Watch Dogs

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Watch Dogs
Watch Dogs box art.jpg
Developer(s) Ubisoft Montreal[a]
Publisher(s) Ubisoft
Director(s) Jonathan Morin
  • Dominic Guay
  • Stéphane Decroix
  • Danny Bélanger
  • Yvan Poeymirou
  • Patrice Zink
  • Eric Baillargeon
  • Jean-François Roy
  • Martin Hébert
  • Lars Bonde
Writer(s) Kevin Shortt
Composer(s) Brian Reitzell
  • WW: 27 May 2014
Wii U
  • NA: 18 November 2014
  • EU: 21 November 2014
Genre(s) Action-adventure
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Watch Dogs (stylized as WATCH_DOGS) is an action-adventure video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It was released worldwide on 27 May 2014 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, while a Wii U version was released in November 2014. Set within a fictionalized version of Chicago, Illinois, the single-player story follows a hacker and his efforts to seek revenge after the killing of his niece. The open world design lets players freely roam the urban city, suburbs, open countryside, and run-down neighborhoods of Chicago.

The game is played from a third-person perspective and its world is navigated on-foot or by vehicle. Players control Aiden Pearce, a grey hat hacker who can hack into the "ctOS", a centralized operating system which manages the hyper-connected city of Chicago, and formed after the Northeast blackout of 2003 was caused by a hacker. An online multiplayer mode is also provided in the game, allowing up to eight players to engage in both cooperative and competitive gameplay in a recreation of the single-player setting.

Development on the game began in 2009. As part of their research for the open world, the developers conducted field research around Chicago throughout development and captured footage for the design team. Duties were shared between many of Ubisoft's studios worldwide.

Following its announcement in June 2012, Watch Dogs was widely anticipated. At release, it received a polarized reception; praise was particularly directed at the game's hacking elements and mission variety. The game received criticism concerning the discrepancy in graphics quality between marketing and the real game and also concerning the overall gameplay, plot, protagonist, and some technical issues. Watch Dogs was a commercial success, breaking the record for the biggest first day sales of a Ubisoft game, and becoming the biggest launch of a new intellectual property ever in the United Kingdom at the time. As of 1 January 2015, the game has shipped over 10 million copies. It was followed by a sequel, Watch Dogs 2, in November 2016.


Watch Dogs is an action-adventure game played from a third-person perspective. Players complete missions—linear scenarios with set objectives—to progress through the story. Outside of missions, players can freely roam the open world of Chicago. The world may be fully explored from the beginning of the game without restrictions, although story progress unlocks more gameplay content.[2]

The player character walking through an urban environment, using his smartphone to scan the area for crime. The heads-up display elements are visible on-screen.
Using the in-game smartphone, players have the ability to view a plethora of options, including the ability to display descriptive backgrounds of non-player characters.

In the main game, players take control of Aiden Pearce, a vigilante who can hack into various electronic devices tied to the city's central operating system (ctOS), allowing various methods for the player to solve numerous objectives.[3] The hacking mechanic in the game is performed directly from Aiden's in-game smartphone. The phone is also equipped with applications that interact directly with the environment around the player; for example, players can hack into NPC's phones to retrieve bank data and steal funds as well as unlock new cars, weapons, and in-game music, or they can hack into traffic lights to cause collisions. Players can stop trains, raise security barriers, and black out the entire city and can slow down time to shoot.[4]

The game's combat utilises a combination of stealth components and limited parkour (there is no jumping up or across), along with the mechanics of a cover-based third-person shooter.[5] The game allows the players to use non-lethal attacks and avoid killing anyone should they decide to, except the three main antagonists of the game, Damien Brenks, Lucky Quinn and Delford "Iraq" Wade. The hacking element of the game can also be used in combat situations to eliminate opponents, create diversions, or create cover. It can also be used as a stealth tool to sneak past guards. In combat, auto-aim and a cover system are available as assistance against enemies. If players take damage, their health meter will gradually regenerate. If players commit crimes while playing, the police may respond, as indicated by a meter in the head-up display.[6]

