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Watch Dogs 2 strategy guide

Making sense of the open world

Watch Dogs 2, unlike the multitude of other open world games, pretty much gives you all of its tools near the beginning. Having so much power can be a tad overwhelming. In this guide, we'll offer advice to help you earn cash fast and tackle all three of protagonist Marcus Holloway's playstyles.

The basics

While basic actions like movement and driving are mundane tasks you’ve done a million times over in other open world games, they’re governed a bit differently in Watch Dogs 2. In this section, we’ll explain how to acclimate to the new traversal systems, the enhanced hacking mechanics in the sequel, and why stealth is still paramount.

Run like you're in Assassin’s Creed

Marcus is much more mobile than Aiden Pearce from the first Watch Dogs, and you should take advantage of that right away.

While sprinting with the left analog stick, hold R2/RT to free run like an Assassin’s Creed character and vault over objects. Don’t overestimate his abilities, though. He can’t vault over buildings in one fell swoop like Ezio or Edward Kenway, but anything that’s roughly at or below Marcus’ height is fair game. Learn this rule and use it when you’re on the run and need to get behind cover quickly.

Use cars for hiding and finding missions

Occasionally, you’ll want to ride around in a vehicle, but if you get into trouble, you can hide inside of it with the B or Circle buttons on Xbox One and PS4 respectively.

While the fast travel system is very open-ended in the sense that there are points of interest tucked away in every corner, don’t forget to hop in a car and cruise around the map every so often. It’s really easy to miss pop-up missions or secrets if you’re just teleporting everywhere, as they won’t show up on the main map screen.

Hacking

In Watch Dogs 2, Botnet Resources govern all of your abilities. It appears on a meter that regenerates over time. It depletes after using a power like a hack. Because of this, try not to be wasteful when using abilities during a mission, as you may need to readjust on the fly and deplete your entire meter getting out of a jam.

You can often avoid jams altogether by using your resources to hack into cameras. When in doubt, hack into a camera to get a bird’s-eye view of the situation, which will dot your minimap and mark objectives and enemies.

By clicking the right analog stick, you’ll be able to see through walls, which is really useful when you’re already located in a spot where you can’t be easily see. Do that, and you’ll be able to survey the entire area from the safety of your hiding spit.

This view comes with a big disadvantage, too. You won’t be able to see all of the details. For example, your hacking view might show what appears to be a grayscale wall, but that wall is actually a window that would put you in plain sight. Swap between the viewpoints constantly — especially if you’re indoors — to avoid being seen.

Combat

We don’t recommend playing a combat-centric approach in Watch Dogs 2. It’s dangerous because Marcus is more fragile than most heroes. Also, the amount of tools you have at your disposal with stealth and tech-based approaches are superior to the amount of firepower you’ll acquire over the course of Watch Dogs 2. Before you go in guns blazing at the front gate, temper your expectations about just how effective you’re going to be as an action hero.

For example, choosing loud melee attacks over stealth-based chokeholds attracts attention. If you want to use melee attacks, use your hacking view before you attack to ensure that no one is around to hear you.

The most important limitation of all: You can’t drag or hide bodies. If an enemy is asleep, a patrolling guard or NPC will think nothing of it. If an enemy is dead, those who see the corpse will immediately alert the entire area.

Alerts appear as a red icon above their heads. You can hack those away if you have resources available, or you can take your new enemy out directly with a weapon. If you’re in a civilian area and need to holster your weapon, press up on the direction pad. Both hostiles and civilians can call and prompt the red icon above their heads, so be ready.

So while aggressive tactics are fine in unavoidable situations, don’t make fighting your priority.

Leveling up with the ScoutX app

To level up, you'll need to gain followers, which you can do during missions and normal play. But the easiest way to garner more support — and thus, to level up your character — is to use the ScoutX app, which allows you to take pictures near specific landmarks for points.

By far the fastest way to level up is to immediately spring for these landmark missions after entering the open world, before you even start doing story missions. You can locate these directly in the ScoutX app, and just head over to them directly by selecting a fast travel location near the landmark. It’s that easy.

Now that you know the best way to garner XP, you’ll probably want to know how to spend it. We recommend that you immediately go toward one of the below specializations (Aggressor, Ghost, Trickster) and stick with it. While each skill tree contains multiple specializations, they tend to focus on and favor just one, which are listed below.

Class focuses

To unlock said trees, you’ll need to play through the intro and complete the first open world mission, which brings you into your HQ and unlocks the /Research app. You can access it through the phone menu (the start button) or by way of a shortcut (the Touchpad on PS4 or the back button on Xbox One).

Aggressor (Marksmanship, Social Engineering, Tinkering)

If you play a lot of shooters, you’ll probably gravitate toward the Aggressor style. While there elements in nearly every tree that lead to direct conflict, you’re going to want to build into the Marksmanship skills first and foremost, which inevitably leads to a lethal playthrough.

