Watch Dogs 2 is out today. It’s a really big game full of stuff to do. It even has dogs for you to watch!
I wrapped Watch Dogs 2's story campaign last night, and am still messing around with its plethora of sidequests and optional challenges. If you’re just getting started and want to know what to do (and what not to do), I’ve got you covered. Let’s do some tips.
You can go in guns blazing if you want, but Watch Dogs 2 works much better if you go for stealth. It’s a more rewarding way to play, and it makes it much easier to survive.
Stay nonlethal when you can.
You have a variety of different options for getting around guards, and a lot of them are deadly. Marcus’s stun gun is one nonlethal means of dispatching guards, and I recommend using it when you can. For starters, it’s much more in character for him to be knocking guards out while he does his hacking. It also makes the game a touch more interesting, since K.O.’d guards can wake up after a period of time.
Count the Z’s on sleeping guards.
Watch Dogs 2 borrows Metal Gear Solid’s “count the Z’s” approach to sleeping guards. As time passes, a stunned guard will go from three Zs to two, to one. If a guard only has one Z on them, they’re about to wake up. You can fill a sleeping guard’s Zs back up by shooting them again with your stun gun.
If you kill someone, tell yourself they’re just sleeping.
Marcus’s melee attacks are always lethal. There’s no way to put a sleeper hold on someone; you choke them to death or beat them with your pool-ball mace, and they can’t be revived by other guards. The game doesn’t punish you for this or anything, it just feels out of character for Marcus to wantonly murder people. I decided that Marcus had just knocked out whoever he killed. Shh... they’re sleeping.
Stick to cover.
If you’re sneaking around, stay in cover as much as possible. The enemy AI isn’t all that bright, but they’ll see you very easily if you’re running around out of cover. If you have to get from point A to point B, use the cover-transition system (aim where you’re going and press X/A) instead of moving freely.
Consider playing on easy.
Watch Dogs 2 is a fun game, but it has some of the worst checkpointing I’ve come across in a long time. Multiple times, I’ve died on the final phase of a multi-phase mission only to be kicked back to the very start. Consider knocking the difficulty down to easy, which will help you survive gunfights more easily. You might have more fun, and you can always change it back.
Get the aerial drone as soon as you can afford it.
Marcus can equip two remote-controlled drones to help him infiltrate the game’s many guarded compounds. You get the R.C. car almost right off the bat, but you have to save up and buy the aerial drone. Do so as fast as you can—the aerial drone is easily the most useful tool in the entire game.
Use your aerial drone at every opportunity.
Before you head into a new restricted area, you should always whip out your drone first and see what’s what. The drone can fly into ducts and bounce off walls and ceilings without taking damage, which means it can get above and inside every area. Take the lay of the land and be sure to tag as many guards as you can see. Drone recon is also usually a good time to grab any access keys you see floating around (they’re coded with a red cloud of squiggles and a key icon).
If a guard is detecting your drone, quickly deactivate it.
If your R.C. car or your aerial drone get spotted, guards will throw rocks at them or shoot them. That’ll leave you waiting on a cooldown before you can spawn another one, and it’ll put the guards on alert. If you see that you’re being spotted, quickly hold down the circle/B button and instantly recall the drone. The guard will forget they saw it and you’ll be able to re-deploy the drone with no harm done.
Know your locks.
The game actually doesn’t explain the various types of locks all that well, so I’ll take a crack at it. A red locked door is usually on a closed circuit. You can trace the red line from the door to a red power box somewhere on the wall. You have to hack these boxes in person or with your R.C. car.
Other times, you’ll need an access key to open a red door—these are located on guards or laptops that you can see surrounded by a red cloud in your hacking view. Hack the person or laptop (a ranged hack is fine) and you’ll be able to open the door.
Sometimes a locked junction box will be accompanied by a second box that you can interact with. Activate the second box and you’ll see a symbol that looks like this:
…which means that you have to connect a bunch of Pipe Dream-like junctures to turn the pipes from red to blue before you can access the locked box.
Lastly, if you’re on a mission, your hacking objective will usually be highlighted in orange. The game will tell you if these are a physical hack or not, but generally speaking, Marcus has to do these hacks in person. Sometimes it’s a quick download, and sometimes you’ll have to hold out while a longer download takes place. Watch Dogs 2 doesn’t do a good job of communicating what each hack requires, so it’s best to be prepared.
Use your aerial drone to solve environmental locks.
Those pipe-flow locks are often spread over a large area. Even if you’re underground or in a confined space, it’s much easier to solve these using your aerial drone than it is to lug Marcus around from point to point, particularly for the ones that have a timer.
Leave patrolling guards alone.
The minute you stun or kill a guard, even if you do it remotely, the other guards will often deviate from their patrols and begin to look for you. Sometimes you can get away with picking off a lone guard, but even that will usually lead to an increase in alert status. In general, it’s good to keep from ruffling any feathers for as long as humanly possible.
Try to use fuse boxes as distractions only.
You can hack a fuse box to emit a spark that attracts a guard to come investigate. At that point, it can be very tempting to take the next step and shock the guard into unconsciousness. Resist this urge. Fuse box explosions make lots of noise, and the odds are someone will find the body of the guard you knocked out. First and foremost, think of fuse boxes as methods of distracting and directing the AI, not as weapons for knocking guards out from a distance.
If you’re near the end of the mission and get spotted, do whatever you can to get out alive.
Don’t count on having gotten a checkpoint when you completed that final objective—it’s not worth risking being thrown back to the very start of the mission. Shoot your way out, or just run. The important thing is that you escape.
