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Finding Ubisoft's Chicago

Updated on October 9, 2018
Ok different angles but just bare with me here...
Ok different angles but just bare with me here...

The Town Billy Sunday Couldn't Shut Down, but DedSec Probably Could...

Chicago is a town ripe with history of social disorder, crime, and triumph in the shadow of devastation. An unstoppable beast filled to it's eye lids with atmosphere and diversity, but also a dark history of homicide and corruption. Whether you're a pessimist or an optimist there's something for everybody in the Windy City.

For me Chicago was, and still is, a much needed chill pill that I have no problem in swallowing every chance I get. So of course making multiple visits in order to find the inspiration behind Ubisoft's team of developers was not a hassle.

I know not everyone likes WatchDogs, for whatever reason. Maybe it wasn't GTA enough, or they didn't like how their house wasn't put into the game street-for-street, or how you earn "asshole points" for killing cops (like Red Dead Redemption). Who knows? In my case I rented it from a RedBox after seeing The Equalizer at the old Rotunda Cinema. On top of that Chicago isn't really represented in a free roam environment very often.

Even though I am unfortunately not a native of Chicago I can still spot little nuances that seem to remind me of placed I’ve been to in the Windy City. Sure the game isn’t perfect but I still come back to it, having given it more of chance than most gamers seemed to.

This article is not to critique Ubisoft's job at making games, but to find the inspiration behind why they designed the game world he way that they did.

Took this picture during my first trip to Chicago. Might sound stupid but it's what actually inspired the idea for this Hub.
Took this picture during my first trip to Chicago. Might sound stupid but it's what actually inspired the idea for this Hub.
Close enough. (Note: Not all game screenshots are taken using the FPS car camera.)
Close enough. (Note: Not all game screenshots are taken using the FPS car camera.)

Note About My Youtube Videos

Below is a link to a Watchdogs Playthrough, that coincides with this article, about mission locations in the game. Below is probably the most relevant video as well as a link to a playlist of the whole playthrough. My partnership monetization policy has recently changed so if you could please subscribe to Foofighter288 on Youtube that would really help me out. AND give me reason to finish the playthrough of "Tour of Chicago".

Things Not Covered In This Article

For my research I focused mainly on the Hotspots in the game (the little checkmarks that are easier to see in Online Free Roam). I mean I had to start somewhere, but through my multiple playthroughs there are other little things I noticed that I might not catch right away or never took a picture of.

  • Pawnee is not an immediate focus: Google the distance between Chicago and Pawnee. It’s a two hour drive. A couple people I have talked to say the locations are faithful to the town, and I take that on good authority.
  • If it’s not a mob murder I’m not going: Yeah I hear your collective “awww man!” I know that sounds hypocritical, and there’s no glamour in death, but in my opinion the mob history is more interesting. Therefore Sausage Vat and Lipstick guy are not going to be visited.
  • Some places are too out of the way: Pawnee isn’t the only place out of the way. Other locations like the Botanical Gardens are practically in other cities, while others are only accessible as authorized persons.

How Free Roam Maps Work

Game developers try to create an explorable world while still keeping to the limits of their technology. This doesn't mean devs don't have the freedom to add a sense of realism to their freeroam maps, when basing something off of a real place, but they have to set a cut-off point to keep it functional.

In the case of Watchdogs' Chicago that cut-off point comes in the form of oceans and mountains, which isn't a uncommon way of closing up a freeroam map. At least it's better than Bethesda's invisible walls, but in the case of Chicago's geography that's more likely the way an authentic Chicago freeroam map would work.

Another aspect of freeroam maps is crafting a theme in various sections of the map (slums, high-end, industrial, countryside (if it's a post-GTA San Andreas map), etc. Ubisoft have covered these trends in Watchdogs but also, in my opinion, subtlety covered a legitimate aspect of Chicago. Within this article I'm going to cover the "wifi hotspots" and how they compare to real lfe locations since it's possible Ubisoft threw these in to create a connection to real-world Chicago.

