WATCH DOGS (M)
Why should the NSA have all the fun? Watch Dogs plants you in a fictionalized version of Chicago, where all of your greatest voyeuristic dreams can come true. You can access anyone’s personal information or tap into any camera feed to secretly surveil citizens from afar. This version of the windy city has foolishly tied all of its technology together through a single operating system, allowing every part of its infrastructure to be hacked (usually with the simple press of a button). This gives master hacker Aiden Pearce endless resources in his personal quest for vengeance—not that he really needs it. Apart from all of the techno-wizardry, Watch Dogs is very much a standard open world, third-person cover shooter, and as such, it enables Aiden to resolve most of his problems with bullets. But the game urges you to take a stealthier approach, and its decidedly more fun to cleverly defeat your enemies with technological tricks.
Watch Dogs does a good job of making you feel like you’re spying on a living, breathing world. You can eavesdrop on countless conversations unrelated to the plot or scan any NPC to produce a short bio, including everything from his occupation to what medications he’s taking. The game is less successful at letting you use these tools creatively, often limiting certain hacks to a single, specific use. It’s cool that you can remotely control the city’s subterranean pipes. It’s less cool that the only use for that is to cause an explosion under enemy vehicles during scripted car chases. Perhaps Watch Dogs’ most interesting feature is its online multiplayer, which allows you to hack other players. You can actually infiltrate another gamer’s single-player campaign, furtively tail him, and hack his phone without him even knowing you’re part of his game. It’s an odd sensation to follow an unaware target, or to wonder if you’re the unaware target. It gives you all the thrills of stealthy surveillance without any of the real life creepiness.
DRAKENGARD 3 (M)
Drakengard 3 is cursed with repetitive enemies, an inconsistent frame-rate and graphics that would’ve been considered ugly on PS2, but it does have one unexpected asset: a protagonist who seems just as irritated with the game as you’ll likely be. This mean-spirited, dragon-riding goddess has a razor-tongued one-liner ready to hurl at every aspect of the game, so you’ll frequently find your own words coming out of her mouth. It’s almost worth suffering through all the dull, hack-‘n-slash action just to hear her gripe about how tedious it is. Almost.
THE SLY TRILOGY (E10+)
Sony Computer Entertainment
Sly Cooper and his anthropomorphic band of thieves are the latest PS2-era characters to find new life on Sony’s portable system. The first three games of the series are all present here, and this is one of those rare franchises that actually got better with each new installment. The stealth mechanics are simple enough for a child to grasp, but challenging enough to keep older players entertained (at least in the latter two games). And the cartoonish, cel-shaded graphics have the added benefit of making the twelve year-old series look timeless.