I enjoyed Watch Dogs 2, but one of the things about it that rubbed me up the wrong way was how the game's plucky hacker crew could use deadly weapons to murder a bucketload of people.
Did you know that in 2015 more people died while taking selfies than were killed in deadly shark attacks? I don't know how many people typically die in deadly shark attacks each year, and I've wasted enough of Google's time this week to bother finding out, but it makes for a snippy tabloid headline, or barstool factoid -- providing nobody asks too many follow-ups. Like a furious and lonely baby boomer in a Daily Mail comments section, I'd be tempted to judge the unfortunates behind the statistic were it not for the fact that, earlier this week I fell out of a tree while trying to photograph bird eggs.
Here's what's clear: big console game sales are down. Titanfall 2, Watch Dogs 2, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Dishonored 2 and more all failed to even match the sales of their predecessors at launch. People I've spoken to in the UK retail business are in panic mode. The PS4 has been a huge success. Xbox One is doing well. What's going on?
I've seen plenty of theories, some better than others. Writing on Eurogamer's sister site, Gamesindustry.biz, Rob Fahey puts forward one of the better ones: that the rise of digital means fewer physical game sales are in people's hands to trade-in. Certainly in the UK, which has a huge pre-owned video game market, that makes a lot of sense.
Fahey also suggests more and more games are designed to keep us playing week after week and, as a result, we're not interested in playing as many new games. Think Destiny or Minecraft or FIFA. Again, I agree this plays a part. I played Destiny for pretty much two years solid, tuning in each week to the detriment of trying out new games.
Watch Dogs 2, Ubisoft's latest open world adventure, annoys the hell out of me. I can't stand the characters, the dialogue is cheesy and the hacker culture the game portrays is 20 years too late. I mean, hacking was cool in 1996 when Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie were trolling each other in high school. Now, 20 years later, I listen to DedSec characters Marcus, "Wrench", Sitara and Josh chat about hacking the planet in the basement of a board game shop in San Francisco and I can't help but think of that "How do you do, fellow kids?" meme. For me, Watch Dogs 2 is an eye-rolling hot take of a video game. It tries too hard to be cool.
It's no secret that Watch Dogs 2 is a departure from its predecessor. It's been obvious for a while, just from glancing at trailers, that this sequel will be brighter and more playful than Ubisoft's previous crack at a hackable open world. Now, after nearly four hours with the sequel, it's clear there are big changes in how it feels, too.
If you've ever played a Ubisoft open world game then you'll know the score. Assassin's Creed features towers to climb which unlock missions around you. Far Cry features towers which, again, unlock missions around you. And - guess what - Watch Dogs 1 features towers which unlock missions around you.
After all the leaks, Watch Dogs 2 is now officially out in the open.