Alongside the single-player mode, Watch Dogs features an asynchronous online multiplayer mode. One element to the multiplayer mode is a one-on-one interaction, in which one player secretly joins the single-player experience of another player and attempts to install a "back-door virus" onto their smartphone.[7] In addition, the game features an eight-player free roam mode.[8] Other multiplayer modes include car races, competitive decryption combat, and a ctOS mobile challenge.[b] A mobile application is also available for smartphones and tablets that allows players to challenge another player in-game and use hacks that triggers traps, in an attempt to stop them from succeeding.[10]


Setting and characters[edit]

In the backstory of Watch Dogs, a computer hacker is discovered to have been behind the Northeast blackout of 2003, which led to eleven deaths. This event prompted the Blume Corporation to develop ctOS (Central Operating System) a supercomputer that connects everyone and everything[11] — including personal information, security cameras, and traffic lights, after being implemented in Chicago, Illinois (the setting of the game), it becomes the most technologically advanced city in the world.

In Watch Dogs, players take control of Aiden Pearce (Noam Jenkins), a grey hat hacker and vigilante. After a hacking job gone wrong, a hit is sent out on Aiden. While intending to kill him, hitmen accidentally killed his niece Lena, and Aiden seeks to bring his own kind of justice to the people responsible, all while protecting his sister Nicole (Anne Hopkins) and nephew Jackson (Nicholas Bode). Aiden meets a host of allies over the course of the game: Jordi Chin (Aaron Douglas), a "fixer" and Aiden's hired partner; Clara Lille (Isabelle Blais), a tattoo artist and member of the "DedSec" hacker group (under the alias 'BadBoy17'); and Raymond "T-Bone" Kenney (John Tench), a former ctOS engineer, and the hacker responsible for the northeast blackout in 2003. Aiden also encounters many enemies, including Delford "Iraq" Wade (Jerod Hayes),[12] a gang leader with a military background; and Dermot "Lucky" Quinn (Myron Natwick), owner of the Merlaut Hotel and crime boss of Chicago's crime underground. Other characters include Damien Brenks (Daniel Kash), Aiden's former mentor and partner-in-crime; and Maurice Vega (Christopher Jacot), the trigger man who caused the accident that claimed Lena's life.


In October 2012, hacker Aiden Pearce and his mentor and partner Damien Brenks launch an electronic bank heist at the high-end Merlaut Hotel in Chicago, with Aiden transferring the funds through his smartphone.[13] When they come across a strange file and alert another hacker, Damien tries to find the hacker, giving them both away. Unable to talk Damien out of it, Aiden stops him by leaving.[14] Fearing for the safety of his family—sister Nicole, and her children Lena and Jackson—Aiden decides to drive them to safety under the guise of a surprise trip. However, on the way, two hitmen are hired to intercept the car and take Aiden out. One of the hitmen, Maurice Vega, fires the shot that crashes the car and puts Lena in a coma. She dies two months later.[15]

A year later, Aiden, now a vigilante known as "The Fox" or simply "The Vigilante", tracks down Maurice, the hitman, at a baseball stadium in the Parker Square district of Chicago.[16][17] After a fruitless interrogation about Maurice's contractor, Aiden leaves Maurice in the hands of his friend, a fellow criminal named Jordi Chin. Aiden then hacks the ctOS to help them escape unnoticed.[16][18] As Aiden investigates further, Damien (whom he cut ties with since the Merlaut robbery) approaches him, requesting to find the other hacker from the Merlaut job.[19] Upon Aiden's refusal, Damien kidnaps Nicole, forcing Aiden to comply with Damien's demands in order to ensure her safety, though he manages to prevent Jackson from being kidnapped and leaves him under the care of his psychiatrist.[20]

