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Does `Watch Dogs' know what it's talking about?

Real world: Chicago

May 22, 2014|By Ryan Smith | For RedEye

Set in a hyper-connected modern-day Chicago, "Watch Dogs" is full of virtual versions of real places. Between shootouts and car chases, gamers can even check in to and learn about more than 100 hot spots throughout the city, Foursquare-style.But did Canadian developer Ubisoft Montreal do Chicago justice? RedEye grabbed a controller to play watchdog on "Watch Dogs."

The Loop

Willis Tower, check. Streets named for dead presidents, check. Minor quibbles aside (The Bean looks more like a giant, yogurt-covered raisin), this is a near-picture-perfect downtown. Look closely and you can even see some RedEye-shaped newspaper boxes.

SCORE: 4 stars 

River North/Magnificent Mile

It's been renamed "Mad Mile," but otherwise this historic shopping and tourist district is relatively spot-on. The John Hancock Center, Water Tower and Navy Pier (sans Ferris wheel) all resemble their counterparts.

SCORE: 3.5 stars

The North Side

The Gold Coast is represented, but most North Side neighborhoods have disappeared. An area called Parker Square on the West Side appears to be a weird hybrid of Lakeview, Humboldt Park and ... the suburbs?

SCORE 1.5 stars 

The South Side

Divided into an industrial/shipping district (Brandon Docks) and a poorer area dominated by violent gangs (The Wards), this area only faintly resembles the true South Side. No Chinatown, no Hyde Park, no U.S. Cellular? No thanks. Also, the developers have relocated the now-razed Cabrini Green towers.

SCORE 1 star

The West Side

Aside from a vague Humboldt Park-like community in Parker Square, the west is not the best in "Watch Dogs."

SCORE: 0 stars

The lakefront

Miles of beach and path are missing, but Lake Michigan looks pretty accurate. Then again, the degree of difficulty is a little lower when its mostly just a whole lot of water.

Score: 2 stars

The suburbs 

There are elements of Chicago's suburbs mixed into the game's Parker Square neighborhood, but don't expect to find, say, Naperville anywhere. Situated in a mountainous forest region north of the city is a faux town called Pawnee. Mountains in the Chicago `burbs? Yeah, right.

SCORE: 1 star

Sports facilities

U.S. Cellular Field and the United Center are MIA, and Soldier and Wrigley Fields have been smooshed together into a mutant North Side locale called "May Stadium."

SCORE: .5 stars

Transportation

The "L" stations, steel train cars and high-pitched screech of brakes look and sound right. On the other hand, there are only two lines available (Blue and Red), and the entire system is only on elevated tracks. A new train every 30 seconds and no Ventra card needed? Only in our wildest dreams. Also, where are buses and bicycles? Bonus: Water taxis!

SCORE: 2 out of 4

People

A mayor is mentioned, but Rahm Emanuel is nowhere to be found. Nor are there any other notable Chicagoans, even if the game makes historical references to Al Capone and other infamous criminals. Instead, "Watch Dogs" created thousands of ordinary citizens who represent rough composites of locals -- cops, graphic designers, non-profit workers, musicians. The voice acting sounds authentic without the stereotypical "Da Bears!" Chicago accent.

SCORE: 3 out of 4

Overall

The city of "Watch Dogs" feels like Chicago According to Tourists. Out-of-towner-friendly places like the Loop and Mag Mile area are well represented, but the farther you go from downtown, the less true-to-life it becomes. If you're not expecting a Google Maps level of detail, it's still satisfying to see some of the city's greatest sites in a video game.

SCORE: 2.5 out of 4

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