Well, I've been spending all my time playing Watch_Dogs, so I might as well write a review of it. The quick version is "I got what I wanted, so I'm pretty happy." The much longer version follows:
It's not very useful to compare Watch_Dogs to Assassin's Creed, and I don't have the slightest idea why people do so (except that, like Assassin's Creed, it's really easy to pickpocket people by accident in Watch_Dogs), when Ubisoft produced a completely different game which is exactly like Watch_Dogs and is even named similarly: Sleeping Dogs. I'm going to be talking about Sleeping Dogs a lot in this review, largely because of the intense similarities between our two Dogs games. Sleeping Dogs is a game based very much on the Hong Kong action movie series Infernal Affairs (which is an excellent, excellent film). So it's pretty much playing a morally ambiguous Hong Kong kung fu movie in a semi-open world city. What I wanted out of Watch_Dogs was Sleeping Dogs, only with Hollywood hacking instead of kung fu, and since that's pretty much exactly what I got, I see no reason to be unhappy with my purchase. Of course, that doesn't mean I don't have things to complain about. I wouldn't be happy if there wasn't anything to complain about.
Ubisoft loves to fill games with bullshit things to do, and Watch_Dogs is par for that course. There's a dizzying amount of things to do, and most of them are actually pretty fun and don't take a huge amount of time to accomplish. I place a big value on progression without a huge time sink, and Watch_Dogs does a good job of accomplishing that feeling. I can play for 15 minutes and have objectively gotten "further" in the game.
For a little more praise, the progression and experience system in Watch_Dogs is leagues beyond Sleeping Dog's very high penalty XP system. Screw up just once in Sleeping Dogs and you lose 1/3 of the experience you could get in a mission. That quickly meant that it was simply impossible to unlock all of the skills and stuff. In Watch_Dogs, you'll always get experience, and you can grind it for skill points if you need them. Some of the unlocks you get only by accomplishing certain missions, but there's always forward movement; I never feel like the game is simply going to make it impossible to get any unlock that I really want (except for maybe the online ones, but I'll get to online play later).
Like Sleeping Dogs, Watch_Dogs features a terrific sound track by actual musicians, and, to improve on the formula, you now have a music player in your phone, so you can actually listen to the music you want to, and it works outside of vehicles. I used to have to just cruise around in a car for fifteen minutes to hear "Yellow Fever." If it was in Watch_Dogs, I could just set it on repeat and be happy. They also improved the gunplay aspect, making firearms much more useful -- in keeping with the theme of "hacker" rather than "kung fu fighter." However, the cost of that is a completely denuded melee combat system. Of course, you can forgive them for switching to "Press F to win at punching" when the focus of the game isn't on punching people until they stop.
The open world is largely improved, though I feel like it's got less personality than Hong Kong, more repeats on the canned conversations, there's a lot of little touches that help bring it to life. NPCs get into car accidents and get mugged, all without your intervention. I once walked into a coffee shop to play chess, and discovered a dude was trying to rob the place. Until I pressed F to win at beating people with a police baton anyway. They added several fast travel systems to the game, and put in more vehicles, as well as a way to always summon a vehicle near by, instead of making you hoof it to a garage as in Sleeping Dogs. Those are definite improvements and help speed up the game play and keep the flow going.
Now, to get into complaining. I appreciate that Watch_Dogs does more than just racing with their cars. And I really really appreciate that the key in Watch_Dogs is no longer "buy the most expensive car." That's seriously the ONLY tactic in Sleeping Dogs; and if you didn't have the most expensive car, you'd simply lose. All of that said, Sleeping Dogs had a much more natural feeling and responsive driving engine. In Watch_Dogs, I still feel like I have to fight the cars to do what I want, and they have much more "mushy" handling in general (which means that if you get badly damaged, you end up just sliding all over the road).