With the help of Clara Lille, a member of hacking syndicate DedSec, Aiden is able to defeat a small hacker group named the Intraceptors, who pose a threat to him. Aiden is then able to track down the second hacker in the Merlaut: a former soldier and current gang leader, Delford "Iraq" Wade.[21] Aiden obtains the electronic key to Iraq's server room and obtains a sample of the data from his servers.[22] He and Clara find that Iraq has secrets on almost every citizen of Chicago, effectively protecting his gang from the authorities.[23] When they come across encrypted data beyond Clara's ability, she directs Aiden to seek out Raymond "T-Bone" Kenney, whose hacking caused the 2003 blackout that led to the implementation of ctOS.[24][25] After Aiden completes some tasks for him, T-Bone agrees to help decrypt the data.[26]

Aiden mounts an assault on Iraq's compound, making it to his server room. After Aiden downloads the server data, Iraq confronts him; Aiden kills him and leaves the compound.[27] While browsing the server information, another hacker, JB "Defalt" Markowicz, infiltrates their system, stealing the information before deleting it from their servers. Defalt also leaves a recording that reveals Clara helped locate Aiden and Damien eleven months prior, which ultimately led to his niece's death.[28] Furious, Aiden demands that Clara leave. Later, when Aiden confronts Damien about the loss of the server data, Damien publicizes Aiden's vigilantism, alerting the authorities of his identity.[29]

Eventually, Aiden and T-Bone locate and take down Defalt and retrieve the data again.[30] Meanwhile, Aiden discovers where Nicole is being kept and frees her.[31] Aiden drives Nicole and Jackson out of Chicago and into nearby Pawnee for their safety.[32] Examining the server data, T-Bone discovers the contractor who ordered the hit that killed Aiden's niece: Dermot "Lucky" Quinn, leader of the Chicago South Club mob, notorious human trafficker, and owner of the Merlaut Hotel.

Aiden tracks down and confronts Quinn, shutting off his pacemaker. In his dying moments, Quinn reveals that he ordered the hit because he thought that Aiden was searching for blackmail video footage of Mayor Donovan Rushmore (whom Quinn is associated with), who accidentally killed his secretary when she threatened to expose his dealings with Quinn. After Quinn finally dies, Aiden races to Clara, who is ambushed and violently gunned down by Quinn's men.[33] In response, Aiden uploads all of the blackmail to the web, including the video of Mayor Rushmore. He then attempts to track down Damien, and discovers that Damien has unlocked ctOS, allowing him access to the entire city. In order to find him, Aiden uploads a virus into ctOS and shuts down the entire system, causing a citywide black out. By doing this, Aiden reaches Damien, who is hiding in a lighthouse. As he confronts Damien, Jordi arrives, revealing that he has switched allegiance. Nevertheless, Aiden manages to injure Jordi and kill Damien. As he watches Chicago come back to life, Aiden accepts his role of "the Vigilante", to protect and, if necessary, to punish.[34] During a credit roll, several news clips play discussing the recent ctOS outage. One news clip announces that Mayor Rushmore has died, with police not revealing the cause of death. DedSec releases a video stating that they are tired of hiding in the shadows and declare war against the Blume Corporation and ctOS. The Blume Corporation then announces that the ctOS, which has been deemed a success, will be adopted in several other major cities across the country, using ctOS 2.0.[35] After the credits, Jordi calls Aiden one last time to tell him where Maurice is being held. Aiden heads to Maurice's location and chooses his fate.[36][37]

Bad Blood downloadable content[edit]

