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Parents' Guide to Watchdogs 2

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In collaboration with the Games Rating Authority, here’s our parent’s guide to Watch Dogs 2.

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1. PEGI Rating

In the UK and Europe, PEGI rates Watch Dogs 2 as PEGI 18, suitable for adults only, for frequent use of sexual expletives, sexual activity with visible genitals and the motiveless killing of innocent human characters.

The Games Rating Authority expands on its PEGI details by saying that Watch Dogs 2 puts players in the role of ‘Marcus Holloway, a hacker who works with the hacking group DedSec to take down the city's ctOS 2.0, an advanced surveillance system.’ The game features ‘frequent use of the sexual expletive ‘fuck’ and derivations of the word’ and ‘the use of firearms and vehicles to shoot or run down innocent characters.’ In one scene ‘a semi-clothed female [is] standing in front of a male character who is naked and [her] her hand, which covers his genitals, slowly moves up and down, [before] she [...] moves her hand away which exposes his penis.’ The GRA adds that the game features ‘references to [the] illegal drugs cocaine [and] weed [or] pot’, and that one scene depicts ‘an American police officer shooting an unarmed black suspect.’

2. Genre

Watch Dogs 2 is an action adventure game in which the player completes missions in the city of San Francisco, traversing the city on foot and in vehicles.

The game is played from a third person perspective and lets the player approach missions using different means including gun-based combat, stealth and hacking phones and other devices to cause distraction and conflict. Watch Dogs 2 is mainly a single player game, but also has drop-in co-operative online play for certain missions, as well as online competitive multiplayer modes.

3. Similar Games

Watch Dogs 2 has the same rebels vs the powerful mentality as Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series, but the contemporary American settings draws inevitable comparison with Grand Theft Auto.

4. Story

Watch Dogs 2 puts the player in the role of hacker Marcus Holloway, who is accused of a crime he didn’t commit and joins the Dedsec hacker collective to strike back against the use of big data to profile and manipulate innocent people. Dedsec’s main target is the ctOS 2.0 surveillance system and the company that made it, Blume, but the game also sets Marcus and Dedsec against many other parts of the Bay Area tech industry, including parodies of well known companies.

5. Developer

Ubisoft Montreal is a large studio which has had a hand in many of Ubisoft’s large scale open world games, including the first Watch Dogs and many recent installments in the Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry series.

6. Format

Watch Dogs 2 is available for PS4, XBox One and PC for around £40 or $60, or as a more expensive Gold Edition including a season pass for forthcoming downloadable extras including missions, outfits, weapons and co-op modes. A Playstation Plus or XBox Live Gold account is required for co-op or multiplayer.

7. Duration and Difficulty

Ubisoft’s open world games tend to take around 16 to 18 hours to complete the main storyline. On size alone, Watch Dogs 2’s San Francisco has a map twice the size of its predecessor’s version of Chicago.

8. Themes

Watch Dogs 2 asks big questions about the use of data in the modern world. How can the information held on us be combined with predictive technology to track or manipulate us? Have we ceded power from democratically accountable institutions that used to gather information to the private third parties that possess the technology to interpret data today?

The game raises plenty of serious contemporary issues, but is also a lighter than its predecessor, with a sunnier world and more upbeat, fun protagonist. It allows the player to avoid violent or fatal solutions to many missions, with the option of taking a stealthy approach, or using hacking to cause chaos from afar.

9. Why people play

Watch Dogs 2 does what many action adventure games of its kind do - presents the player with a large open world to explore, a central plot thread to follow as they see fit, some side missions and other activities to find in the world, and a set of abilities or powers to learn, enjoy and develop.

But here the main power set is - aside from the usual olympic level parkour abilities - hacking rather than shooting, with Marcus gaining the power over virtually all technology around him. This means there’s always plenty to explore, but the heart of the game is in following its story. And with interesting characters and contemporary resonance, it’s a story that’s about more than entertainment.

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Andrew Robertson
Andy Robertson is the editor of AskAboutGames and has written for national press and broadcast about video games and families for over 15 years. He has just published the Taming Gaming book with its Family Video Game Database.