Watch Dogs 2 makes a number of changes from the previous game in the series. However, it was the change of the game's location that had the biggest impact on everything else. While the original game took place in Chicago, the new title swaps the Windy City for the City by the Bay. According to Ubisoft, the change in location meant that a lot of other things about the game needed to be changed as well.
While the original Watch Dogs put players in the shoes of revenge seeking Aiden Pierce, the sequel has you follow the adventures of Markus Holoway. He's a much lighter character who works together with a group of other hackers in order to show the world what is really going on with all the data that being collected by the CtOS system, rather than chasing a solo vendetta. The Creative Director of Watch Dogs 2 Jonathan Morin explained to me at a Watch Dogs 2 event last week how a lot of the decisions that were made regarding the sort of character that Markus would be, and the way the game would feel in general, were made because everything needed to feel like it fit in San Francisco.
One of the major changes in Watch Dogs 2 is that Markus isn't working alone, from the beginning of the game he has other hackers that he works alongside. This social aspect of hacker culture was an important part of what the developers wanted to spotlight in Watch Dogs 2 since they did not do so in the first game. Considering the Bay Area's part in hacker culture in general, the city makes sense as the location for a game like Watch Dogs.
While the game's location is being called San Francisco, it actually goes much further than that. The game actually takes place in the greater Bay Area, including Oakland and the San Jose/south bay area, called Silicon Valley in the game.
As a Northern California native, I know San Francisco well. While certainly the city has not been recreated in its entirety, all the major points of interest are there. I was able to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge during the time I spent with the game and that moment by itself was worth it all by itself. While to a large extent the "vibe" of a city is an intangible thing, it's clear Ubisoft has done a great deal to try and bring that forward. San Francisco itself feels like a character in the game. The idea that the events of the game could be happening elsewhere simply feels wrong.
Watch Dogs 2 will be out November 15 on consoles and two weeks later on PC. How important is the location of an open world game to you? Let us know in the comments.