One year after the events of the single-player campaign, Aiden Pearce has gone into hiding while T-Bone erases all traces of himself leading to him from Blume's databases, and prepares to leave Chicago when he is contacted by his friend Tobias Frewer, asking for help after he had been kidnapped by Fixers. Upon rescuing Tobias, T-Bone realizes that both are being hunted by Blume and works with him to erase all their traces before fleeing the city, but their efforts are hindered by Defalt who, along with several other hackers, is working with Blume to track them down. T-Bone confronts Defalt and learns that he is after them in revenge for his brother, who was killed in the Northeast Blackout of 2003, which T-Bone himself caused eleven years ago. After joining forces to defeat and kill Defalt, who at this point has gone insane from his desire for revenge, T-Bone and Tobias decide to stay in Chicago to fight against Blume and consider asking Aiden to join their cause as they use the new ctOS against its creators.[38][39]


Ubisoft Montreal began development on Watch Dogs in 2009.[40] The initial sales pitch was introduced with the notion that one could control an entire city at the push of a button.[41] Ubisoft Montreal's creative director Jonathan Morin noted that Watch Dogs is designed to "go beyond the limits of today's open world games", referencing both its use of information as a plot point, and allowing players to control the entire city through its hacking mechanics. In order to achieve realism in the game's hacking mechanic, the game production team worked with Russian anti-virus firm Kaspersky Lab. The developers sent some of the game designs to Kaspersky, who then gave feedback. "Sometimes they say, 'Yeah, that's possible, but change that word,' or, 'That's not the way it works'", said senior producer Dominic Guay.[42] When developing the hacking mechanic, the team focused on reducing it to one button; "You want to have one button, so that people don't have to swallow 'how' on top of 'when' and 'why' to use those things", said Morin.[41] The team travelled to Chicago during development to record non-player character (NPC) dialogue, to achieve the distinct accent. To record the dialogue, two studios ran simultaneously in Chicago for about six weeks. "You will never see exactly the same profile on any NPC anywhere in the game", said lead story designer Kevin Shortt.[43]

When developing the game, Ubisoft prioritised development for the eighth generation consoles and PC.[44] For Watch Dogs, Ubisoft Montreal built a new game engine called Disrupt.[45] The engine was originally intended for a different game focused on driving. Ubisoft North American president Laurent Detoc explained that the team working on the project realized an open-world game was a better fit than their original vision.[46] Watch Dogs runs in 900p on PlayStation 4 and 792p on Xbox One; both versions of the game run at 30fps. Creative director Jonathan Morin explained that he's more concerned with the overall experience rather than the technical minutiae. Morin added that people tend to forget that achieving higher fidelity visuals is easier for corridor shooters than it is for open-world games.[47]

Watch Dogs was developed under the code name "Nexus" as of 2009. Inspiration for the development of the game was, among other things, the real hacker organization Anonymous and numerous hacker conventions.[48] The game was first presented at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2012 but was postponed in 2013 scheduled release. As with Assassin's Creed, Ubisoft worked on downloadable content before publication.[49]

The official score for the game was primarily composed and produced by Brian Reitzell, with additional compositions by Peter Connelly, David Kristian, and Pavel Maximytchev. The official soundtrack, featuring Reitzell's tracks only, was released alongside the game on 27 May 2014.[50] A variety of license tracks also appears in Watch Dogs, allowing the player to listen to them on Aiden's smartphone in-game, as well as in vehicles via the radio.


