Price: £40 Developer: Ubisoft Montreal Publisher: Ubisoft Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One Version Reviewed: PS4
I move the camera slightly, tilting it to get the burning police car in shot while keeping San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge in the background. I take the selfie as the car explodes, gathering me a stack of new followers after I post it to the Instagram/Foursquare mashup ScoutX.
For Marcus Holloway, expert hacker and eternally optimistic player character, the CTOS2.0-enabled San Francisco of the future is a playground, a series of opportunities for him and his hacking group to achieve their goals.
These goals? Well, they want to gain followers for DedSec, their hacking supergroup. Officially, it's because each new follower is doing more than clicking the follow button: by following you they're also downloading your app and strengthening your botnet so you can bring down Blume, the maybe-probably-definitely-evil corporation rolling out the Internet Of Things horror story CTOS2.0, a city-wide operating system.
Getting new followers also gives you research points which can be spent on skills in a variety of disciplines. Many of these let you hack new things, including the ability to remotely control vehicles, turn off security systems or even force police helicopters to malfunction, spewing smoke and frantically trying to stay airborne. There aren't many research points early in the game, so you'll be stuck with your early choices for a while. Other upgrades in the game include being able to automatically identify civilians with big bank accounts or, brilliantly, fit your drone with a speaker that plays obnoxious sounds to get people to follow it.
It turns out that installing a city-wide operating system makes your city incredibly susceptible to a hacker putting a backdoor in before screwing with everything, and Marcus Holloway, also known by his dubious online handle of Retr0, is that hacker, installing the backdoor during the tutorial mission and giving you power over the entire city.
You may have absolute power, but in this case it hasn't corrupted even a little bit: Marcus is a level-headed and smart guy, and he has a strong idea of right and wrong, too. This helps a lot with the world, which feels like a less mean-spirited Grand Theft Auto: Most of the jokes punch up, and those that don't are clearly self aware, unlike the trend in games like Saints Row and GTA of satire at the expense of the general public. DedSec doesn't feel much like a brutal gang of criminals, such that most of the murderous escapades you get up to in this sort of open-world game feel jarring. In fact, I rarely fired my gun during my entire time with the game, reacting to most threats by dashing away, with Marcus using parkour to escape or hacking the car of a pursuer and forcing it to crash into oncoming traffic.