Watch Dogs - Ubisoft's much-anticipated next-gen free-roaming stealth title - was shown off to Pocket-lint by Sony at this year's E3 gaming expo in Los Angeles. As much as the game itself looked stellar, it was the interaction between the game and both Android and iOS apps that got us rather more excited. Life imitating art? Now it's reality assimilating games, and vice versa.
Behind closed doors at the Sony booth we were shown a gameplay preview of Watch Dogs in action. Half way through the demo our guide draws upon an in-game menu to request help. What's this? Upon whipping out an Android tablet we're treated to a sample of the potential real-time interaction between game and mobile devices.
The concept is great fun: in the world of Watch Dogs everything's about hacking - from utilising cameras to plan and witness events, to shorting out power supplies, tripping gate locks and plenty more that we're yet to see. To the corner of the screen in that usual Grand Theft Auto style there's a map which shows, as one example, the police cars and choppers chasing you down.
Upon asking for help the game can send a push notification via Wi-Fi to friends - extracted from your PS4 or Xbox One account - who have also downloaded the Watch Dogs application to their mobile device. From here they can pull up the map that your next-gen-playing buddy is immersed in, in real-time, to assist. On the Android tablet the full in-game map was available to navigate, offering up access point icons that could be hacked into. It's a case of the game's concept echoing into the real world - think CBS's Person Of Interest incarnate - where the addition of social gaming takes this already next-gen title up to another level.
From within the app it's also possible to type messages, hack into user accounts (for non-malicious fun only) when players are offline from playing the game, challenge other players and even send gifts. What this final point means the team wouldn't elaborate further on, but our intuition tells us that it may be Ubisoft digging in on the lucrative micro payment system often associated with apps.
We were also shown an iOS app on an iPhone but not allowed to take pictures or see all the available screens at this stage. Very under wraps - and, therefore, very exciting.
The application will be available for download irrelevant of whether the full Watch Dogs game is owned by the downloader or not. It's possible for someone who doesn't own the game to therefore help out friends who do own the title.
It's all rather innovative we think. However, we were half surprised at the lack of a Windows Phone 8 application, what with Xbox One - and therefore makers Microsoft - being a major force for Watch Dogs' release. The reason, however, seems obvious: Ubisoft wants to maintain control and the app has been designed to operate cross-platform whichever version of Watch Dogs is purchased. In a world where mobile gaming is becoming not only more prolific but a greater source to acquiring revenue, we can see why.
How deep the app will go upon release and how many other features it may offer we're not yet 100 per cent sure. But the tie-in adds a level of depth to Watch Dogs that highlights where the next generation of gaming is headed - into the cloud. We can't wait to get hold of the full title to play come November.