Watch Dogs was officially unveiled by Ubisoft during their press conference at E3 2012. They released the debut trailer on the same day.[51][52] The game missed its original projected 19 November 2013 release date, pushed back to early 2014 to allow for further polishing.[53] The release date was later confirmed as 27 May 2014 for all platforms except Wii U,[54] which was delayed to the fourth quarter of 2014.[55][56] On 14 May 2014, Ubisoft announced that Watch Dogs had "gone gold", and was officially sent off to manufacturing.[57] To encourage pre-order sales for the game, Ubisoft collaborated with several retail outlets to provide special edition versions of the game. The "Dedsec Edition", for example, includes a unique case packaging for the game, a game map, a figurine of Aiden Pearce and unlock codes for additional content for use in the game.[58] On 15 February 2013, a leaked promotional image suggested that Watch Dogs would launch in December 2013 for "all home consoles",[59] which led to speculation about whether the game would launch on eighth generation consoles.[60][61][62] During the Sony press conference on 20 February 2013, Watch Dogs was confirmed to be coming to the PlayStation 4.[63] Shortly afterwards, Ubisoft confirmed that the game would also be released for the Wii U,[64] after some retailers had listed it for pre-order.[65] On 21 May 2013, Ubisoft revealed that an Xbox One version of Watch Dogs was also in development.[66] The Wii U version of the game was released on 21 November 2014.[67] Guay stated that the Wii U GamePad is considered a "natural" fit for Watch Dogs.[68] However, on 19 August 2014, Ubisoft revealed that Watch Dogs would be the company's last "mature" title for the Wii U.[69]

The exclusive GameStop pre-order poster for the game was created by illustrator Alex Ross, a native of Chicago, where the game is set. Ross emphasized that setting in the image by placing the Willis Tower and the elevated train tracks in the background.[70]

Other media[edit]


On 17 April 2014 Ubisoft announced that an ebook titled Watch Dogs: Dark Clouds authored by John Shirley will be released on the same day as the video game's release date. The novel is set after the events of the game and features a new hacker called Mick Wolfe. The book was released on 27 May 2014 as a standard version ebook and as an enhanced version with interactive videos and images. It was released in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.[71][72][73]


Reports surfaced in June 2013 that Ubisoft was planning to produce a Watch Dogs film, along with Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, Splinter Cell and Raving Rabbids films.[74] Sony announced at their 2013 Gamescom press conference that Ubisoft would work with Columbia Pictures and New Regency to make the film, with Sony distributing the film in the US and 20th Century Fox handling the international distribution rights.[75] On 24 April 2014, it was reported that writing and producing partners Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese would help write the film.[76]


It was announced that both Ubisoft and Netflix were in talks to developing a Live action Watch Dogs TV series along with other projects.[77]


Aggregate score
Aggregator Score
Metacritic (PS4) 80/100[78]
(XONE) 78/100[79]
(PC) 77/100[80]
(WIIU) 62/100[81]
Review scores
Publication Score
CVG 9/10[82]
Destructoid 8/10[83]
Eurogamer 7/10[84]
Game Informer 8.5/10[85]
GameSpot 8/10[2]
Giant Bomb 3/5 stars[86]
IGN 8.4/10[87]
Joystiq 4/5 stars[88]
PC Gamer (US) 8.7/10[92]
Polygon 8/10[91] 7/10[93]
Metro (PS4) 7/10[89]
(WIIU) 4/10[90]

Watch Dogs received fairly positive reception. Among its strengths, reviews cited its hacking elements, mission variety and online multiplayer mode. Review aggregator Metacritic respectively gave the PlayStation 4 version 80/100,[78] the Xbox One version 78/100,[79] the Microsoft Windows version 77/100[80] and the Wii U version 62/100.[81] Post-launch studies revealed that sixty percent of players had their perception of technology altered from playing the game.[94]

Reviewers praised the hacking elements of the game. Both Jeff Marchiafava of Game Informer and Kevin VanOrd of GameSpot particularly noted its improvement to the combat.[85][2] IGN's Dan Stapleton named it one of the best features of the game.[87] Joystiq's Ludwig Kietzmann called the hacking "remarkably refined, reliable and precise", and expressed his belief that the feature improves the game overall.[88] Chris Carter of Destructoid felt less impressed by the hacking feature, saying that it "isn't nearly as revolutionary as Ubisoft Montreal wants us to think".[83] The Wii U version of the game was criticized. Roger Hargreaves from Metro gave the Wii U version a 4 out of 10, saying that "Watch Dogs's low frame rate and lack of new features makes [the port] almost entirely pointless."[90]

