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4.0 out of 5 stars Visuals are great but lack the vibe, 13 Jun 2014
Parka (Singapore) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Art of Watch Dogs (Hardcover)
Length:: 1:23 Mins

This is a nice video game companion for Watch Dogs. Visuals are great. However, there are certain aspects that aren't as good.

The content's roughly split into three parts featuring the characters, environment, and graffiti plus ASCII art. Brief character profiles and commentary are included.

While the book has several pages for character designs, there aren't many pieces of artworks shown. For Aiden Pearce and Clara, there are variation designs to the face and costumes. However, the rest of the characters are mostly just one character art per page with some thumbnails of faces, and it gets less and less towards latter pages. The designs themselves aren't particularly exciting since they are just city dwellers but the realism of the computer generated graphics is quite amazing.

Second part has the environment art which focuses on Chicago, the bright, dark and outer-sides of the windy city. There are adaptations of course. The art is very detailed and there are many pieces to check out.

Last section features the interesting computer-inspired ASCII art that's made up of computer fonts, highlighted text blocks and dot matrix textures. In this section are also quite a few street art and graffiti. Not quite Banksy level but I guess the serve their purpose in the game.

There are other miscellaneous artworks of the props (few), and scenes of Aiden Pearce in action, basically just him holding his mobile phone that controls electronic devices and vehicles around.

I would rate this book 4 out of 5 stars based on the quality of the art which is fantastic, and it's good if you like cityscape art, but I don't really feel the vibe and emotion from the artworks.

(See more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great., 30 May 2014
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This review is from: The Art of Watch Dogs (Hardcover)
mini-review: A well-made book by the superlative publisher Titan. However this book is smaller than other, similar, concept art books and there is considerably more CG work than traditional 2D. There is also a lot of unused space here, not like the art books that accompanied releases such as the Hobbit films and Elysium which were crammed with art, and I feel that more could have been made of this. Thankfully this book is saved from a three star rating by the location designs, which are brilliant and plentiful. This is more for the collectors than the casual appreciator of concept art. If you need to read more, read on.

Anyone who has read my previous reviews will know that I speak highly of Titan Books, the publisher of The Art of Watch Dogs, and once again they have created a solid offering. However I can't say that this is their finest concept art book and, unlike with previous books such as The Art of Assassin's Creed 3 and 4, I found the deficiencies quite glaring. But that's not to say that this is a bad book. There is still much to like and I'm not unhappy that I bought it.

The book is broken down into four chapters; characters, locations, 'The Underground', and 'everything is connected' (dedicated to the hacking side of gameplay). Of the four chapters it's the locations which dominates, both in terms of quality and in sheer quantity. Roughly twice the size of any other chapter it is also this books most enjoyable section and, I feel, even its saviour. But to begin the first chapter, 'Dramatis Personae', is a straight forward highlight of key characters. There is a lot of wasted space in this chapter which could have been used to show the development of what are, I'm sure, very interesting characters. Sadly what is included is almost entirely finished 3D renders with only a tiny amount of 2D work (my personal favourite). The handful of key art pieces are welcome but aren't enough to save this section from feeling like a disappointment. Less graphic design work and more character design is what's needed here.

Then we're on to the location work which is, I was relieved to see, excellent. While there is still a fair amount of unused page around a number of the pictures it is far less of a problem throughout this chapter than the rest of the book. There's a great mix of locations here from the historic to the futuristic and both types display this books best art. The contrast between pristine and grimy helps to give this vision of a future Chicago a more realistic edge and you can tell that the artists had fun with their subject matter. I particularly enjoyed 'The Mad Mile' and 'The Loop', which nicely show off the polar extremes of developed and deteriorating. However I find myself most drawn to 'The Wards' and 'The Docks', the really seedy areas. These kinds of places require design that has a real breadth and depth of detail and it makes for much richer art, when done properly, which this most certainly has been. There's also a small selection of logos and signs included within the locations section which rounds it out a little better.

The next chapter, 'The Underground', is both hard to describe and something I personally didn't like. More like a graphic designer's resource book than a concept art book this section is filled with the signs and symbols that can be discovered throughout the game which are related to the underground hacktivist group 'DedSec'. This book couldn't really not include this section, since it is a key part of the game, but it's not the kind of art that I enjoy.

And lastly we have 'Everything is Connected' which is all about details regarding the hacking elements of the gameplay. However, aside from a couple of key art pieces and some designs for items which can be hacked, this is almost entirely a selection of screenshots from the game. Therefore I think art lovers won't find themselves well served here.

So how to conclude? Clearly there is plenty to find fault with here; the unused spaces, the heavy graphic design elements, concluding on screenshots, and the lack of detail and design development of the characters. But there are also some parts of The Art of Watch Dogs which work very well. The location work is outstanding, vibrant and very enjoyable, not to mention abundant (which I seem to have mentioned a few times). The descriptive text is also good; unobtrusive, clear, and succinct throughout the book.

So who would most enjoy this book? Lovers of location art will find plenty to appreciate here. People who work in graphic design might also find the work here interesting as a reference book. But really, aside from those two groups, I'm not convinced many people will find this offering ticking too many boxes. More for the collectors than the casual appreciators of concept art.
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The Art of Watch Dogs
The Art of Watch Dogs by Paul Davies (Hardcover - 27 May 2014)
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