Aiden Pearce will surprise you – and not just for the obvious reasons. We captured some spectacular new Watch Dogs details in our E3 single-player reveal (See: Watch Dogs – Sneaking, Jamming and a Grenade Launcher), but the biggest surprise of all is the multiplayer.
We knew it was coming, but we had no idea that it had already begun. Ten minutes into a gameplay demo (chronicled in our other story), we see an alert on-screen saying Aiden is being hacked. Quickly, the number jumps to 14% infiltration, and Aiden must jump into action. He uses his Profiler app to search for whoever’s installing a virus onto his phone.
Looking around, we see blue X’s on everyone we profile, and the infiltration percentage continues to tick higher and higher. With time running out, Aiden hacks a camera to scan a wider range, and he spots a suspicious-looking NPC crouching in a nearby alley. Aiden sets off to stop him, a chase ensues, and then a firefight. In this particular demo, Aiden ends up shooting the hacker, thus stopping his malicious virus install.
And then the lights go up.
The lights, in this case, are from another room in our behind-closed-doors demo at E3 2013. Animation director Colin Graham, who was playing the game for us, points to his co-worker, also playing the game, now visible through a previously darkened window. That was no NPC, after all. This is Watch Dogs multiplayer in action.
Now it’s Colin’s turn to hack his fellow developer, so he takes control of Aiden again, and pulls up his map to find a target. He analyzes the area, and then sees what appears to be an NPC a short walk away. Aiden moves into a position nearby, tags the “NPC” (because, as we’re sure you’ve already surmised, it’s another human player), then retreats back to a safe area to begin a virus install. He finds a parking lot, and crouches behind a parked car.
Glancing over to the other screen, we see that the “NPC” is, in fact, Aiden Pearce. In Watch Dogs, when you enter someone else’s game, you will appear to the other player as “not-Aiden.” In other words, if I hack into your game, I will see you (the “hackee”) as yet another NPC-esque character on my screen. And if you hack into my game, you will continue to be Aiden on your screen, but I will see you, likewise, as a “generic” in-game character. It’s in this way that the team ensures you’re always playing as Aiden, and after seeing it in action, we’re pleased to report that it makes perfect sense. It is in no way disorienting to either player, both of whom continue to live in their own worlds as Aiden Pearce.
Once again, the other Aiden begins to frantically hunt for “our” Aiden, and we watch both screens this time, seeing the other-Aiden eventually spot the hacking-Aiden crouching in the parking lot. The cat-and-mouse chase begins anew, and this time our Aiden makes it to safety, evading the other-Aiden and finishing his virus-install.
This is just a brief taste of the asymmetrical and innovative multiplayer in Watch Dogs. While the team isn’t talking yet about the risk / reward loop of hacking into another’s game (other than to say there’s been a lot of thought put into this, so it’s fair yet compelling), Colin did share a few more interesting details. For starters, you can enter someone’s game and simply be a voyeur. Or you can grief someone – ram into them with a car when they’re trying to stop a crime, for example. (However, this aspect of multiplayer is disabled during main and side-missions, so no worries there!) Colin also assures us there are plenty of multiplayer missions in which you’re tasked with protecting another player, so it’s not just about adversarial actions. Finally, you can turn off the multiplayer component if you like, but since it’s already disabled during missions, we say keep it on – it’s a great way to enhance the complexity and fun while free-roaming through Watch Dogs’ open world.
We’ll have more Watch Dogs coverage from this year’s big show. Meanwhile, check back with our E3 2013 hub post for all the stories in one handy place.