Ubisoft has ridden the highs and lows of the Watch Dogs franchise since its first game launched in 2014. Of course, this open world game has had a complete tonal shift along the way. The original game followed the gruff and tough Aiden Pierce on a vigilante quest of vengeance following the death of his niece. While the first Watch Dogs brought hacking to an open-world, the brooding protagonist and the city of Chicago left a lukewarm taste in the mouths of many players. Recognizing that the first game had a sombre vibe, Ubisoft decided to take players to San Francisco for the sequel.
In fact, they embraced hacker-culture completely and switched to the young Marcus Holloway, who served as a playful and highly intelligent hacker with some serious style. The central game mechanic of hacking was revitalized thanks to the laid-back and fun city of San Francisco. The vibe at the core of the city was fun gameplay with unique parkour and spectacular vistas. Because of San Francisco and Silicon Valley’s eclectic cast of characters, the game remained fresh and never over-stayed its welcome.
With all this talk of the most recent game, the inevitable question comes up: where to next? No matter which protagonist, returning or new, takes the mantle, the city the game is set in will have a major impact on the storyline and relationship with players.
That being said, the following list encompasses the best and worst cities future Watch Dogs games could employ.
15 Go To: New York City
Why not New York? The city that never sleeps has the pedigree for being one of the fastest-paced Metropolises in the world. The potential to hack everyone and everything is an enticing game mechanic and, with the city’s dense population, Ubisoft could easily sell this game. Imagine Marcus or even a new protagonist tapping into the video feed of Times Square to deliver a message directly from DedSec. Perhaps more thrilling is the prospect of hacking Wall Street or controlling the city’s subway system. When it comes down to it, there are so many possibilities and angles to portray NYC in side missions alone. That said, it is likely that driving mechanics would be emphasized less in place of parkour due to the volume of traffic. It would be preferable to have alternative means of transport–like a heavily customized moped. Why not New York?
14 Avoid: Detroit
Detroit feels like the next immediate stop for Aiden Pierce after fleeing Chicago in the original Watch Dogs. It would be a major step backwards for the lighter tone of the recent instalment, but would probably serve his vengeful, dark persona. Detroit’s steady urban decline has been a sore subject for a number of years and taking a prominent video game series there likely would not help the issue. More than that, there is nothing immediately striking about Detroit that makes it a hot destination for a series grounded in the technological exploits of hackers. With few visible landmarks, it is difficult to argue for any valid reason for this city to exist in a game at all. Simply put: there is not anything there players will clamber for and are better left looking for greener pastures.
13 Go To: London
If Ubisoft ever takes Watch Dogs out of the United States (which this entire list is in great favour of), eventually a stop to London, England should be on the list. Even though fans of Assassin’s Creed were able to explore Victorian London in Syndicate, the personality and evolution of this city over time would be a major selling point for the series. London is a city ripe with culture and takes great pride of its heritage. For that sake, it would likely feature a new protagonist that best encapsulates the spirit of the city. Imagine hacking into the London Eye, or zipping through Trafalgar Square in a Mini Cooper. How about stealthily infiltrating Buckingham Palace to bug a corrupt worker inside? Pack your bags, DedSec!
12 Avoid: Ottawa
The capital city of Canada is not Watch Dogs material. Though it is a fusion of culture and government, there is too little to do there that may be considered fun in a 12-hour video game. Imagine taking all joy from networked hacking as Ubisoft brings players’ limits to a crawl in this aging government town. There may be one or two interesting missions that culminate in meeting the photogenic Prime Minister, but that does not equate a quality gaming experience. Aside from a couple of parkour opportunities, the city seems devoid of memorable personality – especially considering the way San Francisco was portrayed. Players hack Parliament and are then forced to sleep through one of the many shouting matches in the House of Commons. That sounds… stimulating? No.
11 Go To: Taipei
This special municipality of Taiwan is among the more exotic locales featured on this list. It is a bustling modern city that is respectful of its origins and culture. Known for its active night markets, there may be little reason to explore during the day, but when people do, the breadth of the city can be overwhelming. Among the more impressive sites include Taipei 101, a skyscraper that features an essential fireworks display every New Year’s Eve. The city itself is on the cutting edge of modernism with a tightly packed downtown core and very thorough metro system. For Watch Dogs players, Taipei offers a unique sense of scale in varying neighbourhoods. It would be amazing for a Ubisoft property to explore Taiwan, and this particular city would be fascinating and original to explore.
10 Avoid: Naples
Naples is huge. It also has very little to do with the rise of technology. Despite being a large, picturesque European city, Naples does not have a shred of intrigue for a video game about hacking, exploration, or fun. In fact, it has severe garbage problems and strong ties to the local Camorra that even make tourists squeamish about taking the time to visit. It is one of the poorest cities in all of Europe and is essentially run on and by crime. In fact, there already exists a series that Naples should be featured in: Mafia. The city is built as an odd array of old and new Italy and has a general sleazy vibe that would disrupt the stylistic precedent of Watch Dogs 2.
9 Go To: Sydney
Sydney is a thriving, coastal city with the distinct privilege of hosting the world’s largest natural harbour. Having a Watch Dogs game set in a city reliant on its topography could be an insightful push forward on open-world games as a whole. On top of this fact, the vibrant arts scene in Sydney is second to none with a packed cultural calendar. The impressive scale of the city and its 500 neighbourhoods would undoubtedly be scaled back for any game to focus on the most radical parts. Because of this, however, it has the potential to be Ubisoft’s most culturally ambitious game to date. While some may argue comparisons with San Francisco, the feel of Sydney would be wholly unique as a city that fully embraces its shoreline roots.
