The worst thing about Watch Dogs 2 is not the walking talking emoji man, it’s the checkpoint system.
Or rather, the lack of one.
We’ve not been particularly kind about Watch Dogs 2 here at Thumbsticks. Tom was not at all impressed by the game’s E3 reveal, and its Anonymous-aping approach overwhelmed subsequent press coverage much to the detriment of the genuine improvements Ubisoft were making elsewhere.
Secretly, I was a little more enthusiastic. I have a penchant for open world games – even Ubisoft ones, especially Ubisoft ones – and there’s also a place in my heart for San Francisco, a city I have visited many times and know well. It was always going to be hard for me to resist a game set in the Bay Area – albeit a more compressed version of the place I know – even if I have to wear a baseball cap and wield a yo-yo to experience it.
And it looks like I’m in the minority. Watch Dogs 2 has limped out of the gates, with estimates indicating sales of 80,000 copies in its first week, some distance short of the 380,000 units achieved by its predecessor.
It’s a real shame, as Watch Dogs 2 is a huge improvement. Its hackertude, as it turns out, is naively charming. Lead protagonist Marcus Holloway is an incredibly likeable chap, and the game’s mission design – after five hours played, at least – is full of opportunities for expression and ingenuity.
Of particular note are the remote controlled Jumper and Drone gadgets. They are brilliant gameplay devices that encourage experimentation and, in a surprising and welcome way, allow the game to be played non-violently.
But there’s a but, and it’s a big one: Watch Dogs 2 has a really crappy checkpoint system.
It’s cruel. Really cruel. Grand Theft Auto 3 levels of cruel. Despite all the advances made in game design over the past decade – many of which have come from Ubisoft – the mission checkpointing in Watch Dogs 2 is just terrible.
In part it’s a side effect of just how well the jumper and drone perform their tasks. They allow you to scout a location, hack devices, control other vehicles, and set traps. This encourages the you to take a methodical approach in completing objectives, switching between the two gadgets and Marcus on the fly as missions progress. The effect is akin to playing a miniaturised version of Hitman or one of Grand Theft Auto 5’s multi-character heists; episodes of slow-paced, strategic planning of the sort rarely found in open-world action games.
However, if Marcus gets spotted and put down – which can take all of five seconds – the game is not afraid of putting you riiiiiiiight back to the start of the mission. And that start might have been 20 minutes ago in a location far from where you died.
Perhaps it’s just the way I play. I don’t want to rush through Watch Dogs 2‘s missions but I also don’t want to be punished if I take 15 minutes to formulate a game plan, only for a small mistake to undo all of that work. It’s the one really rough edge in a game that has so far exceeded my expectations with its scope and easy going charm.
So Ubisoft, never mind fixing the seamless multiplayer – patch in some soft checkpoints, please.
A note from the Thumbsticks editorial team
If you like what we do, then please consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee. Every penny we earn is poured back into the site, into giving new and aspiring writers an opportunity, and into bringing you more quality content to enjoy. And if you are an aspiring new writer, read this.