Not everyone appreciates this, and I can sympathize why especially if you're a Chicago native, but the point here is to try and find the inspiration

"Brandon Docks"

A
Windy City Shipyards:
3600 E 95th St, Chicago, IL 60617, USA

get directions

B
Lakeshore Water Refinery:
1000 E Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60611, USA

get directions

C
Sienna Brick Factory:
2222 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60608, USA

get directions

D
The Four Dueces:
2222 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60616, USA

get directions

E
Cermak Bridge:
500 W Cermak Rd, Chicago, IL 60616, USA

get directions

F
The Yacht Club (an actual club):
1500 S Linn White Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, USA

get directions

G
The Yacht Club (a maintenance/storage facility for yachts):
2550 S Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60608, USA

get directions

(A) Hotspot #1 "Windy City Shipyards"\Chicago Port Authority

Had to get a Google Maps picture of this. The main building is behind a toll road and is only accessible as an authorized dock employee. The fact that it’s the furthest south had nothing to do with my decision of not going there. Ok it might have had a LITTLE bit to do with it. It's literally right near the Illonois/Indiana state border. Come to think of it Aiden Pierce would probably be more useful in Gary Indiana as far as crime fighting goes...

As much as I would have loved to have to checked out the dock yards I don't think I can get in without clearance.
As much as I would have loved to have to checked out the dock yards I don't think I can get in without clearance. | Source
If it wasn't for the lack of security I could probably just drive right in.
If it wasn't for the lack of security I could probably just drive right in.

(B) Hotspot #2 “Lakeshore Water Refinery”/Jardine Water Purification Plant

Jardine Water Refinery is actually located near The Loop, far North from the location that is depicted in WatchDogs. In real life it is just across the water from Navy Pier. There are three water pump cribs off the coast which pump water from Lake Michigan to the taps of residents in Chicago. I know it's not ultra interesting, but if you would like to learn more about it click the link to the right below the screenshots. It is a shame that that one "news" story I read about the culinary chef opening a restaurant on one of the water pump cribs was a hoax. Then again I probably wouldn't have been able to afford that place anyway.

Spotted this one by accident while playing tourist at the top of Willis/Sears Tower in July 2015.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Jardine Water Purification Plant seen from the top of Sears/Willis Tower. "Lakeshore Water Refinery" located in "Brandon Docks". Very far South from the actual water plant. For what it's worth The Crew, another Ubisoft game, has the proper geography.
The Jardine Water Purification Plant seen from the top of Sears/Willis Tower.
The Jardine Water Purification Plant seen from the top of Sears/Willis Tower.
"Lakeshore Water Refinery" located in "Brandon Docks". Very far South from the actual water plant.
"Lakeshore Water Refinery" located in "Brandon Docks". Very far South from the actual water plant.
For what it's worth The Crew, another Ubisoft game, has the proper geography.
For what it's worth The Crew, another Ubisoft game, has the proper geography.

(C) Hotspot #3 "Sienna Brick Factory”/Colonial Brick Factory

Considering it’s location I’ll bet a dime to a dollar THIS is the factory it’s based on. The courtyard also has a similar layout. In the Hotspot Info-card it's mentioned that a horror movie was filmed at the location. After a lot of research I discovered that the 2005 remake of Amityville Horror was filmed in Chicago, specifically the interiors in a factory.

That factory however is located in Buffalo Grove Illinois, pretty damn far north from not only the neighborhood of Bridgeport but Chicago in general. I also called the Chicago Film Commission, but there's no info on a movie being filmed at the Colonial Brick Factory. Not to say someone couldn't have made one off the books.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The version in game is more open than the real life Colonial Brick Factory. Both have the antenna tower, but it feels more closed in like a work yard should be.
The version in game is more open than the real life Colonial Brick Factory. Both have the antenna tower, but it feels more closed in like a work yard should be.
The version in game is more open than the real life Colonial Brick Factory. Both have the antenna tower, but it feels more closed in like a work yard should be.

