By Dave Gilmore
8:50 AM EDT, June 7, 2012
In a year that some are calling a "meh" version of the E3 expo, one new title has emerged as the clear buzz game that nobody knew about a week ago.
"Watch Dogs" was demoed by Ubisoft this week, and so far the scant 10 minutes unveiled look every bit worth the hype.
A spiritual successor to Ubisoft's big third-person action properties "Assassin's Creed" and "Splinter Cell," this new property appears to have reached a place in gamers that will make it one of the most-followed games in development over the coming months.
Immediately upon seeing the gameplay demo, one is struck by how authentically the city of Chicago has been replicated in "Watch Dogs." It has been a while since a game has really captured not just the streets and buildings of a place but the true feeling of what it's like to walk around somewhere.
Given that it's an open-world action game, nailing the essence of the environment is a huge step in making the game an immersive experience for players who like to wander and explore.
The relevance of such an authentically rendered world is compounded by the theme and issues that the game appears to present. "Watch Dogs" is a game about the role technology plays in our lives. Under everything tangible in our existence lies an invisible framework of data and information that is much more fragile than we think. "Watch Dogs" allows the player to explore the possibilities of exploiting that framework as a weapon.
What "The Matrix" showed us at the end of the '90s was that the world was headed toward a place that is more or less run by computers. The logical conclusion then, is that the superheroes and villains of the future were going to be the people who expertly manipulate the network of information that most of us take for granted.
With the lead character Aiden Pierce's callous and secretive actions in the demo, it's fair to say that "Watch Dogs" will also force the player to confront the moral ambiguities that come with having access to so much information about one another.
"Watch Dogs" might be coming at just the right time. The ideas that come to the surface in just the brief gameplay video are enough to get the mind racing. This gets particularly interesting when an open-world style game is populated with characters who can manipulate their environment by data and information.
It also doesn't hurt that the game looks absolutely stunning, leading many to speculate that it is too advanced graphically for this generation of consoles and may be in development until the next wave of Xboxes and PlayStations are on shelves.
The excitement is also compounded by the simple fact that most of the games demoed at E3 were already announced prior to this week, and many of those are sequels.
The high focus around sequels and reboots at E3 is a symptom of the sad but true reality, which is that in a still-struggling economy, big publishers are having to take fewer chances on new intellectual properties and sticking to titles that will sell based on previously earned recognition.
The gaming populous is severely starved for some new ideas and storytelling, and "Watch Dogs" looks every bit a contender for the next great original piece of work.
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