8 Avoid: Atlanta
With racial tensions still high, a huge zombie-enthusiast population, and terrible traffic, there are plenty of reasons to avoid Atlanta in a new Watch Dogs game. The city itself does little to set itself apart from many other cities in the U.S. and, like Detroit, has few visible or interesting landmarks to speak of. This is not to say that Atlanta is a bad city, but it is a city that would offer very little to entice gamers to explore it in depth. The same, in a way, could also be said for Chicago on the surface. One of the main aspects of the original Watch Dogs that felt absent was a distinguishing tone from other games. Part of that was invariably the city of Chicago. To take the series to Atlanta would feel like an antiquated step backwards to players hungry for more character in their gaming rigs.
7 Go To: Seoul
South Korea’s capital is notable for many things. It is among the world’s most interconnected cities. From gaming, to technology, Seoul thrives on innovation and technological prowess. If this city were featured in Watch Dogs, the largest design challenge would be deciding what players couldn’t hack. The underground mall, the smart homes, and raw technology produced out of Seoul are second to none. The series would benefit from a Korean protagonist as well. It would provide an authentic texture of realism for such a city. In fact, Seoul may be the perfect destination for a Watch Dogs game with the exception of scale. Current hardware may be able to compete for making breathtaking worlds but, given Seoul’s legacy and size, designers may not be able to do it justice with less than a one-to-one scale.
6 Avoid: Pyongyang
For several obvious reasons, Ubisoft should not spend time developing a game that takes place in this North Korean capital. In fact, it is ill advised to have any game set in that country due to its radical political affiliations. It would be difficult to make any game ‘fun’ while based in the city of a present day dictatorship–it may hit too close to home and ruin the escapism element of games. The extreme conformity and abject poverty exhibited in photos over the years paint a bleak picture of the city at large. The skyline of Pyongyang is noteworthy only for the Ryungyong Hotel, the largest building in North Korea that looks like a cross breed of a pyramid, space shuttle, and arrowhead. And the kicker? No guest has ever occupied it. This city is not worth visiting in a game or otherwise.
5 Go To: Hong Kong
As a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong is poised in a unique position to stand apart from most cities featured in a game. The city is among the most powerful economic and financial centres in the world… meaning it could one day be hacked by DedSec and spawn a fascinating Watch Dogs story. In fact, Hong Kong has already been featured in a notable open-world video game focusing on the Triads: Sleeping Dogs. Despite this, the city has a presence and feeling that could easily be represented in a stealth, hacking, and parkour game. In fact, Sleeping Dogs offers a unique proof of concept for Hong Kong as a viable open-world game city that deserves to be explored further. Not getting hopes up too high, but could also serve as a tantalizing crossover between the two universes.
4 Avoid: Tijuana
This Mexican city leaves all to be desired and should be avoided at all costs in Watch Dogs. Tijuana is most noted as a manufacturing city with strong ties to human trafficking and the Mexican drug war. Despite this, its core tenements lie in tourism and manufacturing–both of which leave little interest to explore and expand upon in a video game. More than that, Watch Dogs’ focus is on the way in which technology can be turned against society as a means of control. Focusing on a border-city may lead gamers to the false impression that a theme of the game is surveillance with the Mexican and American border. Now, it would be intriguing to focus on the Mexican side of their border with the States, but that sounds like a game for another genre, and another series.
3 Go To: Tokyo
Tokyo is nothing short of impressive. It is the most densely populated city in the world, which means game developers already have their work cut out for them. That said, the impressive scale of Tokyo is matched by its consumption of technology. Being at the cutting-edge of it opens doors Watch Dogs fans have only dreamed about. In the same way that San Francisco raised the bar, having Tokyo as the setting would exponentially increase the number of hack-able devices in the game world. A definite must-add if Ubisoft ever showcased Tokyo in Watch Dogs would be the legendary Akihabara district: home of every gadget, manga, and video game coming out of Japan. As a whole, Tokyo’s vibe fits in perfectly with Watch Dogs and would make an excellent addition to the series going forward.
2 Avoid: New Orleans
New Orleans was loosely adapted as New Bordeaux for 2016’s third Mafia game and was done to a fair degree of intrigue. With that being said, the city does not inspire the technologically intriguing angle that other American cities boast. It may very well be that Ubisoft may simply want to distance themselves from comparisons with Mafia and avoid the city altogether. From a gameplay perspective, present-day New Orleans is not a city built for parkour gameplay or hacking. Due to its older neighbourhoods, it is an intriguing city, but not for a game series that is based upon technically intensive hacking gameplay. San Francisco and Silicon Valley made sense for the world to push out innovation. For Watch Dogs, it is uninteresting and stands out as another city on the list of uninspiring destinations for a virtual world in the United States.
1 Go To: Dubai
Taking a note from New York–why not Dubai? As the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai’s drive on tourism is the exception to the rule that such gimmicks would be bland in gaming. Teeming with technological marvels from skyscrapers like the famous Burj Khalifa and the Burj Al Arab, Dubai is an easy choice. Simply driving through the city en route to a mission while Marcus is on a holiday is enough for the game to stand on its own feet. The Miracle Garden and various artificial islands in the clear ocean water provide ample gameplay possibilities for both leisure and hacking. With this massive infusion of technology and luxury, Dubai is the clear choice to be the most essential destination for a future Watch Dogs game. Maybe Aiden will even get a piece of that action.