Watch Dogs gameplay first-impressions: hands-on, eyes off

The game Watch Dogs begins with a quote: "secrets and lies floating in a cloud of data." From there you're shoved into a world where you're using the environment around you as a weapon. Earlier this month we were given the opportunity to take a 4-hour-long hands-on look at Watch Dogs for the PlayStation 4 with Ubisoft, and we've walked away suitably impressed.

You'll see some gameplay in this article, but make certain you understand that it comes straight from Ubisoft and is therefor captured under the most ideal of circumstances. This is NOT what you're going to see on the PlayStation 4 – instead it's highest-end PC gameplay, or close to it.

NOTE: videos below have been confirmed by Ubisoft to be PlayStation 4 footage.

UPDATE: Watch Dogs Creative Director Jonathan Morin has commented on the footage we're using here, suggesting the following: "For everyone asking for the online video of #WatchDogs – Yes it was captured on a PS4 devkit (same pipeline as the others) cheers!"

We were not allowed to film or take video at the event, but we will be delivering our own footage from as many platforms as possible as soon as possible.

It's easy to see how this game will up-scale to the PC – with the boost from what we're seeing on the PlayStation 4 to the utilization of multiple high-end graphics cards, with groups like NVIDIA helping along the way, this game is ready to be viewed on the finest equipment you can throw at it. For PlayStation 4 it just looks really good.

Some confusion will be had in viewing clips online with this game as to what's gameplay and what isn't. Quick interchanging of cutscenes and gameplay make the game feel more high-definition, and cutscenes are like a maxed-out version of gameplay, as it were.

Voices don't always match up with the characters. Aiden Pierce himself is good, but for some of the other characters it's as if the voice actors – Maurice, for example – aren't perfectly on-par. Most of the voice acting is really great. Music throughout the game is a mix of epic futuristic mystery action and classic and contemporary rock.

Controls are closer to those of Metal Gear Solid than they are to a game series like Call of Duty. There's no jump button. Instead you're focusing on catching on buildings, boxes, and ladders or hiding behind objects as you peer around and hack. You'll see a massive guide to hacking here on SlashGear this afternoon, mind you – we've got the full skill tree listing spread out.

Press and hold circle to climb. Press touchpad to open World Map. Press X to place a GPS marker. View objective on the top left corner of the map. Your smartphone-based map allows you to fast-travel to any of your known hideouts, otherwise you're going to have to run or drive.

To hack, you'll find that a diamond surrounds the square button when an item is within your field of vision, prompting to you to press and hold for a length of time that depends on the difficulty of the hack. Most of the time, a hack will take mere moments – not even a matter of seconds.

The game you're jumping in on is not one that's purely about being a spy – nor is it all about bashing your way to victory. Instead you're going to have to focus on a combination of the two.

Where in a game like THIEF you're labeled a certain kind of villain based on your actions – based on the way you go about thieving – here you're really encouraged to be as unique as you want to be. This game is about customizing your experience – not so much aesthetically (though there are clothing choices), but with skills.

Walking around the city shows you what every citizen is all about with a series of identifying traits. The first cop you happen upon's main identifier is "Homosexual." You'll also see that he's Age 27 and that his occupation is that of a Police Corporal. His income is listed as well. The other cop you see right off the bat's main identifier is that he's an Annual Blood Donor.

Hacking a citizen is based on if they have a phone or not. If you target a citizen talking on a phone, you'll be able to hack them.

If you hack someone, you'll get cash from them (attainable the next time you hit an ATM), or one of several other oddities. Sometimes you'll be listening in on a phone conversation, which could be useless, while others you'll find extremely valuable information, leading you to crimes in progress or stacks of cash.

If you steal a car, you don't automatically own it – and there's no single garage you can park it in like Grand Theft Auto. Instead you've got a system inside your smartphone which allows you to buy cars for cash. Once you've purchased a car through this system, you can have it delivered to you wherever you are for free.

Immersion in this game is amplified by little details. One example is that when you pick up an item, you actually reach out and grab it. Oddities like the inability to hack a smartphone after it's left the hand of a dead citizen remain strange – we're not quite fully immersed yet.

When you're swimming, you're treading water. When you're in the water, your hat is shiny and semi-reflective, the same with your leather coat. This also adds to the feeling of far greater immersion than past titles.

Multiplayer is a strange situation. There are races, there are collaborative attacks, and there are one-on-one missions. Instead of jumping in on a multiplayer game the same way as you would with a game like Titanfall, you search for users through your single-player game.

Ubisoft is attempting to change the way multiplayer is attached to games with this model – you can turn multiplayer off, but unless you do, people could be jumping in on your game at any time. If a person wants to play with you, you'll see a notification – you can choose to accept or deny.

We'll be delivering additional hands-on impressions and detailed gameplay as soon as we've got the game ourselves. Until then, have a peek at a number of other up-close and personal Watch Dogs articles posted this week!