The Art of Watch Dogs
Writer: Andy McVitte
Publisher: Titan Books
Released: May 27, 2014
One of the things that you first see is The Art of Watch Dogs is the model of the main character, Aiden Pearce. In the past he's been criticized -- quite rightly, I believe -- for being just another stale, generic white dude videogame character.
In previous art books I've read, there's often a lot of concept sketches and alternate designs that get worked on before the studio finally nails down the protagonist's look and style. Not here, though -- it seems like Aiden came fully formed and it's a shame there wasn't any concept artwork to show any kind of iteration on the character.
Actually, that might be for the best and to be fair, all the other main characters are featured in the book in their final form. Only the femme fatale hacker Clara is shown to have had a different look before her appearance was finalized.
Having only briefly visited Chicago myself, I get the feeling from this book that the in-game version of the city is more "inspired by" than an actual attempt at recreating the greater Chicago area.
There's a vast amount of architectural paintings showing inspiration from famous landmarks and areas. From the bustle of Magnificent Mile to the relatively quiet docks, there's some fairly grand artwork showing the sheer scale of the city. Residential districts like the Wards and Parker square are featured too along with the rural town of Pawnee.
The highlight of the book for me is the section about DedSec, the hacker group Aiden forms an alliance with during the game. DedSec use fairly lo-fi visual motifs, so there's plenty of great-looking ASCII art and design here, along with a really eye-catching selection of graffiti, tags, stencil works, and murals, some of which didn't make it into the final game.
There's some interesting input by art directors Sidonie Weber and Mathieu Leduc, who give some brief annotations to some of the artwork but these are few and far between. Considering Watch Dogs touches on seemingly omnipresent surveillance and cyber security, I would have liked to hear more input from the designers on how they communicated those worries in the game's artistic direction.
As with all art books, if you're not taken with the visual style of a game you're not going to find much to like here but if Watch Dogs' brand of dystopian themes and gritty urban environments were up your alley, then this book is for you.
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