(D) Hotspot #4 The Four Deuces

What once was a thriving gangster club is now a automotive service garage for BMW’s… Still classy I guess. It also looks similar to the in-game location. However the surrounding area is more of a neighborhood than an industrial park like in the game. What's amazing about this part of Chicago is that a few blocks away, at Bridgeport, there are multiple warehouses. Most of which have been re-purposed into housing or offices.

Got a picture of this during my big December 2015 trip. You know the one where I dedicated it to working on this article.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The version in game is depicted as a corner building. In real life the former location of The Four Deuces is a corner building, but it's a bit down the street from Cermak Road.
The version in game is depicted as a corner building. In real life the former location of The Four Deuces is a corner building, but it's a bit down the street from Cermak Road.
The version in game is depicted as a corner building. In real life the former location of The Four Deuces is a corner building, but it's a bit down the street from Cermak Road.

(E) Hotspot #5 Cermak Bridge

It looks like what the developers did here was turn the neighboring train bridge into a street bridge. It even has the same grey color, where-as the real Cermak Bridge is an old rusty brown. The immediate area is indeed industrial. In real life there are two points of interest that I would like to research a bit more. Laurence's, a seafood restaurant, and some old large warehouse that looks abandoned. (And according to local folklore it's apparently haunted too).

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The supports of the neighboring train bridge (which can be seen prominantly from the surrounding area) is similiar to the Cermak Bridge in the game. View of the area from the top of Willis Tower. Cermak Bridge from Canal Street Bridge. Cermak Bridge in Watchdogs.
The supports of the neighboring train bridge (which can be seen prominantly from the surrounding area) is similiar to the Cermak Bridge in the game.
The supports of the neighboring train bridge (which can be seen prominantly from the surrounding area) is similiar to the Cermak Bridge in the game.
View of the area from the top of Willis Tower.
View of the area from the top of Willis Tower.
Cermak Bridge from Canal Street Bridge.
Cermak Bridge from Canal Street Bridge.
Cermak Bridge in Watchdogs.
Cermak Bridge in Watchdogs.

(F and G) #6 The Yacht Club/Burnham Park Yacht Club

Ok so I might be stretching it here. Chicago has several “Yacht Clubs” throughout the city (on the lake side of course). The most likely being either the Carefree Boat Club or Canal Street Marina (since “Brandon Docks” is suppose to be South Chicago (though more like the “fly over” South where a lot of industry lies.) It could also be semi based on the Chicago Yacht Works due to the storage of the boats.

Anyway I ended up going to the Burnham Park Yacht Club since it was both close and considered prominent in the area. In my opinion I’m no where rich enough to afford such a boat so I really don’t care for this one. Next time I’m in town I’ll get pics of the other mentioned locations. Unlike the folks that go to “Yacht Clubs” I’m not really afraid of The Avenues.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Burnham Park Yach Club, although it's like a half mile away from there...  but ok..The docks of the Burnham Park Yach Club.The Yacht Club in Brandon Docks.
The Burnham Park Yach Club, although it's like a half mile away from there...  but ok..
The Burnham Park Yach Club, although it's like a half mile away from there... but ok..
The docks of the Burnham Park Yach Club.
The docks of the Burnham Park Yach Club.
The Yacht Club in Brandon Docks.
The Yacht Club in Brandon Docks.

"The Wards"

A
The Hit On Johnny Torrio:
7011 S Clyde Ave, Chicago, IL 60649, USA

get directions

B
The Hawthorne Hotel (I'll fix this the next time I'm in town):
3434 North Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657, USA

get directions

C
Aiello's Bakery:
473 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60610, USA

get directions

D
The Stock Yards:
S Union Ave, Chicago, IL 60609, USA

get directions

E
Rossi Fremont:
465 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60610, USA

get directions

F
The Home of Lloyd Pinkerton:
127 N Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60602, USA

get directions

G
Murder Castle (I'll head to this intersection next time I'm in town):
611 W 63rd St, Chicago, IL 60621, USA

get directions

H
Big Jim Colosimo's Cafe:
2126 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60616, USA

get directions

I
John A. Walsh Public School:
2015 S Peoria St, Chicago, IL 60608, USA

get directions

J
Murder Corner:
W Oak St & N Cleveland Ave, Chicago, IL 60610, USA

get directions

(A) Hotpot #7: The Hit On Johnny Torrio

I went to visit this location back in May of 2016. At the time I didn't have a driver's license and I wasn't sure how bad Southside was going to be. Well guess what? It's really not as bad as the media makes it out to be, as long as you don't go down the side streets after midnight...

