Watch Dogs 2 is kind of the sequel that nobody asked for but knew we were getting anyway. The first Watch Dogs did pretty well in terms of sales, but got, shall we say, mixed feedback. Ubisoft does have a track record wherein it responds positively to feedback and then make the second game better, so on that basis alone a bunch of people were optimistic for Watch Dogs 2, out this very November. Now that Ubisoft has started giving us details about it it does look like we have actual reason to look forwards to it. Hopefully.
In the world premiere of Watch Dogs 2 the devs talked about how, in this game, you're "not just a hacker, you're a DedSec hacker." In the first game grumpy trench coat wearing Aiden Pearce was very much his own man, a loner, a one man army, and whilst he worked with DedSec on several occasions he was never actually a member of the group. This may be one of the many things that contributed to Aiden being an unenjoyable protagonist.
For Watch Dogs 2 the protagonist is an active member of DedSec called Marcus Holloway, and your DedSec buddies will be there to help you out. These include a woman in a hoody called Sitara, a more anonymous man called Josh, and an anarchist in a flashing emoji mask named Wrench, which is obviously not what his parents christened him. Early indications are that Wrench will be either one of the best or worst things about the game; at the moment it could go either way. On the one hand, while most of the dialogue we've seen in the game has so far been as naturalistic as that of a Kevin Smith film, Wrench kind of gets away with his by being an overblown caricature. On the other hand, this is a pretty bad thing to be (especially if it turns out he isn't meant to be a caricature, and Ubi were going for an earnest depiction of young anarchists).
The DedSec team's attitude is "rooted in trolling" and has that kind of 'for the lulz' culture, but they have something important to say with their lulz. Dominic Guay, the senior producer, emphasised that with this DedSec there's a "sense of freedom and a sense of fun", which, to be fair, is not something a lot of people said of the first game.
According to Jonathan Morin, the Creative Director, Marcus was born in San Francisco but he and his family were pushed to Oakland by way of the evils of gentrification. Marcus was unfairly profiled for a crime he didn't commit because he was a known hacker - a backstory which is going to require some intelligent handling from Ubi - and decided he'd had enough of that, thanks very much, so is now using his knowledge against the system.
All new hacking and combat
Aiden's hacking stills were a little one note; in Watch Dogs 2 Marcus has more options. Tapping the hacking command button will do the most obvious hack available, but holding it down will bring up the different hacks available for whatever you're targeting. You can remote control vehicles and perform 'mass hacks' to, for example, set off every mobile phone within a certain radius. There's also now the potential to hack basically anyone in the game, not just those marked as possible targets (although nobody has yet brought up in an interview that it's weird that Marcus, unfairly profiled as a criminal, can use hacking to unfairly mark others as criminals in the system). Marcus also has a quadcopter drone for aerial shenanigans, and a two wheeled drone that can jump implausibly high. It's actually kind of cute.
In terms of more aggressive combat options, Marcus has attached a billiard ball to a cord to hit people with as his melee weapon. He can also use guns, and DedSec can 3D print firearms as well, which can be upgraded and customised with new bits. The combination of more powerful hacking against combat skills will, Ubi hope, allow players to go through Watch Dogs 2 however they want. You can go in and raise hell, killing everyone on your way out, you can use your hacking to mask your presence entirely, or you could use your drones and remote hacking to accomplish missions without ever stepping foot in a building. This last one, which Guay refers to as 'the trickster' style of play is, he says, probably the most challenging, but the most rewarding, and confirms that although it might be difficult you can play the game through non-lethally.
It looks like the hacking can be upgraded in some way, as well as your weapons. The quadcopter, at the very least, can be given "new functionalities", and upgrading the power, duration, or range of your hacking skills makes sense in this context. From the gameplay video you can see a little circular meter in the corner. Whenever you hack an item that isn't under your control you use up some of the blue segments in that meter, which are then regained over time. Given the call DedSec makes in the gameplay demo for followers to give them "processing power" we're guessing that meter represents how much processing power you actually have from them.
"Seamless co-op" and PVP
So apparently, whilst you're free-running around the Bay area, you can run into other players doing the same thing, and join up with them to do co-operative playthroughs of missions, in a way which the devs describe as "seamless". While you can't do the missions that are focused on narrative in co-op there are many missions that will allow it, and you can play through co-op focused missions in single-player too (although they might be more difficult on your own).
As far as PvP goes you can still be invaded by other players as in Watch Dogs, but according to Guay there's another PvP mode that they are, for now, keeping under wraps. As you'd expect you're able to turn off the multiplayer stuff entirely, if you don't want the hassle, but the devs are of the opinion that the game is more interesting with it on.
The driving is better
They've fully redesigned the driving, everyone, it's going to be better this time, they promise.
Open world map and bay area
We're not entirely sure, but there may be some actual legislation somewhere that means Ubi has to make open world games. In this case the map comprises San Francisco, including Alcatraz, Oakland (which is where protagonist Marcus lives, and may well be the starting area), Marin County, and Silicon Valley. Guay has talked a bit more about the scale of the open world in interview, saying that there are around 130 recognisable landmarks, but everything is slightly scaled. San Francisco and Oakland are closest to how they are in real life, whilst Marin County is scaled down, and Silicon Valley is more like a theme park version of the real thing (basically so that it's less boring).
The map is also going to be "less crowded" (read: "less crowded than it is in an Assassin's Creed game). Rather than going to an objective you travel to an area you want to explore, and then see what you can find happening there. This looseness is reflected in the way you can complete the game. Rather than having to play through the story, the goal is to collect followers to DedSec's cause, although there's no word yet on what the final number to aim for is, or what happens when you reach it. You collect followers from completing co-op, PvP, and non story missions, so you can do the game without approaching the narrative (allegedly). Missions can be to do with the data profiling we mentioned earlier, gentrification, social media, AI, that kind of thing. Ubisoft is promising variety, so let's hope they live up to it.
It's been confirmed that there are no towers, which is obviously of great concern, but there's still plenty of room for this to be a very Ubisoft game. There's free running, indicators on the HUD if someone is watching you, and when you enter a restricted area you get a big warning saying WARNING YOU ARE ENTERING A RESTRICTED AREA.
You can buy different clothes for Marcus
Morin has confirmed that you can buy loads of different clothes for Marcus, so the elite undercover hacker doesn't have to walk around with a cap with the DedSec name written write on the front of it for the entire game. We thought this was important information, anyway.