Aiden Pearce is a dork. He’s also “The Vigilante”, the hacker who takes matters into his own hands on the streets of Chicago in Watch Dogs, the new hit from Ubisoft. Watch Dogs is a fun, enjoyable take on the open-world genre, even if it lacks in genuine originality or innovation. But the more I’ve played, the more I’ve enjoyed my time in our newest digital sandbox.
Except where Aiden is concerned. The gameplay of Watch Dogs is pretty damn good, but the story and Aiden’s character are pretty horrendous. Slight spoilers for Watch Dogs ahead:
You see, not too far into the game, Aiden’s sister, who’s name escapes me at this moment, is kidnapped by an old hacker partner of Aiden’s. Of course, this leads to Aiden traipising around The Windy City, performing various tasks for the kidnapper, presumably in an effort to save his sister, but with a complete lack of urgency. Seriously, some of the missions during this extremely prolonged part of the game (we’re talking like 15 missions) are so tangentially related to the overall goal of getting his sister back (Teresa, maybe? Who cares?) that I can’t even fathom how this will lead back to the kidnapper (It’s Nicole. Had to Google it).
This is part of life playing open-world games and it has been since Grand Theft Auto III first the set world afire. All the GTA’s that followed fell victim to this trope. Even Red Dead Redemption had a period where you lost sight of your goal. I think Sleeping Dogs did a good job of keeping everything in focus better than most.
But this is a small complaint compared to the dorkiness of Aiden Pearce. Aiden, according to the Watch Dogs wiki, is 39 years old, which means he should know better. Honestly, when someone is in their late 30’s and they have this kind of persona, it makes even the nerdiest of us feel like Bruce Wayne. Aiden talks in a guttural growl that sounds like an unholy mix of Adam Sandler and Christian Bale’s Batman. His voice is made of gravel. I don’t know if they grade it, but it would be coarse (and hoarse!).
The voice you could almost forgive because we all wish we sounded like we have an acute case of laryngitis. It’s what all the bad-asses have. But his outfit…my GOD IN HEAVEN. Starting at his head with his baseball cap, the kind of which no over 35 should wear unless it has their favorite sports team on it. Then we have the neckwarmer scarf, which he pulls up to cover this face when it’s time to HAX0R, the same way I did to wipe my nose when I was a kid. Covering his torso is an untucked (thanks, Nathan Drake!) zip-up sweater and a trench coat that confirms Aiden is going for that assistant manager position at the local Hot Topic.
No 39 year-old man should dress like this. He dresses like a man approaching middle-age THINKS a hacker would dress. I am not a hacker. I don’t know any hackers. But I bet they usually go with jeans, t-shirt and a hoodie. Just like everyone else. Aiden is a dork. Most games make you feel like you are a bad-ass. Many of them succeed. Aiden feels like I am channeling a hacker if he were the star of an NBC drama (Coming this fall to NBC: Hacktivist Nation starring Christian Slater!).
Most cut-scenes in games make me reach for my phone to check Twitter. All the ones in Watch Dogs make me look up from my phone and say, “What a dork.”
Aiden Pearce is the hero the new generation deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll play him. Because he is available in stores. Because he’s not a hero. He’s a guttural guardian, a Watch Dogs protagonist…A Dork Knight.