The driver, Mike, didn't really know where to go despite having a GPS in his Prius. Thanks to that we were able to go to this "bad neighborhood" where Johnny Torrio lived. However he was killed in The Loop near where the Chase Tower stands today. His enemies during the Beer Wars wanted it to be extra public. Despite Southside's reputation today this message couldn't come across in a quiet suburb.

Johnny Torrio's original residence. Surprisingly still used as an apartment building even today. One chunk of Chicago's real history still alive at least.
Johnny Torrio's original residence. Surprisingly still used as an apartment building even today. One chunk of Chicago's real history still alive at least.
For some reason it's a warehouse in the game.
For some reason it's a warehouse in the game.

(B) Hotpot #8: The Hawthorne Hotel

Ok so in all honesty I think I screwed up on this one. Al Capone's Hawthorne Hotel (the one referenced in the game) is actually in Cicero IL, not Hawthorne Terrace like my original research sent me. I am going to get pictures of the actual location of the Hawthorne Hotel when I go back to Chicago in April or maybe October (whenever I can get donations on Patreon). In the mean time take this as a public service announcement on how not to rush your research because of an impeding trip deadline.

What I thought was the Hawthorne Hotel. I'll replace this after I head back to Chicago.
What I thought was the Hawthorne Hotel. I'll replace this after I head back to Chicago.
It's actually a Best Western [hotel] in "Hawthorne Terrace". I mean it's an honest mistake.
It's actually a Best Western [hotel] in "Hawthorne Terrace". I mean it's an honest mistake.
At the moment I can't compare this to the actual Hawthorne Hotel in Cicero IL. I will later after I correct this mistake.
At the moment I can't compare this to the actual Hawthorne Hotel in Cicero IL. I will later after I correct this mistake.

(C) Aiello's Bakery/Aiello & Company Bakery

Back in November of 2016 I went to the west end of the Magnificent Mile to get photos of certain places in the area. One of which being the location of Joe Aiello's bakery. Which as you can see is now the location of a housing building. Though I'll give them credit for being a nice area. Despite recent events I'm certain it was even scarier being in this area during the 1930s... You know with the whole beer wars gangland killings going on I'm sure just trying to get some rye bread was a tad ballsy.

In real life the original building isn't standing anymore, but in Watchdogs' version of Chicago the building looks similar to a bygone historic site.

The bakery use to be right where the lobby entrance for this apartment building sits.
The bakery use to be right where the lobby entrance for this apartment building sits.
For what it's worth the neighborhood in real life seems a lot safer. At least during daylight hours...
For what it's worth the neighborhood in real life seems a lot safer. At least during daylight hours...

(D) The Stock Yards/Union Stock Yards

This location was unusually tough to find. Uber drivers didn't know the location, Google had multiple different answers, and some firefighters at the Truck 20 Firehouse weren't quite sure of the exact location but sent me in the right direction. At Hamilton Park I rented a Divvy Bike and made my west from the advice of a city worker who was fixing a bus stop.So I hopped on the #43 bus and the lady driving it told me that we were going to drive right past it, letting me know which stop to get off at.

Long gone are the vast fields of cows depicted in No Mercy (which was actually a set built up by Patrizia Von Brandenstein at some abandoned railroad crossing). Yeah I know it's a bummer, BUT there was a memorial for the firefighters who died there fighting a massive blaze in 1910.