You’re also going to want to head back to your HQ frequently to purchase more weapons, because unlike the other two specializations your effectiveness is directly tied to your weapons. So if you aren’t constantly earning cash and pumping it back into equipment, all of the points you put into skills aren’t going to mean anything. Whereas with other specializations, the skills speak for themselves.

Look for the HQ symbol on your map and return to the 3D printer when you can. But first, we recommend stirring up trouble by committing a random act of violence, which will call in the police force. Take one of them out with your stun gun then grab the weapons they drop. Once you’ve accessed it once, you’ll always be able to equip it for the rest of the game. It’s an instant upgrade.

When your skill tree splits, build into the Target Weakness section first, which enhances shotguns. This will help you against some of the most resilient armored vehicles in the game. .T.

Ghost (City Disruption)

With an old-fashioned stealth approach, your playthrough is going to be a tad tougher than Trickster, but generally easier than the Aggressor style given how much of Watch Dogs 2 is tilted towards avoiding head-on conflict. But it comes with its own set of caveats, most notably, the requirement of having to pay attention at all times.

For one, positioning is key. It can be difficult to get your bearings together while you’re using the hacker view, so train yourself to look up in any given situation towards security cameras. Once you tap into those, it’ll be much easier to see what’s going on around you.

Yet, it’s also an enticing way to play as it can lead to a non-lethal run. It’s also very open-ended in terms of builds, because the only weapon you really need to rely on is your stun gun. You have it from the start, it has infinite ammo and it’s non-lethal, which reduces your chances of getting into trouble in the open world.

If you’re going Ghost, we’d recommend building up the Botnet skill tree alongside City Disruption, the main skill set of the specialization. Botnet upgrades allow you to use more abilities (just like MP or Magic Points in a role-playing game), and you’ll need to rely on a large resource pool to get around without being seen.

Trickster (Remote Ctrl, Social Engineering, Vehicle Hacking)

While Aggressors revel in combat and Ghosts avoid it, Tricksters mix a little bit of both. You’re mostly going to be utilizing gadgets like RC cars and drones to do your bidding, which makes for a little more of a hands-off approach that fundamentally changes how missions play out.

So if you’re looking for a style that’s unique to Watch Dogs 2, go with Trickster. In fact, if you’re unsure of where you stand in terms of the game’s difficulty and feel a bit overwhelmed, go with Trickster. Most of the game’s missions (both critical path story levels and diversions) incorporate elements of the Trickster concept anyway, which will make those wacky junctures much easier to deal with.

The rawest form of Trickster, and the core tree available for it, is Remote Ctrl. When you get the chance to build either on the top or the bottom of the fork in that tree, go toward the top and favor the Quadcopter first — you’ll benefit from the lower cooldown time while you learn the ins and outs of your gadgets.

Earning fast cash

The quickest way to assemble your fortune is to hack people and steal their money on the street.

Naturally, this will be easiest in a highly populated area, so when you get access to the world map look for the Tenderloin district toward the northern point of San Francisco proper. Not only is it dense area in terms of foot traffic, but it’s also home to a lot of people. Also keep in mind that you can hack citizens inside of their cars (and alternatively, steal items out of glove compartments automatically when entering them).

If you’re not getting many hits, another hot spot is near Mission Dolores Park near the southern side of the San Francisco map. This contains, as the game calls them "overly abundantly hip" NPCs, which are flush with cash.

Note that you will want to profile people based on their looks, as it generally impacts the amount of money they have in their bank account, and thus, the amount you’ll acquire. So be sure to watch for expensive clothing (and generally, more layers). Get a feel for these NPCs by going directly to the clothing shop outside of Mission Dolores Park and observe the people that walk in and out of the store.

You can also earn cash by completing any activity, including story missions, but that’s going to be at a more sluggish pace. To counteract this, hack everyone you see and remember to sell most of your items at a Pawn Shop every few hours as you pick up more trinkets from the campaign.

To earn the really big bucks, unlock the "Improved Profiler" ability right away in the Social Engineering tree. This skill automatically highlights NPCs with large bank accounts. Finally, if you see a currency icon on your minimap, always head to it and pick up a randomly spawned money bag.

Traversing the map

Most games give you the keys to unlock every zone late into the campaign, but you can access the entire Watch Dogs 2 map (and thus the four core zones of Marin, Oakland, San Francisco and Silicon Valley) right after the intro. This means you not only have access to the Nudle Maps app (Watch Dog 2’s take on Google Maps), but fast travel as well. Just highlight any red icon on the map to head toward an objective.

As a note, Watch Dogs 2 has a Dark Souls-esque invasion feature where anyone can enter your game and steal from you at any time. If you just want to enjoy a solo experience, head to the main options menu from your in-game phone, then turn off these online components directly.