... you actually start dreaming about it! I'm gonna admit it. At times I'm a complete neurotic case. Especially when I'm dreaming lucid just before waking up. I can jump from subject to subject, connecting stuff that isn't even related but follows an ominous Red Thread. It's about the thought process that brings me where I need to be. I get thoughts about how Zoë Castillo talks to Faith at the end of Dreamfall and saying "You're hurting the world". Suddenly a thought interveans and goes like "...but in Soviet Russia: the world hurts YOUUUUUU". Suddenly I'm seeing myself playing the new Ubisoft game called WATCH_DOGS, and you have this concept that this game offers: namely hurting your opponents using the city's utility as a weapon, this little thought-escapade wasn't so much of a stretch after all. In essence, you use the world to hurt your enemies.
In the dream: I'm in a subway train driving trough chicago. I arrive at a station and I see the police waiting there to arrest me. I use my phone, hack the train so that it actually passes the station without stopping. (the opposite of what you could see in the PS4 demo). I jump off in the neighbourhood, safely off-station and the game indicates that I have decoyed the police.
Still dreaming, I'm aimlessly running around and then I meet the corporate wistle blower from the trailer. I take upon his mission and a few strawmen later I end up in a shootout in a modern building with high security. There are lasers everywhere and I can hack the elevator to the top. The wistleblower person - who side tracked me on this mission -, talked about an important package that I have to gather in the executive floors on top. He needs is as proof. If I can get it for him, I get a new reward. I take the elevator up, decoy some security guys, get the package. Drive as fast as I can to the guy who gave me the mission and voila, I have a new hacking method available!
Then I woke up. The (lucid) dream is over and the first thought occurs: How far out can I get that I'm actually dreaming about playing this game ? My am I looking forward to it or what ? After that wild dream, the cognitive restrictions set in and I start asking myself: Is it even going to be possible to do all that ? It's being presented as an open world and almost sandbox-ish game where your imagination and inventiveness with hacking stuff in the streets of Chicago is going to be very unexpected and varied as means of getting you immerse in brief (or less brief) missions inside the private lives of whoever you choose to accept missions from. It's the MMO/RPG thing thrown on it's head. Becuase there you have a guiding main mission, here, the whole game seems to be made up of stuff that you'd do as side missions but with an interactive twist: use the city utillity to your advantage.
The kind of sandbox gameplay is also in some ways remeniscent of Firefall, a game in development where there'll not be traditional missions and progression but a dynamic world that lives and you stumble upon "encounters" that you can participate in (or not). Basicly, the world is doing it's own thing and lets you interact and participate with it.
A big goal that is set for "next gen" gaming development is going to be made of this stuff. We've got a nice time ahead of us if it pans out right. In Firefall, you encounter dynamic melding tornados that give you loot if you participate, you can either ignore it or go in. In the PS4 trailer of WATCH_DOGS: there's a camera pass of a random woman "holding arms" with a guy and her credentials read: Married 42 years, missing one month. Well well, that would be a nice sidemission if you could go and inform the spouse and get a reward for it. Combined with an immersive set of more elaborate missions like the Joseph Demarco one that can be seen in the E3 demo, these sort of things would make this game a welcome competitor for GTA5. And if you're a die hard PC user like me, you already anticipate not to expect GTA on PC this year. So WATCH_DOGS may have free roaming for us PC platformers and steal our heart for sandbox games. It would be THE game to keep us busy and at the same time, show what next generation gaming is all about. If you also think about what has been said "behind the scenes" about this games by the developers, it's increasingly promising. If "next gen" is going to have the power to not only have you run around on the roofs or "outside", but also visit many buildings, inside subway trains, seeing city folk AI infold in front of you and take actions depending on what you do and if you can and perhaps visit the interior of sky scrapers ? That'd be one of those dreams of mine coming true. It would open up many possibilities and scenario's that are going to feel very immersive and real!
If side missions such as providing stress relief to an 31 year old woman under pressure because the ingame Profiler says she requires intervention (whatever that means), If trolling cheating spouses and aiding regular people in need who are about to be robbed or stabbed and if ripping money from capitalists winning a bet is going to be part of the sidemission gameplay, I can't wait to see what we can do in the main mission!. An indication to the diversity of mischief (or protection) you can cause can be seen in the rosetta menu of hacking methods and targets that you can actually see in the demo.
Not only can you control traffic lights, break pipes, cause overloads, control trains, flip switches remotely or hack into ATM's, You see a few placeholders for even more hacking tools that are yet to be shown.
Granted, I'm just being a fanboy who's incredibly looking forward to this game. And I must say up front that the immersion that you're gonna feel with these interactions are going to depend highly on how the trafic, people and utilities that you target are going to respond to your actions. This could potentially be very engaging but also very repetitive.
But I have hope! If you know what make people return to left 4 dead time and again, it's not because it's so cool to run from point A to point B. It's about the randomness of zombies, Special infected and tank spanws. It's about the "utility" you see lying around randomly for your advantage. Using propane tanks to stumple a tank from the building, create a wall of fire between you and a horde of zombies, using boomer bile against an onslaught, stumble a witch with a pipe bomb. All these things are indirect metagameplay elements emerging from using stuff in the world. I have clocked over 6500 hours in left 4 dead both on the gameplay side and the campaign development side so I can smell this stuff from far away. If they can does this sort of metaplay the right way in WATCH_DOGS i'm gonna lose LOTS of hours in that game! If there's diverse purpose in following the profiler's hints, if there's a sense of discovery to be had from following npc's around and if they lead you to unexpected new adventures, I can see this game hit home big.
I'm going to sound off this article and let you the 2 major gameplay demo's!
Wait... could the part where I dream of sabotaging a train to not stop at a station get real after all ?