Ubisoft’s paranoid surveillance thriller returns with new hero and setting to take aim at social media and hacker groups
For all their talk of realism and authenticity, video game developers rarely seek to reflect modern society, or the lives that most of us are living. Grand Theft Auto V produced a ribald, frenzied pastiche of LA, complete with vacuous movie stars and social media millionaires, but most of its skits and giggles were just dirty jokes wrapped up in the veneer of social commentary.
Watch Dogs was sort of different. In Ubisoft’s 2014 action adventure, hacker Aidan Pearce lives in an “alternative” modern Chicago that is heavily monitored by CCTV cameras, its computerised systems ripe for sabotage. Players are able to gain control of traffic lights and swing bridges in order to escape enemies, while hacking the phones of passersby to access mini-quests. The game is effectively an exploration of our highly connected, privacy-free society, where shadowy authorities wrestle with hi-tech con artists for control of our data.