Getting started with Watch Dogs
It’s been a long wait, but Watch Dogs is finally here. It's a game that can be a bit daunting when you first start playing, due to the sheer amount there is to do – whether that’s hacking pedestrians, discovering side missions, upgrading your skill trees or just playing the main campaign.
We’ve explored nearly everything you can do in the game in our full Watch Dogs review, so you might want to give that a read before you plunge into the tips and tricks.
To guide you down the right path, we’ve put together a few tips and tricks that will help you make the most of Ubisoft’s brand new IP and hopefully give you some ideas as to how to keep the cops off your tail.
1. Don’t get bogged down in free roam too quickly
When you first start playing Watch Dogs, it is tempting to put off the campaign missions so you can explore Chicago and its residents. Unusually, Ubisoft makes puts nearly the whole of Chicago at your fingertips from the off, and we know we definitely wasted quite a few hours trekking across the map, wondering why we couldn't access all our skill trees and Aiden's other assets from the outset.
But this was all explained once we hit the Open Your World mission. If you consider the opening missions as Ubisoft's tool to setting out a bit of backstory, Open Your World is the one that really kicks Watch Dogs off.
Once you've completed this mission you’ll be taught most of the key combat, driving and hacking mechanics you’ll need and open up all the skill upgrades for purchase, which is key to doing well in the game.
After that, you should feel free to go exploring, but like other Ubisoft games including Assassin's Creed: Black Flag, we’d suggest you make hacking the ctOS stations a priority as they fully open up their associated parts of the city.
Once you've hacked them all, and there are quite a few - with one major ctOS system per district and then several masts to discover beyond that - you'll be able to use all your hacking abilities across the whole of Chicago.
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2. Focus on your Hacking skill tree first
Although there are several skill trees to upgrade throughout the game, including Driving, Crafting and Combat, by far the most important to you early on is the Hacking tree.
If you focus on upgrading your Hacking skills first, you’ll be able to control traffic-related items that will help you escape from gangs and cops, and trust us, you'll need them. You will find bridges, blockades and steam pipes particularly useful in this respect as it’s nigh on impossible to out-run or ram pursuing cops without some of these hacking tools in your arsenal.
You can’t even pick them off with some gangsta-style drive-by shooting either, as frustratingly the mechanic doesn’t exist in the game, so our top tip is to get these these hacking tools early.
What's more these Hacking skills will make it easier to distract guards as you attempt to infiltrate ctOS stations as quiet as a ninja.
3. Then decide what your focus will be
Once you're a master hacker, it's pretty much up to you what to focus on next. If you want loads of money to buy new cars, guns and outfits with, it's very easy to do so without upgrading any of the money related skills found within the Hacking tree.
For example, simply scanning people on the street as you walk will give you a quick pay out around 60 per cent of the time, with some letting you pocket cash over $1000 a time. Plus, you can cheat at poker, if you're quick and skilful, as there's a camera positioned above the table. From this vantage point you can monitor your fellow players' stress levels and even take a peak at their cards.
We've taken to spreading our skill points across the crafting tree and then the focus branch of the combat tree to make us great at stealth attacks.
The Crafting tree offers useful tools to help evade ctOS guards, cops and other in-game NPCs looking to put you behind bars or under the ground.
4. Don't be afraid to splash the cash
As you start off you might find that you're struggling to buy anything in the game's various stores and boutiques, but fear not. Once you start rattling through the missions and side quests as well as sporadically hacking passerbys as mentioned above you'll soon find yourself rolling in dosh with very little effort.
A useful idea though is to initially spend some money on a handful of weapons that give you a good combat base at the beginning, particularly if you have a penchant for taking the less subtle entry route with missions.
You can pick up guns off dead foes though, which is a great way to get high-end weapons for free like the Goblin assault rifle (one of our favourites for dispatching larger groups of enemies), unless you have a particular weapon you want to purchase.
5. Remember your secondary weapon arsenal
For some reason Ubisoft has chosen to hide away extremely useful items like grenades, electronic distractions, blackouts, scans and other craftable items within the secondary slot.
These hacking tools are not only very useful, but also rather fun when you realise how many you have at your disposal and their effects.
To access them all though, you'll need to gather electronic parts and other items from around the world and then unlock their respective gadgets from the crafting skill tree in order to actually use them.
Our particular favourite are the JamComs, which are small electronic devices you can use within missions to stop enemies calling in backup. Unlike weapons, these can even be used when driving, disrupting the police's searches for your vehicle for a few vital seconds, making it slightly easier for you to escape.
We've found them especially useful for Fixer side missions that require to collect stolen, getaway or otherwise criminally-connected vehicles and take them to a drop off point, as usually these quests automatically trigger a high-speed police chase.
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6. The stealth approach can be much more rewarding
Aiden really isn’t the most robust of protagonists and can only take a few shots before going down. This is far more realistic than some games where you can be pelted for ages before dying, but means you might need to use a variety of tactics in order to dispatch your foes.
