Watch Dogs Legion is a bit of a strange game after the excellent Watch Dogs 2. Dedsec are back, but instead of San Francisco or an American City (Watch Dogs, itself, was set in Chicago), Ubisoft have brought us to the UK and our capital city of London.
Releasing the game on November 10th was very apt, as you start out having to infiltrate the underground area of the Houses of Parliament. It turns out that a terrorist group has rigged the place to blow, just like the Gunpowder Plot and Guy Fawkes (wonder if Ubisoft did this intentionally given the current situation in the UK!?). You manage to disarm everything, but it turns out there were more explosives planted elsewhere in the city, at key points which go up once you get up to the roof and do the final disarm. This is the point where you meet the person behind it all in holographic form, before being killed. So there goes a character that I kinda liked… Dedsec, themselves, get raided and scatter. Bagley, the group’s AI, shuts down (this has to be paying homage to the legendary ZX Spectrum coder Jim Bagley). Dedsec are no more, now being labelled the terrorist group behind the blasts, so it becomes apparent a new resistance movement is needed to stop Albion and the corruption running rife in London.
This game follows a tried and tested Ubisoft formula for their open worlds. It’s rather similar to Far Cry 5 with regards to the layout, with a large area – but split into the three counties, with activities in each, to diminish the enemies’ hold on an area. London, itself, is split into its relevant boroughs, like Westminster and Camden etc. Each borough, initially, is oppressed, but there are a few red coloured icons in each borough which, when completed, opens a mission to free Albion’s grip and become defiant. These missions usually involve freeing captured prisoners, changing digital propaganda signs, sabotage or collecting evidence, to name a few variations. They either involve working out a climbing-type puzzle, such as getting to the roof of a building in the case of the signs, or sneaking into somewhere to photograph or steal stuff.
Apart from the borough missions to liberate them, you will also be recruiting folk to Dedsec’s cause. The interesting thing with Watch Dogs Legion is that anyone can join the group. The character you start with is literally just that, so select someone that appeals to you (even if none jump out) and away you go. As you roam the streets heading to missions, you will see the familiar connection line to NPCs around the city, and from here, you hold a button for a few seconds to start the recruitment process. If the character has a red thumb-down icon on their profile, it means they are against Dedsec so you need to buy the deep profiler to recruit them.
Once the character is in the possible recruits section, you then have to go and complete a task to have them fully become part of the group. So far I have rescued someone from a holding cell, and for another, I retrieved a car to then be told to drive it into the Thames, to give you a couple of examples. The characters that have the red thumb see a few tasks listed once you profile them, and if you complete the full arc, then they will join your cause. There are also a few folk shown on the map where it will say “recruit”, and these members usually have a specific skill which you may need for a mission.
Main missions are very much similar to the side missions where a lot of them see you sneaking into a secured area or building to retrieve something, and piece together who and why you were framed in the first place. Early on in the game, you’ll retrieve a spiderbot’s leg and then get the rest of it by infiltrating New Scotland Yard. Once you have access to the crippled spiderbot, you then had to take it through the vents, which effectively were a jumping/route-finding puzzle to get it to your operative before leaving.
The whole hacking aspect, amongst other things, seems quite watered down on Watch Dogs Legion in comparison to Watch Dogs 2. Most of the time, it is just a case of ‘hack a camera to then look at something to hack into it or getting access to a panel to unlock doors’ etc. When I have been getting chased, environment-hacking elements designed to help can be hit and miss, raising bollards being an example, raising too quickly after being hacked, stopping you instead and the pursuers behind you etc. I have come across the puzzles which were on Watch Dogs 2 with the line drawings connecting, which I quite enjoy. Additionally, I do like that there is a full stealth system with this latest title, as I felt this was really missing from the last one. You can also crouch and sneak round making stealth a real viable option – preferred I would say in most cases.
London, itself, looks great with all landmarks there for the vistas, and in some cases for breaking into. Literally, Ubisoft are masters when it comes to open-world games and this one is no different. I have to say, though, the sound is a bit on the strange sound. Every single person I have recruited sounds like a stereotypical cockney geezer or female equivalent from Eastenders. It does sound quite jarring when some voice work just doesn’t suit the character at all. Another gripe with the sound is down to the music: you can change the stations, with icon next to the song name telling you which station you are currently listening to, but this time, you cannot create a playlist of songs you actually like, which you could in No.2.
Overall Watch Dogs Legion is a bit of a step back after the excellent Watch Dogs 2. I feel that not having a proper dedicated main character disconnects you from the experience and the story. There is currently no online activities, but on the title screen it does say it is coming in December. I imagine this will be similar stuff to the previous two games once it launches. So far, then, this is a decent game, but with Watch Dogs 2 being as great as it is, it makes me wonder why the regression. Yes, being able to build up your own team is good, but they are just random generic NPCs as whom you can play.
If this is your first foray into Watch Dogs, then you will probably get quite a bit from it. However if, like me, you have put hours into the first two, games then it does feel a bit of a let-down, and retreading what you have seen before.
- Developer: Ubisoft / Ubisoft Toronto
- Publisher: Ubisoft / Ubisoft Toronto
- Players: Single-player, multiplayer (from December 2020)
Retro at heart and lover of all things ’80s, especially the computers, the music and the awesome movies and TV shows! Crazy huge retro gaming collection spanning the ’80s and ’90s with hundreds of tapes, discs and carts for various machines on top of a 600+ strong Steam library that is ever-growing. No I am not a serial hoarder, just a dedicated retro gamer!