Ubisoft's open world hackathon Watch Dogs takes place in a simplified yet recognisable version of Chicago, brought to life by finely observed details - scraps of newspaper billowing through the streets at the behest of the dynamic wind system, tufts of smoke protruding from the summit of the Willis Tower, aka "Big Willy". Go curb-crawling in a stolen car and you'll encounter a theoretically endless variety of NPCs - old, young, rich, poor, the innocent and the guilty, each with a digital footprint that can be scanned using Aiden Pearce's phone to access side activities, or just for voyeuristic kicks.
This is far from the first immense real-world location Ubisoft Montreal has recreated, of course, and certain of the components will be familiar to Assassin's Creed veterans. The game's CtOS bases are descended from the Borgia Towers of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, for instance - players must infiltrate or assault and conquer them to unlock missions and minimap coverage in the surrounding area.
To these returning elements Ubisoft has added terrain features appropriate to the game's timeframe and cyberconspiracy stylings. An apartment's wireless infrastructure may be hacked in order to peer through laptop cameras at all manner of seedy goings-on. Or, you could trip the brakes on a passing monorail to block the bullets of a sniper squad. Are there any parts of the game's Chicago that Ubisoft Montreal is especially proud of? Late last year, I put the question to producer Dominic Guay. He directed me to four areas in particular, below.
Take me to the River
"I recommend going near the river with all the drawbridges in the Downtown area. It's an area we show a lot of, and it's very iconic of Chicago. It's also impressive, because when you're at the river level - on a boat, or driving through the river under the bridges - the view you get is very rare in North American cities. It's very beautiful, of course, but from a gameplay perspective, it shows you a lot of opportunities. The two levels of highways, the buildings, the river, and how you could use the river itself to enter those areas."
"I'd advise people to go to the underground of Downtown Chicago. After the Great Fire, they built on top of the old city. So, there's an underground element to the whole centre of the city. Our lead engineer was a bit worried about doing that, because it means you have to have a lot of [geographical] connectivity. We still wanted it so you can go through a staircase from one to the other to explore, and have people going through there too, making deliveries. In our E3 demo, this is the area Aiden drove into, and that's how he got near the river."
"I definitely suggest going to the Industrial District. We went through great pain to create a realistic industrial district. Industrial areas are very dense and varied: big buildings, gigantic courtyards, filled with irregular objects. There are a lot of things to discover and explore here. We create these industries so they have a real purpose, so we have a core. We have a brick facility where they create bricks, you'll have a boat storage where they store boats. You'll be able to really feel the difference between the facilities."
The Mag Mile
"Visit the Northern part of our Chicago. In real Chicago it's North Michigan Street, and it's called the Magnificent Mile, but in Watch Dogs we call it the Mag Mile as a nickname. We twisted that part a little bit from the real Chicago in the sense that we pushed the contrast with other more historical parts of the city, like the underground. It's still very much based on real-world Magnificent Mile, but you feel that presence of technology everywhere."
Read the full interview for more about the game's plot, interiors and DLC tactics. Thanks to Log for the headline.