For example you might want to choose the stealth approach when tackling missions. Actually, taking the sneaky route is often a lot more fun and rewarding than going in all guns blazing. It might take longer and seem a little more tedious when you first start out, but once you've mastered the various hacking techniques and using security cameras, you'll find it easier each time.
You can use security cameras to get the lay of the land, making note of all the enemies in the vicinity before you begin and then you’ll also see what hacking options are at your disposal. This could include remotely detonating explosives the enemies are carrying, sending them a distracting text message based on their personal lives or utilising other techniques to incapacitate or take down patrolling guards.
Don't forget that even though you're taking a stealth route, weapons aren't all off limits. The silenced pistol can be one of your greatest assets, letting you take down enemies without others noticing.
As long as you stay hidden and remain patient, you can confuse, distract and dispatch your way through levels to your goals.
7. Make sure to use Focus Mode
An easily forgotten, but crucial ability in Watch Dogs is Aiden’s Focus Mode, as we noted in our review, which slows down the gameplay letting you easily take down targets.
The Focus ability is found in the Combat category and you’ll need to unlock it before you’re able to use it to your advantage, but we found this ability critical for some parts of the game, as Watch Dogs can be extremely hard at points.
To access it, you simply click in the right hand analogue stick to make time go all Max Payne on you and Focus mode turns Aiden into a formidable power in gun battles.
Even at a basic level, it gives you time to line up a shot on an unsuspecting guard, shoot and then return to cover, before anyone else realises what has happened.
Watch Dogs requires a lot of quick thinking and Focus gives you that much needed breather that allows you make the right decisions to survive.
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8. Avoid the cops
If you’re a gamer that revelled in blowing up cops and raising your wanted status in GTA 5, the cops in Watch Dogs are a whole different ball game. To put it bluntly, they’re in-game mosquitoes that have an unquenchable thirst for Aiden's blood and can't easily be swatted.
Before the cops start chasing you, they’ll start a search, indicated on your mini-map as yellow circles. If you spot one, it’s best to stop and wait for it to disappear as if the circle turns opaque the cops will chase you as soon as they spot you. If you do get trapped in one of these roaming yellow circles, a percentage level will rise as the cops become aware of your position.
Letting it get to 100 per cent will put the cops on your trail sharpish and these chases aren’t the same as in other games as you'll see when you start playing very quickly. The cops are smart, coming at you from various angles to try and cut you off, and will become the bane of your life.
You can use environmental tools to cut your enemies off though, which are extremely handy. Taking advantage of Watch Dogs’ hiding technique can get you out of the . If you stop your car and press circle/B you can slide down in the driver’s seat and turn the engine off.
It seems like a rather long shot for escaping these sadistic cops, but as long as your AI enemies don’t have line of sight you can fairly easily lose them by hiding, especially if you chose an out-of-the-way location like a park or neighbourhood garden.
Also rather useful is the neutralise tactic, which flashes up when you drive past hackable bollards and other specific in-world items. If you're quick enough to tap the prompted button when being chased by the cops, the electric burst will take the car out for good, letting you speed away. If you're lucky. Sometimes you'll even be treated to a rewarding slowed down mini-cut scene, showing the cop card being completely taken out, which is very rewarding after a long chase.
So far we've noticed that these neutralise tools will only take out one or two cops cars at once though, so you'll need to use a few of them to take out the whole pack.
9. But if you can't, head for the water
Saying that though, it can be very tricky to shake the cops if your hacking and hiding techniques have failed you or if there are just too many to deal with.
For some reason, if you head for the water in Watch Dogs, the law won’t follow you in, so if you’re struggling to ditch the cops, drive your car into the water, jump out and either grab a boat or swim to freedom.
The cops don’t have water-based vehicles either, meaning they won’t take to the boats to track you down.
There is one issue to this though and that’s the police helicopter, but that can be taken out for a short amount of time using the Disable Helicopter perk you’ll unlock later in the game.
This won't work for the Fixer missions that require you to take back a specific car though, as if you step out of the vehicle or wreck it in any way, you'll have to restart that portion of the quest.
10. Embrace the voices
Grabbing the audio logs and listening to the pedestrians in Watch Dogs can really flesh out the central story of the game including its colourful side characters.
There’s plenty to discover from the pedestrians in the game as well. Some of their phone calls will make you chuckle out loud and you’ll also get perks like new cars, songs and weapons by hacking them, not to mention cash that’s directly sent to ATM machines.
Side missions can also be discovered by hacking into pedestrians, but watch out for Blume security company associates, as if they catch you hacking them, they will rat you out to the authorities and raise your bounty. This will make you more susceptible to online attack by other players.
Watch Dogs is huge and there’s so much to do, we’ve only really scratched the surface here. We’ll be adding more content as we play, but if you have any tips for players, feel free to add them into the comments below.
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