Finding Ubisoft's Chicago: "Brandon Docks"

Updated on May 2, 2019
Eric Seidel profile image

A series I've been working on since December 2015. Looking for where Ubisoft got the inspiration for Watch Dogs' version of Chicago.

Yeah they're different angels but bare with me here....
Yeah they're different angels but 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 with 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 breath of fresh air I don't mind breathing in 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 liked the 2014 video game Watch Dogs, 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 back in 2015. I guess it hit the right cord with me because of my love for vigilante tales. On top of that Chicago, my favorite city, 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 places I’ve been to. Sure the game isn’t perfect but I still come back to it, having given it more of a chance than most gamers seemed to.

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

Locations Not Covered In This Series

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 there right away (or probably ever): 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 at this time... or ever... since Chicago has a tendency to bury it's bad history under new construction projects. And no that's not a mob reference but I can see why you would think that...
  • 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. Although these places are not top priority I will make an effort to visit them when I can (as of my fifth trip in June 2017 that hasn't been the case yet).

Full Playthrough /with some commentary

"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 yacht club/harbor):
3155 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60616, USA

get directions

G
The Yacht Club (a maintenance/storage facility for boats):
2129 S Canal St, Chicago, IL 60616, USA

get directions

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

get directions

(A) "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 Illinois/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.
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) “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 Watch Dogs. 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 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.

(If you would like to know more about how Chicago's water treatment works just Google "Chicago Water Pump Cribs". I would provide a link, but my editor doesn't like those. Happy searching!)

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) "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 book, but I'm going to have to consider this a double reference like a lot of the hotspots in this game appear to be.

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) 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 by this point. Got to love that housing boom (no that's sarcasm I actually don't.)

Got a picture of this during my big December 2015 trip. You know the one where I dedicated it to working on this article and less to drinking plentiful amounts of alcohol in Chinatown. During my March 2019 trip (which WAS going to be dedicated to the same but I discovered Chicagoans don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day on a Sunday) I got a better angle of this building.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Newer picture taken in March 2019. Better angle of the building. Tough it's still a mechanic for European cars. The version in game is depicted as a corner building. In real life the former location of The Four Deuces is a bit down the street from Cermak Road.
Newer picture taken in March 2019. Better angle of the building. Tough it's still a mechanic for European cars.
Newer picture taken in March 2019. Better angle of the building. Tough it's still a mechanic for European cars.
The version in game is depicted as a corner building. In real life the former location of The Four Deuces is 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 bit down the street from Cermak Road.

(E) 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, double bascule lift drawbridge. Not a vertical lift bridge like the one depicted in the game. No I'm not a bridge nerd but it does help to have a little knowledge of them in a town like Chicago.

The immediate area is indeed industrial. In real life there's a really good seafood joint; Laurence's. It's got a nice design, old-school (but not filthy interior) and the food is affordable. I finally got to check that place out on my June 2017 trip. There's also another point of interest I'd like to do more research on. Some old large warehouse that looks abandoned. (And according to local folklore it's apparently haunted too). This particular warehouse has been the filming location of several TV shows. Particularly one that requires pyrotechnics of some sort, which makes sense since there isn't much traffic around here.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The supports of the neighboring train bridge (which can be seen prominently from the surrounding area) is similar 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 prominently from the surrounding area) is similar to the Cermak Bridge in the game.
The supports of the neighboring train bridge (which can be seen prominently from the surrounding area) is similar 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) 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 (including 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 in my, albeit not favorite, May 2016 trip I ended up going to the Burnham Park Yacht Club. It was both close and considered prominent in the area. I’m nowhere near rich enough to afford such a boat so I really don’t care for this comparison part of the article. It should be worth noting that you need to go through Grant Park/Museum Campus to get here. At the time they were just beginning the construction of the "Star Wars Museum" which ended up being built in Los Angeles. That's not really a spoiler alert since I'm talking 2016 here.

During my, much more awesome, November 2016 trip I took pictures of the "Carefree Boat Club" which is located much further South (once again "Brandon Docks" is more appropriate to the region). It was also a much more welcoming area unlike Burnham. Unlike the folks that go to “Yacht Clubs” I’m not really afraid of exploring The Avenues.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Burnham Park Yacht Club. Looks like a building out of a 80s teen comedy.The "Yacht Club" in Watch Dogs. Though this looks more like "Yacht Storage". "Canal Street Storage" across from that restaurant, Laurence's, that I mentioned in the last hotspot.31st Street Harbor/Carefree Boat Club. Much more of a Miami vibe thanks to it being June 2017 when I took this picture.
The Burnham Park Yacht Club. Looks like a building out of a 80s teen comedy.
The Burnham Park Yacht Club. Looks like a building out of a 80s teen comedy.
The "Yacht Club" in Watch Dogs. Though this looks more like "Yacht Storage".
The "Yacht Club" in Watch Dogs. Though this looks more like "Yacht Storage".
"Canal Street Storage" across from that restaurant, Laurence's, that I mentioned in the last hotspot.
"Canal Street Storage" across from that restaurant, Laurence's, that I mentioned in the last hotspot.
31st Street Harbor/Carefree Boat Club. Much more of a Miami vibe thanks to it being June 2017 when I took this picture.
31st Street Harbor/Carefree Boat Club. Much more of a Miami vibe thanks to it being June 2017 when I took this picture.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Eric Seidel

    Comments

    Submit a Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, levelskip.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://levelskip.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)