Watch Dogs was a solid sandbox title that was let down by a shallow story and a weak cast of characters, and even though it featured a number of well designed missions and some great combat, a severe lack of personality kept proceedings from being truly memorable. Flash forward, and we have the game's first expansion: Bad Blood. Following the exploits of T-Bone – one of the more interesting characters found in the original release – the DLC is a rather hefty package that's more of the same. But is it enough to get you hacking back into the heart of Chicago?
Within about ten minutes of starting up the expansion, it's pretty clear that Raymond 'T-Bone' Kenney has a lot more of a personality than the bleak slate of nothingness that was Aiden Pearce. Unlike the man with the iconic cap, our dreadlock sporting hacker has no problem cracking jokes and tongue-in-cheek one-liners when he's smashing thugs' skulls with a large wrench. In other words, T-Bone actually has a sense of humour, which immediately makes him a more relatable and likeable vigilante than Watch Dogs' original lead.
It's a strange one, too, as T-Bone was very much written as a supporting character within the base game's story, and here, he's plopped into the driving seat. Fortunately, it's a gamble that pays off, as his somewhat offbeat attitude makes interactions with the surrounding cast that much more interesting. He isn't a brilliantly deep character by any means, but you do feel like he's well suited to the DLC's plot, which would probably ring a little hollow without our bearded hero and his grumpy but enthusiastic outlook.
The narrative itself, much like the original title's, falls flat in places, but manages to provide just enough context for your actions. The cast is made up of both old and new faces, but again, like in the base release, no one gets enough screen time for you to really care about their individual plight. Most simply end up being quest givers on the other side of a phone call, but as previously mentioned, T-Bone is usually on hand to keep dialogue at least remotely entertaining with his snarky jokes.
Taking place after the events of the main game, T-Bone is getting ready to leave the windy city and go off the radar, but unsurprisingly, things don't go quite as planned. The rock music loving techie is forced to tie up a few loose ends, and, as you'd expect, he has to speed from location to location to do so in typical sandbox fashion.
Story missions largely stick to the formula that worked well in the base release, and although there's nothing wrong with following a template that works, the familiarity does mean that gameplay never really surprises. That said, there are a few tasks that introduce new mechanics, but there's still nothing to get genuinely excited about; not even T-Bone's remote control toy car that can taser enemies at close range is enough to make your eyes widen.
Likewise, the skills and abilities that are on offer are largely the same as those found in the main game. This means that there's still a decent sense of progression as you work your way through the skill trees and forge T-Bone into a force to be reckoned with, but the fact that you'll have already seen and used them as Aiden makes upgrading feel like a chore rather than a reward. As such, we wonder why the release couldn't have just taken your progress from the original title and applied it to the DLC's protagonist.
Funnily enough, what is arguably Bad Blood's biggest innovation comes in the form of co-op. There are optional missions scattered about the map, and although they're mostly made up of the types of objectives that you'd expect, you'll be able to invite an online buddy and play through them together. Obviously it's not a revolutionary concept, but it is a welcome addition, especially when you're both well coordinated, and tearing your foes to shreds with carefully planned offensives.
However, just because Bad Blood mostly refuses to stray too far from what it knows, doesn't mean that it isn't worthy of your attention. With this DLC, you're getting around ten more hours of Watch Dogs' generally great mission design and fantastic combat. Everything that's on offer here, including optional missions that adhere to the same open ended gameplay as regular objectives, will provide plenty of entertainment for anyone that enjoyed the multi-layered, moment-to-moment gameplay that made Aiden's adventure an engaging one.
There's no doubt that T-Bone makes a much more interesting lead than Aiden Pearce, but Bad Blood's gameplay fails to reflect the swap. Fortunately, though, the combination of sneaking, hacking, and shooting feels just as cohesive and enjoyable as it did in the main game. If you could do with more Watch Dogs, you'll have a rocking good time with this continuation – but don't expect any deviations from the original title's solid but predictable template.