After getting some hands-on time with Watch Dogs 2 I found that not only were the obvious benefits of hacking enjoyable — like exploding various things in various directions — but there were also some unexpected things to discover that were, in their own way, a source of great joy. Here are some of my favorite things I found I could do in Watch Dogs 2 (not included: copper kettles, woolen mittens).
Read private conversations about vagina yoga
For the record I’m with the guy who thinks it’s weird. As you go around San Francisco you can listen in to people’s conversations and read their text messages. This was one of the weirdest I encountered, although other favorites included a discussion on pot brownies, and a couple getting into an argument about what to call their daughter because they didn’t like the same albums.
Explore the street with the power of hacking
This was not initially something I had expected to be able to do, but as you can see, it is. The first time I did it I was surprised because I saw the trigger for hacking floating above the street as I was driving, and didn’t expect it to blow up a section of road. Which it did, as I drove over it. You can make almost everything electrical do something, although sadly you can’t always detonate it.
Download app clones onto your digital smart phone
You’re a hacker so, like, your phone is your portal to the world, or something. This has been spiced up a little bit for Watch Dogs 2, with the addition of a bunch of apps to buy from an app store. You won’t get a map in your HUD, for example, unless you’ve downloaded and installed Nudle Maps. There’s an Uber-esque one called Driver SF (see what they did there?) that lets you pick up and ferry people around for money. The one that I thought was the coolest, even though it’s only a little thing, was SongSneak, which is basically Shazam. When you go past a radio or someone playing music in their car you’ll get a little notification that a new track has been detected, and you can add it to your own music.
Decimate the parties of the kind of douchebags you didn’t get on with at school
This is the first thing I did when the game went free roaming. Literally the first thing. Marcus isn’t even properly dressed yet.
“This ain’t your momma’s smart car”
One of the earliest missions in the game is called Cyber Driver, which starts with the trailer for an over the top action movie about a man named Devon Von Devon and his Knight Rider-esque smart car, and culminates in you remotely driving said car through the city accompanied by fireworks, light shows, and large jump ramps. An unkind person might wonder how DedSec had time to set all the fireworks up unnoticed, at the same time as they refitted the car, but that person also has no joy in their heart.
Dress to either impress or look like a massive dweeb, depending on preference
There are shitloads of different shops selling clothes and accessories for Marcus. The first one you go to is a biker meetup and/or leather goods store so you can get him a load of sleeveless leather jackets and weird helmets to wear with hats. In the city there’s a kind of vintage hipster store where you can buy a venomously bright checked shirt and artfully ripped skinny jeans. You can even customise his laptop bag, if you want to. That sort of thing is important. Point is, you can kind of make Marcus a little bit your own. You can see him as the millennial archetype or a fashion-blind nerd, or a bruiser, or a slick city GQ sonnuvuhbitch. You can, if you want, make him look monumentally daft. I made him wear a tight, bright red leather jacket. Because hackers are like invisible ghosts.
Really ruin someone’s day by planting evidence
As you get more processing power one of the sneaky hacking things you can do is forge digital evidence to flag up someone as a wanted criminal in the system. The police will the arrive to taser them into submission (in the video it looks like they spawn out of nowhere, but they had in fact just been tasering someone else in the vicinity for my amusement). You can also plant evidence that they were involved in a gang hit and then the opposing gang will turn up to do a classic drive by shooting. I inadvertently did this in front of another gang’s territory and sparked a three way turf war.
Pet an actual dog in Watch Dogs 2
‘Pet lovely dogs’ is pretty high on everyone’s list of Things Games Should Let Me Do In This, The Year 2016. People were incensed that you couldn’t interact with the starving feral dogs in The Division (and rightly so). In Watch Dogs 2 you can pet the adorable dogs as much as you want, and Marcus has special ‘petting a dog’ contextual dialogue. 10/10.
Not capture any towers
In three hours of preview I did not encounter one tower I had to capture to clear a district/expand my influence.