Be careful when hacking during a car chase.
If you’re being chased, the game will occasionally throw up prompts for you to blow up a steam vent or toss up another sort of obstacle to slow your pursuers. Thing is, sometimes the cars chasing you will pull directly alongside you, and you’ll get a prompt for a countermeasure that will also blow up your car. It’s easy to press the button whenever you get the prompt, but be prudent. If a pursuer is right next to you, you could wind up killing Marcus and having to do the whole chase (or even the whole mission) over from the start.
Stop onrushing enemies cold with the old hack ’n stun.
If you’ve got a dude in body armor rushing your position with a shotgun, you can stop him if you do things in the right order. Tap the left shoulder button to automatically hack his headset or phone, which will stop him cold and lock him in an animation. Then pop out and nail him with your stun gun. I have taken out whole squads of heavily armed dudes this way, one right after the other. It works like a charm.
Get the right research upgrades.
Most of the upgrades Marcus can get aren’t all that exciting, but a few will make your life much easier. Obviously you should get the first of each skill tree, but after that, here’s what to prioritize.
- Proximity Scanner: This lets your aerial drone tag enemies through walls, which makes recon much more useful and can be a lifesaver when infiltrating larger buildings.
- Steady Aim: An increase to stun-gun range is extremely helpful. Get this one early.
- Hijacker: Very nice to be able to immediately drive any car in the game without risking alerting the cops.
- Improved Profiler: This tags anyone with a lot of money in their account, which makes it much easier to prioritize who you should rob. You only get around $500-700 a pop, but it adds up. Don’t think too hard about the fact that you’re stealing hundreds of dollars from innocent people. Shh... Marcus is a good dude... shhh...
- Gang Attack: This is a really silly ability but also a lot of fun to use. I get the sense that Watch Dogs 2 was supposed to have a more fleshed out gang metagame at some point, and this ability is an echo of that.
Use the map to pause the game.
It’s actually kinda hard to pause Watch Dogs 2, but the fastest way to do so is to go to your map. You can also go to the settings menu on your phone, though that takes a few extra steps. On PS4 you can hit the PlayStation button to pop out of the game and quickly pause it, though I don’t know if that works on Xbox One.
Always grab Key Data when you see it.
One of the collectible-types in Watch Dogs 2 is called Key Data. They’re marked by a white skull in a green diamond. They’re usually pretty easy to get, and most of the time you can grab them with your aerial drone. You definitely want to do that, because you’ll need to collect a specific piece of Key Data to unlock each of Marcus’ research nodes. Key Data is also pretty fun to find and it doesn’t take very long.
Go to pawn shops every so often.
As you drive around the Bay Area, stop by pawn shops whenever you see one nearby. They look like a diamond ring on your map. There, you can sell all the junk you’ve looted out of people’s glove compartments and make a few bucks.
Track down all the operation intel.
This being a Ubisoft game, you’ll start out with a ton of icons on your map. Be sure to track down all the ones that mark side missions—they’re called “operation intel” and are marked with small-ish orange and black icons. Each one will open up a new side mission for you to do, and some of them are pretty cool.
Go clothing shopping.
The clothes in Watch Dogs 2 are surprisingly good, and shopping in the game is actually pretty fun. Whenever you pass by a clothing store, stop by and see what they’ve got.
Talk to your crew in between missions.
Wrench, Sitara and Josh are all hanging out at DedSec HQ in between missions, and you can go talk to them. I recommend doing so. Like the rest of Watch Dogs 2, these conversations can be dopey and annoying, but also like Watch Dogs 2, they’re just as often charming and funny.
Download all the apps.
You can go to the app store on Marcus’s phone and download various apps that let you do things like listen to music or order a car for delivery. It’s easy to forget to check the app store, and there were a few apps that I didn’t download until I was more than a dozen hours into the game. Don’t be like me! Get them apps.
Pet all the dogs.
There are dogs in Watch Dogs 2. You can watch them, but you can also pet them. You should do this. (If any video game gives you the opportunity to pet dogs, you should take it.) You can also send your little drone buddies to go play around with the dogs you find. Furry friends love R.C. cars, turns out.
Prepare for the possibility that you might kill a dog.
Because Marcus has no nonlethal melee attack, there is a distinct possibility that you will beat a dog to death in this game. There’s probably nothing for it. It was you or him. Prepare yourself emotionally for this turn of events.
Turn on the seamless multiplayer features (once they’re working).
The game’s seamless multiplayer features are currently bugged and inoperable, so you can’t use them at the moment. When they’re back up and running, however, I recommend turning ‘em on and doing invasions and fighting off invaders. It’s not a very deep system, but it’s still a good time.
When you’re being invaded, rely on your drone.
If someone invades you, immediately pull out your aerial drone to find them. During the few invasions that I’ve fought off, I found it extremely difficult to find my invader on foot. The moment I switched to the drone, however, I was able to profile everyone in my area in less than a minute. The drone may well prove to be overpowered when it comes to finding invaders. Use it if you want to win.
Find a co-op buddy.
Watch Dogs 2’s co-op is a hell of a good time. It’s more fleshed-out than I was expecting and it’s arguably more fun to tackle big stealth missions with a buddy to watch your back than it is to go it alone. If you know anyone else who has the game and might want to play co-op, give it a go. It’s one of the best surprises in the game.
Those are my tips for starting out in Watch Dogs 2. If you have any of your own, feel free to add them below. If I come up with more tips over the next few days, I’ll update this article with ‘em.
Good luck, and happy dog-watching.