurice within the first half hour. Aiden isn’t just a mere “hacker.” He’s a man you don’t trifle with. Nice to see this established early on in the story. [G]

2. Also established early on: Why Aiden Pearce is so angry. The bad guys killed his niece. Heart-wrenching but effective; now I genuinely care about Aiden and his mission for vengeance. Also, that’s messed up. [G]

Watch Dogs

3. Friends are good to have, even when you’re a gruff, gravely-voiced loner like Aiden. Of course, a friend like Jordi Chin, whom I met in the first half-hour – and who’s crazier than I am in the game… well, that makes for an interesting dynamic, and it’s a mere taste of the kind of company Aiden keeps in Watch Dogs. [G]

4. Hey now. I have a crush on Jordi Chin. He’s funny, he can get me out of a tight spot, and he keeps bodies in a freezer in an ice cream truck. What more can a girl ask for? [A]

5. By the way, you can change clothes! Midway through my play session, I slipped into a crimson coat. Because why not. Anne, however, took the more fashion-forward approach by donning the ugliest clothes she could find. It looked like someone chucked a bunch of paint all over Anne couldn’t have been happier. (I’m not so sure about Aiden, though.) [G]

Hack and Attack

6. Remember the Super Bowl blackout a couple years ago? Well we have a feeling that might have been Aiden with his awesome Blackout hack. I used it four times – twice to escape the police, once to cause a distraction at a ctOS control center, and once just for fun. [A]

7. Distracted some guards by setting off car alarms and remotely opening garage doors. Then I ran up behind the individual guards and whacked them on the back of their heads. [G]

8. Discovered a bizarre fetish in a guard’s profile and used it to strike up a rather creepy text conversation to distract him while I snuck by. [A]

9. Unlocking a ctOS Tower is essential to open up more hacking opportunities in every area. But it’s not as easy as pointing a phone at a giant antenna and pressing a button. With one tower, for example, I had to hack everything from a construction lift to several cameras (to find out where the boxes are that unlock various doors). These tower unlocks are full environmental puzzles in themselves. [G]

10. Crafted a lure to draw nearby guards away from my location. Crafting is intuitive, and lures work like charm. (Get it?) [A]

Watch Dogs

11. Carefully placed some homemade IEDs around a construction site using info I obtained from hacking into a surveillance camera, then blew up some gang members when they showed up for a meeting. Fun! [G]

12. I spent a good chunk of change on a sniper rifle and spent about five minutes using cameras to mark all the enemies in a ctOS control center so I could pick them off from a distance. [A]

13. While infiltrating a gang hideout I used a crane to drop a shipping container down on top of a few guys. I got to take them out from afar and they never even suspected I was watching them. [A]

Bridge & Tunnel

14. Spent 10 minutes trying to run a car down during a mission, until Anne leaned over and said: “You know, you can hack that steam pipe beneath the road and simply blow that car up. It’s much easier and a lot more fun.” So I did. And she was right. [G]

15. Stole a boat and drove it as far out to sea as I could, raising every bridge I drove under so I could inconvenience the citizens of Chicago. [A]

16. Tried to evade the police by land and sea, but ended up on a slowpoke water taxi. ProTip: Water taxis aren’t good for evading police. [G]

17. Stole a semi-truck. Those also aren’t good for evading police, but they sure can take a lot of damage. [A]

18. Was amazed at how much cash people leave in their car gloveboxes. Who carries cash anymore? Not that I’m complaining… Almost every time I stole a car, I got a little extra pocket money [G]

Watch Dogs

19. I spent most of the demo on a motorcycle. They’re perfect for triggering blockers because you can just weave right through. They are less perfect for changing the stoplights because one solid hit from another car will send you flying. [A]

20. Drove at the highest speed possible, then ejected myself from the car right into a crowd at the bus stop. The waiting citizens were none too pleased. Also, I died. [G]

21. I couldn’t always track down a motorcycle, but thanks to Jordi that wasn’t a problem. I was able to use a cars on demand service to get “gently used” vehicles of all kinds sent right to my location. [A]

Apps and Entertainment

22. Found a perfect spot to try out NVZN, the AR game that’s loaded onto Aiden’s phone. I shot aliens. I could’ve played it for hours. And I probably will when the game comes out. [G]

23. Played a few rounds of a different AR game where you leap over obstacles trying to get to the finish line while avoiding skulls, which cause you to lose a coin. [A]

24. I am not hip. But the music in Watch Dogs is. So I used SongSneak to figure out what I was listening to, steal it, and create my own playlist. Neat. [G]

25. I spent a good half-hour messing around with the Spider Tank and Madness Digital Trips and then went through withdrawals for the rest of the demo. Gary says I have a problem. [A]

26. Arbitrarily set a cutoff number for hacking people’s account. In other words, anyone making less than $35,000 would get the money stolen. Yes, less than. I’m not a nice person. [G]

27. Used the Companion App against Gary and laughed when the police I sent after him gunned him down. [A]

Watch Dogs

27a. Made Anne stay late to finish a work project that could’ve been completed the next day, simply because she kicked my butt using the companion app. Oh wait, this isn’t technically a Watch Dogs gameplay thing… [G]

28. Spent three minutes following a leaf around testing the animation to see if it would disappear. It never did. [A]

29. Agonized for a good 10 minutes about where to spend my skill points. Watch Dogs has a robust, choice-driven skill tree that allows players to customize their progression to suit their play style. It’s easily sorted and intuitive, but I couldn’t help obsessing over which skills I’d unlock during the all-too-brief demo. [G]

30. Got frustrated with a Living Statue and pointed my gun at him. He ran. No tip for him. [A]

31. Tried to find the fastest way to lower my reputation. Apparently, stealing a firetruck, then chasing down the fireman who I aggressively ejected from the vehicle and running him over, then running over everyone else gathered around, is quite effective. [G]

32. Played a round of high-stakes poker, using the cameras in the room to profile my opponents so I would know when they were bluffing. [A]

Watch Dogs

33. Watched a bucket drummer for a while. Because it’s Chicago. [A]

34. Tried a leap of faith off the roof of a building. Apparently, my faith wasn’t strong enough. [G]

35. As a last resort, I jumped off a bridge and swam away to escape the police. Apparently, my faith was stronger than Gary’s. Also, when jumping, aim for the water, not the concrete, Gary. [A]

Want more Watch Dogs? Check out these UbiBlog features:

Watch Dogs – Animating a Next-Gen City

Watch Dogs – That’s A Digital Trip, Man

Watch Dogs – Playing In the Open World

Watch Dogs


Release date — May 27, 2014
Developer — Ubisoft Montreal
Players will assume the role of Aiden Pearce, a new type of vigilante who, with the help of his smartphone, will use his ability to hack into Chicago’s central operating system (ctOS) and control almost every element of the city. Aiden will be able to tap into the city’s omnipresent security cameras, download personal information to locate a target, control systems such as traffic lights or public transportation to stop a chase, and more. The city of Chicago is now the ultimate weapon.

ESRB Rating: MATURE with Blood, Intense Violence, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol
The Author

Gary Steinman has won numerous editorial awards, but you probably don’t care about that. He also ran multiple industry leading publications and websites including PlayStation: The Official Magazine,, PC Gamer and Newtype USA – but that’s all in the past. The real truth about Gary? He loves cats, he takes too many selfies on Facebook (according to one co-worker, at least), and he occasionally crochets. And now he’s helping share stories about Ubisoft’s amazing games and their incredible creators in his role overseeing the UbiBlog and other select Ubisoft social channels. Follow him on Twitter: @GarySteinman