/ Technology

Fools of Duty: are gamers being deceived?

Watch Dogs

In 2012 Ubisoft presented one of its newest games, Watch Dogs. But when it was released in 2014, the game wasn’t the same. In this guest post, Henry Dyer asks whether gamers are being let down by publishers.

Watch Dogs is an open world action-adventure game set in Chicago. When it was released this year, immediate differences could be seen compared to what was shown two years earlier. Differences were to be expected – two years had passed. However, you’d normally expect these differences to be improvements.

Instead, what was released was a downgrade compared to what I and many other gamers had become interested in back in 2012.

Watch out for Watch Dogs

Gamers across all five platforms, from the Xbox One to the PC, suffered from several issues, such as poor performance, control issues, bugs, low population counts (which isn’t the best for immersion for a game set in a city), and pop-in issues (where textures in the distance suddenly appear). Some of these can be forgiven, such as poor performance which can be fixed shortly after with a patch.

The worst problem was for PC gamers – reportedly the ‘lead platform’ – for whom there was meant to be an extra level of graphical fidelity above the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It’s understandable for the consoles to not feature such high-end graphics, as Ubisoft demoed the game on a high-end PC in 2012. But this video shows that Watch Dogs even took a graphical hit on high-end PCs:

Most interestingly, a modder on the gaming forum Neogaf discovered that the 2012 textures and graphical effects were still in the game’s assets. They just weren’t enabled. Furthermore, you could enable them yourself with a tweaked configuration file. Oddly, the change not only significantly improved the game’s graphics, it was also claimed to have an effect on the performance.

Ubisoft said this in response:

‘The notion that we would actively downgrade quality is contrary to everything we’ve set out to achieve. We test and optimize our games for each platform on which they’re released, striving for the best possible quality. The PC version does indeed contain some old, unused render settings that were deactivated for a variety of reasons, including possible impacts on visual fidelity, stability, performance and overall gameplay quality.’

Be cautious of game footage

This isn’t an issue exclusive to Watch Dogs. Among others, Aliens: Colonial Marines had an extremely troublesome release, with similar accusations that it was downgraded.

Personally, I think the answer is not pre-order games. Wait for them to be released and reviewed before deciding to purchase. And if a company continues to let me down with its releases, I’ll be voting with my wallet.

Do you think publishers need to be careful about promoting game footage that doesn’t match the graphical fidelity of what’s actually released?


That’s easy to answer, yes. My daughter got and played one of the Final Fantasy XIII games on PS3, when she got to the end she was presented with the option to download ( and of course pay) for extra endings. Apparently the original ending was very disappointing.

I have played several PC MMORPG games. There was one were you even paid to be a beta tester. On release the game was still so poor that me and all my friends stopped playing after about a month. It should never have been released in the state it was. That was Star Wars Galaxies.

Star Wars: The Old Republic was a better game but due to lack of end game content, doing the same raids and dailies every day , every week again got boring after a couple of months, so we all stopped playing that one too. Although I have just started again as its now Free2Play.

One of the people in our guild is now working on Aliens: Isolation so I hope that fairs better , but I won’t personally be getting it.

Our guild has/had around 50 people in it and have played several games together over the years. Most are fun and OK to play but there have been the odd lemons too.

one of the worst offenders are adverts that show amazing graphics and almost photo realism then at the bottom of the screen for five seconds they show a tiny blurry sentence – “not in-game graphics”, or something similar.

My daughter is always picking up on those statements too, her come back is usually the game graphics must be pants if they’e too scared to show it.

As an avid gamer – the problem that moaner points out is a constant frustration of mine. Of course, I’ve learned to take the graphics on the advert with a pinch of salt, but I do think that it’s misleading for the people being advertised to. Generally, the cut-scenes make up a tiny proportion of the game and should be shown as a ‘sweetener’, not the main product.

Watching that video showing the difference between the E3 presentation of Watchdogs and the final in-game graphics, I’m quite shocked. Had I been awaiting this game and received the version shown above, I’d be very disappointed.

This topic is too neglected. There’s so many games with bugs, but the publishers and developers don’t feel any need to fix them.

What can gamers do if they pay their money and don’t get a bug free game?

Hello Which?

Can I have a reply to my question please?

Hi Wev, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. The position on software is one that is not completely clear and it depends on how the game was purchased. If the game is in a tangible format then it is considered a ‘good’ and therefore must meet the requirements for being of satisfactory quality under the sale of goods act.

However, if it has been downloaded the law becomes a little more unclear as the product is no longer considered a ‘good’. If you have a buggy game and want to take it further it may be worth seeking some legal advice as this is quite a complex area. Of course, if you’re a Which? member you can use Which? Leagal services to help you: http://legalservice.which.co.uk/

I will ask around here to see if there are any plans to update the law in this area. I will come back to you once I’ve got found something out.

Bill cosby says:
7 November 2014

This is an appallingly written article, absolutely too casual. Not the standard I expect from Which? online. Ban this writer.

What websites would you recommend for such articles?