You will have an opportunity to play your darkest Silicon Valley fantasies in Watch Dogs 2.
Ahead of E3, video game publisher Ubisoft shared the first details and footage for the sequel to the middling open-world game. 2014's Watch Dogs allowed players to hack an alternate-reality version of Chicago as a brooding man with a taste for trench coats and unaffiliated baseball caps. The angsty attitude held back a goofy sci-fi premise: that anything with a power supply could be hacked and used for nefarious purposes. Watch Dogs 2 appears, from Ubisoft's presentation, appears to remedy the franchises case of moody 'tude.
The footage shows a number of Silicon Valley hallmarks: EDM parties, gimmicky startup offices, messenger bags, quadcopters and RC jumpers, and a subway system that — and I'm projecting here — probably doesn't run as reliably as anyone would like it to. Also, the hero's weapon looks like a deadly yo-yo. Because of course the savior of San Francisco would use a child's toy to dismantle the system.
The announce made a strong effort to crib from the Grand Theft Auto promotional playbook, mixing video gamey violence — shootouts, explosions, fisticuffs — with goofy political satire and local tourism. In the announcement live stream, a developer explained the team's desire for the digital San Francisco to feel alive, to have the people and animals within it reacting to one another. At one point in the gameplay footage, a dog barks and chases a person, something Rockstar had done with Grand Theft Auto 5.
There's a smart city system, as was in the original. Think of a smart home, extend it across multiple neighborhoods, add the threat of multiple parties trying to hack it for societal control, and you get the gist.
The new hero is Marcus Holloway. He's seen injustices, both living in Oakland and being profile for a crime he didn't commit. He's both tech savvy and athletic. He knows how to hack; he does parkour. Holloway is not a gravely voiced white guy out to avenge murdered loved ones — an improvement!
Holloway is not a lone hacker, but a member of Dedsec, a sprawling hacker collective. The spirit of Dedsec, a Ubisoft developer explains, is "rooted in the trolling, it's a joke, we're going to have fun with it" of forum culture with purpose of political activists.
If you're thinking this sounds a lot like Mr. Robot, so are we!
You can play the game non-lethal with a taser. You can also kill practically everyone in San Francisco. Vehicles are now hackable, allowing for catastrophic multi-car pileups. But are startups themselves hackable? Will we be able to break into Watch Dogs 2's equivalent of Facebook or Twitter or Google? And what would we do with such power? Or maybe we'll get the opportunity to create our own bot, and sell it to Microsoft for a billion dollars, and retire comfortable in a condo in Marin.
Who knows! We'll learn more next week, we suspect, at Ubisoft's E3 press event.