On Sunday, Ubisoft will show off Watch Dogs Legion during a not-E3 event called “Ubisoft Forward.” But that’s not all the Watch Dogs you can hound up this weekend, as Ubisoft is also giving away a free copy of Watch Dogs 2 for PC.
Watch Dogs 2 carries over many of the thematic elements of the first game, if you played (and liked) that one. Corporations are still bad, tech is still terrifying and omnipresent, and bank accounts are still not nearly as secure as one would like. While the first game was somewhat of a dour ride, the sequel course-corrected tonally—a bit too hard, according to Kotaku’s Kirk Hamilton. The result is a game that’s pretty much a blown-up version of that Steve Buscemi “How do you do, fellow kids?” meme. One thing Watch Dogs 2 did very, very right, though, was introduce an all-timer protagonist.
Watch Dogs 2 put players in the leather Red Wings of Marcus Holloway, a young, Black tech genius living in San Francisco’s Bay Area. Bucking the long-standing trend of video game characters being bores or jerks or both (sorry, Drake), Marcus is a genuinely likable guy. We always talk about which U.S. presidents it’d be cool to have a beer with. If we did the same for video game protagonists, Marcus...text me. (Just find my number with those infosec skills.) So it’s a bit of a disconnect to see someone you’d totally hang out with pick up an automatic weapon and gun down dozens of unsuspecting security guards.
Thankfully, Watch Dogs 2 presents a whole lot of nonlethal pathways for completing missions, at least compared to other open-world Ubisoft games. Marcus has a stun-gun. He also has access to a handy aerial drone, which makes for some easy stealth-surveying. Though you’re sometimes funnelled into moments of run-and-gun violence, it’s not necessary for every situation.
The game also occasionally offers up social critiques of modern America. For example, in one mission, “Limp Nudle,” Marcus meets up with a friend, Horatio. (I’m not jealous.) There, they ride the Nudle bus to Horatio’s job at Nudle, a clear allegory for a certain search engine giant. The mission’s opening cinematic addresses head-on what it’s like to be a Black employee in a tech megacorp. To be sure, it’s tongue-in-cheek, 101-level stuff, but it’s very welcome in a medium that doesn’t always grapple with such contemporary issues.
Ubisoft Forward begins at 3 p.m. EST on Sunday, July 12. It’ll be preceded by a 30-minute-long pre-show featuring details about some other Ubisoft games, including The Division 2, Ghost Recon Breakpoint, and Just Dance 2020. To nab your free copy of Watch Dogs 2, you needn’t sit through that. Just log into your Ubisoft account during the event and it’s yours.