The original entrance to the stockyards. Which in real life is located in an industrial park. You can see the memorial through the gate.
The original entrance to the stockyards. Which in real life is located in an industrial park. You can see the memorial through the gate.
Sadly there ARE parts of Chicago's Southside that look like this. I would have taken a picture, but I was ducking behind an abandoned car at the time. (don't ask long story)
Sadly there ARE parts of Chicago's Southside that look like this. I would have taken a picture, but I was ducking behind an abandoned car at the time. (don't ask long story)

(E) Rossi Freemont/Cabrini Green Housing Project

The large project block, where one of the game's antagonists operates out of, is based on a real place that had a long history of crime. The Cabrini-Green Housing Project was the real life hub for a lot of violent street gangs and criminal activity. The original main building has long since been demolished (unlike in the game), but the surrounding row homes remain (or "did remain" since they looked abandoned when I was there in November 2016) a hotbed for gang related crime. It should be noted that the area in which this housing project was located is just a few blocks West of the Magnificent Mile, not in the "ghetto South" Chicago depicted in the game (and most American media).

The modern building that replaced one of the Cabrini Green buildings at this site. Looks a hell of a lot nicer than the old building AND the neighborhood is pretty held together... in the daytime...
The modern building that replaced one of the Cabrini Green buildings at this site. Looks a hell of a lot nicer than the old building AND the neighborhood is pretty held together... in the daytime...
The original Cabrini Green Building before it was demolished.
The original Cabrini Green Building before it was demolished. | Source
The Rossi Freemont building in-game.
The Rossi Freemont building in-game.

(F) Home of Lloyd Pinkerton/Pinkerton Detective Agency Home Office

This one was pretty confusing, and so far, caused the most amounts of Google clicking. Here is one of the examples of the developers trying to pull a double reference in one place. At least that's what I'm going to assume went on here.

First off the in-game gang, The Viceroys, are based on the notorious real-world Almighty Vice Lord Nation. Which was led, but not founded, by Willie Lloyd who joined the gang in 1960. Who in 2002 left the gang (after a couple of prison sentences) and THEN became an advocate for anti-gang movements. Judging by the info card at the Hotspot the fictional Viceroys were "Robin Hoods" and givers to the community. The reality wasn't that pleasant as Willie Lloyd was involved in many cases of murder and kidnapping up until his departure from the Vicelords.

The use of the name Pinkerton originally made me think this had something to do with the Pinkerton Detective Agency since it was founded in Chicago. The building where the main office was located is still in downtown Chicago. And it's what I got a picture of so you'll have to settle for this.

Whether we're talking Willie Lloyd or Allen Pinkerton I didn't get a picture of their original house. One because my research never turned up where Willie Lloyd lived (it's probably long since been demolished) and Allen Pinkerton was born in Glasgow Scotland... It could also be a reference to William Lloyd Garrison's house, but that's located all the way in freaking Boston.

The original headquarters for the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Even has a McDonald's in the lobby... Does it get more American than that?
The original headquarters for the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Even has a McDonald's in the lobby... Does it get more American than that?
The home of "Lloyd Pinkerton".
The home of "Lloyd Pinkerton".
Pretty much all the information I had to go on. You see what I mean with the comparisons? No? Yeah I don't blame you.
Pretty much all the information I had to go on. You see what I mean with the comparisons? No? Yeah I don't blame you.

(G) Murder Castle/Dr. Henry Holmes' Murder Castle

Yes I am aware that I said I wouldn't visit the locations of murders or serial killers. However THIS one, so far, is the only example that is JUST like the one in the game. In all the times I went to the Windy City I still have not taken the time to go here in order to get a picture of an underpass. Next time I am in town I'll go here to get a better idea of the area that Google street-view can't really give.

Also when the hell is Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio going to make that movie about Dr. Henry Holmes? It's been two years now!

Like most dark bits of history in Chicago, they pave it over and build something else. In this case train tracks.
Like most dark bits of history in Chicago, they pave it over and build something else. In this case train tracks. | Source
Except in game it's a freeway, but still, either way the Murder Castle is paved over.
Except in game it's a freeway, but still, either way the Murder Castle is paved over.