Critics came to the conclusion that publisher Ubisoft wasn't as innovative as it seemed at first, but instead reused many concepts of their open world Assassin's Creed franchise and simply changed the setting to appeal to a broader audience.[95][96]


Watch Dogs broke the record for biggest first day sales in Ubisoft history.[97] Watch Dogs had the biggest launch of a new IP in the United Kingdom ever, beating 2011's L.A. Noire by more than half its sales.[98][c] Overall, Watch Dogs is the 17th biggest game launch in the United Kingdom of all time.[98] A week after its release, Ubisoft announced that the game had sold 4 million units worldwide.[100] Watch Dogs sold more than 94,000 copies during its debut week in Japan.[101] As of 10 July 2014, the game has shipped 8 million copies.[102] On 30 October 2014, Ubisoft revealed that Watch Dogs has shipped 9 million copies, and has helped Ubisoft sales rise more than 65 percent.[103] However, the Wii U version of the game performed poorly in its launch week, debuting at No. 14 on the Wii U chart in the UK.[104] As of 31 December 2014, Watch Dogs has shipped 10 million copies.[105]


Prior to release, Watch Dogs received more than 82 awards and nominations for its display at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2012 (E3 2012),[106] and won two Game Critics Awards for Special Commendation for Graphics and Special Commendation for Innovation.[107] Later that year, the game was nominated for One to Watch at the 30th Golden Joystick Awards.[108][109] In 2013, Watch Dogs received over 90 awards and nominations for its display at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2013 (E3 2013),[110] and won one Game Critics Award for Best Action/Adventure Game while receiving four additional nominations for Best of Show, Best Original Game, Best Console Game, and Best Online Multiplayer.[111][112] Later that year, the game was nominated for Most Wanted at the 31st Golden Joystick Awards,[113][114] and was also nominated for Most Anticipated Game at the VGX 2013.[115]


A month before Watch Dogs was released, controversy arose when it was reported that at a public relations event in the UK, game journalists were given free Nexus 7 tablets as gifts, a move that has been seen as amounting to a bribe in an effort to improve the game's review scores after negative press over delays and alleged lies over graphics changes, such as missing or modified environment effects, from the demos at E3 in 2012 to release in 2014.[119]

On 7 June 2014, it was discovered that the original effects and graphical improvements shown at E3 were hidden within the PC release's game files, and that re-enabling them caused very little loss in performance.[120][121] A mod patch was later released, enabling players to access these settings, making the game's graphics quality closer to what was originally advertised.[122][123]


Tony Key, senior vice president of Ubisoft, said at E3 2014 that the commercial success of Watch Dogs showed that the brand has staying power. Though he wouldn't confirm if a sequel is in development, Key said "Any team that's going to make a sequel is going to have to come up with something innovative and entertaining. Otherwise, the brand doesn't grow. That'll be the challenge for the guys, if and when they start talking about making another game."[124]

In January 2016, a post from a supposed Ubisoft developer made anonymously on 4chan, which was later corroborated by other anonymous sources via Kotaku, claimed that Watch Dogs 2 would be the year's major holiday release, in place of the next mainline entry of the Assassin's Creed franchise, and that the game will be set in San Francisco.[125] On 11 February 2016, Ubisoft confirmed in its earnings release that a sequel to Watch Dogs will be released by the end of Ubisoft's 2017 fiscal year, which is 1 April 2016, through 31 March 2017.[126] On 6 June 2016, the teaser trailer for Watch Dogs 2 was released.[127] The game was then officially revealed two days later,[128] following a series of leaks.[129][130] Watch Dogs 2 was released on 15 November 2016.[131]


  1. ^ Additional work by Ubisoft Reflections, Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft Quebec, and Ubisoft Bucharest[1]
  2. ^ The decryption and free-roam modes are not available on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii U versions of the game, due to hardware limitations.[9]
  3. ^ In September 2014, the record was beaten by Destiny.[99]


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