Want to know what it's like to play Watch_Dogs on PlayStation 4? You don't have to be a master hacker... just read our hands-on guide to the game.
The city is your cyber-playground
Welcome to Chicago; home to millions of ordinary citizens, lowlife criminals and mega-corporations – all plugged in to an online world that connects virtually every aspect of modern life.
You are Aiden Pearce, part of a network of cyber hackers – or "fixers" as they'd rather be known – working in the shadows to exploit this information superhighway and infiltrate any part of the connected world they please. Although in this online metropolis, you're not alone. Cyber-crime can earn you the richest prizes imaginable – but even the hackers can be hacked. When Aiden is intercepted during what should be a simple heist of unsuspecting hotel guests' bank details, a shadow falls over his life that disrupts not just his hacking – but tears his family apart.
Now, consumed by revenge, you must guide Aiden through the mean streets of Chicago in pursuit of those who wronged him and hurt the only people he cares about. The city is your weapon – and how you use it is entirely up to you.
Every electronic device in Chicago is connected by an advanced computer network known as CtOS – and thanks to Aiden's smartphone, you can gain access to all of it, letting you monitor, disrupt and manipulate the entire city.
Pressing the Square button will scan the vicinity for hackable devices and let you profile passers-by, sending their personal information directly to your smartphone. The more of CtOS you're able to hack, the more of the city you can watch over and use to your advantage.
Hacking any and all of the devices you encounter throughout Chicago can give you the advantage over your enemies or help you get out of a tight spot smoothly and undetected. The hacks you use could be as simple as activating a discarded phone to cause a distraction, or more tactical – like navigating the electronic systems of surveillance cameras to give you a full view of a building, allowing you to watch over the police or other foes and plan your next move.
Planning your hacking tactics can be vital in one of the game's many breakneck speed car chases, too. Tampering with traffic lights can create mayhem on the roads that you can use to your advantage, while raising or lowering barriers can take out your pursuers or give you access to short-cuts and escape routes.
As you play, you'll acquire skill points that can be used to improve your talents as a hacker, giving you even more back-door access to the connected world of Chicago, like raising and lowering bridges or controlling the train network to give you your own private railroad.
Ever get the feeling you're being watched?
Everyone in Chicago has a story – and by using Aiden's smartphone to profile them, you can learn anything you need to know about every single person you pass in the street. Some will be leading normal lives, others may have an amusing or interesting story that could lead you to find useful items, while some could be criminals up to no good, just waiting to put a plan into action. Hacking these people's calls or messages puts you one step ahead of their schemes so you stand more chance of foiling their crimes – even before the police have a chance to react.
Need a quick cash injection? Profiling unsuspecting passers-by will tell you who has a full bank account ripe for the picking; hack them, then simply approach one of the many ATMs around the city to get your sneaky hands on their cash.
Catching criminals and using non-lethal force to deal with them enhances your reputation, so the people of Chicago see you in a positive light and you earn more XP – which in turn will unlock skills to make you a more powerful hacker. There are countless side-missions and challenges to get involved in, as diverse as the city's residents – so start snooping and see what you can find.
Who's watching the Watch_Dogs?
Sooner or later, you'll encounter rival fixers attempting to infiltrate Aiden's world and hack, hunt, race or otherwise challenge his cyber skills.
Through Aiden's smartphone, you can access the Online Contracts app – AKA "the grid" – and enter a world of other Watch_Dogs players all jostling to become Chicago's number-one fixer. Via the grid, you can request a target to hack and take on a contract against another player, infiltrating their game to track them down; you may be tasked with tailing them, sticking to the shadows to avoid being seen. Alternatively, you may have to turn the tables and discreetly hack them to recover information.
For a more action-packed challenge, you could set out on a hunt against up to eight other fixers to recover a lost data file somewhere in the city, or get behind the wheel in a flat-out race around the streets of Chicago. Or, you could enter Free Roam mode and explore the city with a friend, hunting down rival fixers and taking them out. In Watch_Dogs, Chicago is your playground and yours to explore as you choose.
Are you ready to plug in to the hyper-connected world of Watch_Dogs? It's ready and waiting for you to download on PlayStation 3 and PS4 now.