(originally posted December 5th 2014)
When Ubisoft’s new IP Watch Dogs was announced, I was originally not that interested, but that was more down to visual aesthetics than anything. I’m not a fan of ‘realistic’ looking games because they always seem to consist of nothing but greys and browns in terms of their colour palette. But upon seeing some actual trailers and learning what the game was about, I couldn’t help but start getting excited.
The game puts you in control of Aiden Pierce, a hacker who has a phone that allows him to hack into practically anything: bank accounts, security cameras, traffic lights, you name it. Plonk him in the city of Chicago and you have yourself what sounds like one of the coolest and most enjoyable titles ever. And then the game was confirmed for a Wii U release and my interest rose. The GamePad was perfect for this kind of thing; you could feel like an actual movie hacker, tapping buttons on the GamePad in order to bring up someone’s personal details or cause a street-wide traffic jam with just one press.
However, Watch Dogs became subject to a number of delays, which is understandable; nothing wrong with a delay in most cases as it gives the developers more time to make the game as good as it can be. But my eyebrows were raised when all the versions of the game were released on the same day… except for the Wii U version.
I don’t want to sound like some immature fan-brat having a go at Ubisoft because the Wii U version got delayed, but it did come across as incredibly fishy. The Wii U has proven to be a powerful console in its own right, capable of running games that were previously exclusive to the PS3 and Xbox 360 so why the delay only for the Wii U version? Not everyone has access to multiple consoles, so people who owned a Wii U and were looking forward to the game were being shafted as a result, despite it being a multi-platform title which, as far as I’m aware, are usually released in close proximity to each other.
It doesn’t help that Ubisoft had pulled a similar stunt before with Rayman Legends. That game, when first announced, was advertised as being a Wii U exclusive, but when the game was finally set to release in February, Ubisoft announced they were going to make it available on all other platforms. That I don’t have an issue with; it does make sense to make your game as widely available as possible. But what Ubisoft did was then hold the game back until September – another seven months! And the Wii U version was finished! It was done, dusted, sitting on a shelf waiting to be put out onto shop floors.
I can’t think of a reason why Ubisoft should not have released the Wii U version and release other versions at a later date. I guess you could argue that by delaying it, it meant that everybody could play the game at the same time regardless of their platform but if that was the case, why was Watch Dogs on Wii U delayed whilst all the other versions were released? Why weren’t they held back? It can’t help but create the impression that Ubisoft and Nintendo don’t have the greatest relationship and almost looks like a petty ‘take that’ from the former. Also, Rayman Legends was finally released on the same week as Grand Theft Auto V. Clearly, Ubisoft weren’t planning on making any money with that.
But it wasn’t just this that left a sour taste. After deciding to wait the extra few months for the Wii U version (which by the way, was released only a week ago with no lead-up or announcement as far as I’m aware) I began to hear that despite being a solid game, it had a number of problems, aside from having a boring protagonist and being like every other third-person action-adventure game.
Controversy had stirred up regarding the game’s graphics. As it got closer to release, the graphics had seemed to have gone down in quality, no longer resembling what they did in early tech demos. At a PR event in the UK, journalists were apparently given free Nexus 7 tablets, which obviously caused suspicion that these were attempted bribes so as to up the game’s review scores.
And then, a modder discovered that the original graphics were hidden in the game’s files, and reapplying them caused no difference in terms of performance. So, Ubisoft downgraded the graphics because…. why?
My personal excitement for Watch Dogs has been slowly dying over the last year. Between the random dismissal of the Wii U and the controversy caused by it, I’ve lost any reason I may have had to play it. It also hasn’t helped that Ubisoft has spent those last twelve months gradually becoming the Internet’s punching bag, due to causing even more controversy at their E3 press conference earlier this year (which almost reduced me to frothing at the mouth with anger) and in regards to their recent Assassin’s Creed titles. They’ve become a company that I don’t wish to support and, fortunately, Watch Dogs has become so unappealing that I don’t have to feel bad about not playing it.