The gunplay is better than in Sleeping Dogs, but it's still uninspired and pretty boring, maybe to keep the focus on the hacking. Unfortunately, most of your hacking options, especially while driving, are highly destructive, and the game really likes missions where you have to, for no good reason, knock down one or two specific guys. These guys will be surrounded by and/or riding in cars with expendable dudes with guns. Huge numbers of expendable dudes with guns. This results in you accidentally killing one of the "knock down" targets in a bad accident (sometimes this will happen without you even being near by and causing anything) and failing the mission. Criminal Convoy missions are incredibly frustrating for this reason. Why am I sparing these two particular guys? Why is it that it's okay to blow everybody else up? It's not like this is a campaign mission, where I might have a reason to not just blow the hell out of everyone.
"Uninspired and boring" are probably the most generous descriptors I could give to Aiden Pearce, the protagonist too. He's very dull. Unlike Sleeping Dogs' Wei, who was a really interesting character, with a driving conflict, trapped between two worlds (Wei was an undercover cop, infiltrating the Triads), Pearce is just an angry guy out for revenge. There's no real moral conflict to Aiden, and he kind of just goes through life doing the things that he's got to do. He's motivated by the plot -- the plot isn't motivated by him. I get that it's trendy to make characters that are as lacking in personality as possible, so that the player can project on them, but Aiden Pearce is encroaching on Bella Swan territory in that regard. Most of the other characters are no better -- Damien Brenks, Aiden's old mentor, is just a huge dick (with occasionally conflicting statements: (spoilers)I got an audio log where he talks about how Aiden will straight up murder anyone who messes with his family and then he just up and kidnaps Aiden's sister(/spoilers)). Lena Pearce, Aiden's sister, is the blandest "woman recovering from grief who doesn't understand her brother's motivations" that the writers could have imagined. But at least we've got Jordi. Jordi Chen is the most interesting character in the game (at least as of Act 2, mission 2. Hey, I've been playing more side mission things than the main storyline, because that's where my fun is). Jordi is hilarious. His voice actor nails the part of a remorseless killer with a sense of humor and a love for his job with fantastic aplomb. He also tends to be better written than most of the other characters, maybe because his character is really straightforward and understandable. I don't think I'd like to play as Jordi, mind you, but man, I am super glad he's in the game. I might enjoy a movie about Jordi. It's pretty depressing when "the remorseless killer hired by the hero to help him out" is the deepest, most interesting character in the game.
The online gameplay is a complete waste of everyone's time. I think, judging by how seldom my game gets invaded these days, everybody's figured this out. See, there's nothing at risk in the online play, except your online points. With nothing meaningful at risk and pretty much no meaningful rewards (there's no got-to-haves in the the online rewards, and mostly they're things that improve online play), there's very little incentive to distract yourself from actually having fun to play any of the online game modes. The online play is an occasionally interesting diversion, but there's so much to do in the single-player game that it really feels like a pointless distraction.
When they originally pitched Watch_Dogs, Ubisoft also talked up the moral choices the player could make about hacking people and stealing their bank account information. This might have more of an impact if people ever reacted to it, but they don't. There's no indication (at least that I've seen; maybe if you steal earth-shattering amounts of money?) that your thefts have any impact on the world at all. So maybe you feel a little bad because the RNG decided this person has the tag "Single Mother" by their name, but since there's no change in the world, how she acts, or how the world acts, that's just a tiny pang of guilt. It also ignore the far more important thing: money is completely meaningless and there's no reason to steal anything. See, you don't need to buy guns: you'll unlock the best ones by playing side missions anyway. You don't need to buy cars, because owning the best bar no longer really matters in the game proper. For the most part, you won't go through gadgets fast enough to need to constantly be buying crafting components, so those are only a very occasional drain. Your clothing no longer provides any kind of bonus, and nearly all of the outfits are hideous anyway. There's just no reason to spend money, and without a reason to spend it, you can easily keep yourself quite wealthy just by doing Fixer Contracts.
Despite those oddities and missteps, and the completely yawn-worthy protagonist, the game still manages to be fun. I enjoy all the little games, and the hacking minigame you play sometimes is very good; it gives me the right feel for a "Hollywood hacking" game. The driving sections aren't perfect, but they're very good -- better than most shooters manage. The character's story isn't the most terribly compelling, but the world, a Chicago run by a magic computer system, is interesting and a really enjoyable playground. I like Watch_Dogs, and I feel like I'm getting out of it what I wanted to get out of it.