V. Alley

After much research I can only assume this particular hotspot in the game is just here as a reference to the in-game gang's history. There are thousands of alleys in Chicago, it's the third largest city in the United States! I searched for gang wars, gang shootings, murder scenes, and you know how many alleys those occur in? So yeah I skipped this one. Sorry.

The hotspot info card I was using as reference material. If you can decipher where this location might be in real life you're welcome to comment below.
The hotspot info card I was using as reference material. If you can decipher where this location might be in real life you're welcome to comment below.

(H) Big Jim Colosimo's Cafe

I visited this location back in December of 2015. The neighborhood it's located in, on Wabash Avenue. It looks similar to the one in game, but the cafe itself has a courtyard and elaborately designed gate. In game it's just a generic building along a skid row type area. If you're in Chicago, and take the Untouchables tour this is one of the stops. At least that's what I hear, I haven't really taken any tours yet. I like to wing it!

Keep in mind this picture was taken in December of 2015. It looks a little bleak, I know, but this is the whole real world cafe. You get a better look of it this time of year minus the tree leaves.
Keep in mind this picture was taken in December of 2015. It looks a little bleak, I know, but this is the whole real world cafe. You get a better look of it this time of year minus the tree leaves.
Big Jim's Cafe in-game. Kind of unrecognizable among the other storefronts.
Big Jim's Cafe in-game. Kind of unrecognizable among the other storefronts.

Burned Down Factory

This is another hotspot I decided to omit because for it's numerous possibilities. There are several (if not hundreds) of fires in Chicago, and it's surrounding areas, every year. Have you ever watched Chicago Fire? Well I haven't, I'd much rather watch Chicago PD if Dick Wolf wasn't such a pecker and put the series on Netflix. I digress... The point is I DID take a picture of a burned out building back in 2015, chances are it could have been anything. This is hotspot is most likely a shout out to the brave men and women of the Chicago Fire Department and possibly also a reference to the great Chicago fire of October 1871.

(I) John A. Walsh Elementary School/John A. Walsh Public School

This school actually looks a lot nicer in real life than it does in-game (I know, duh). It's also located near Chinatown and is much larger in real life. In the game it looks more like the post office near Dr. Henry Holmes' Murder Castle. It DOES have a history of violence, but from what I've seen that must have been in the past. It looks like the faculty have a peaceful environment to work in.

From the looks of it this school almost feels like it's in the county, The area around this school looked pretty nice back in May 2016 anyway...
From the looks of it this school almost feels like it's in the county, The area around this school looked pretty nice back in May 2016 anyway...
Whereas in game it looks like a school from one of those dedicated teacher movies from the 80s and 90s.
Whereas in game it looks like a school from one of those dedicated teacher movies from the 80s and 90s.

Shotgun Man

This hotspot is related to the one just below this entry Murder Corner. In 1910/1911 this guy murdered 15 Italian immigrants and was never caught. All of which occurred on the infamous street corner. Was it mob related? Was it just a racist goofball with a gun?

(J) Deadman's Corner/Murder Corner

A notorious street corner that has been the site of several shootings, killings, and mafia/gangsta body drops. I visited this location (that's not far from the Rossi-Freemont/Cabrini Green Homes) back in November of 2016. At the time there was a long set of chain-link fence covering the block. Judging by the new high-end homes being built, literally across the street, I guess they are planning to demolish this area too. It's been two year, this street corner might not exist anymore since Chicago tries to bury it's past under a new paint job.

This was as close to the location as I could get. There was a long set of chainlink fencing that cut off access to the block. This might not even be here anymore it's been two years since this picture was taken...
This was as close to the location as I could get. There was a long set of chainlink fencing that cut off access to the block. This might not even be here anymore it's been two years since this picture was taken...
The in-game version of Murder Corner just looks like what you would expect a "murder corner" to look like. An inner-city liquor store that hosts any number of trouble.
The in-game version of Murder Corner just looks like what you would expect a "murder corner" to look like. An inner-city liquor store that hosts any number of trouble.

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