I have really enjoyed the Watch Dogs series up to now, the current “baby” series of the Ubisoft line up with only two entries so far. Legion itself was originally slated for an early 2020 release until the disastrous launch and reaction to Ghost Recon Breakpoint put all Ubisoft plans on hold and it was delayed until October 29th, just one week before the Xbox Series X/S globally launches and the PlayStation 5 in the US. This is a very busy time for games and with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla out on the 10th November, Watch Dogs Legion has to do enough to make sure its standout on its own, so does it do enough to warrant your attention at this crazy time of console launch and silly season of game releases?
In the four years since we last visited the Watch Dogs universe in 2016, that world has changed very quickly with technological leaps in artificial intelligence, drones and AR/VR technology changing the world quickly. London is now a city on the cutting edge of this technology, currency has changed from the £ to cryptocurrency with driverless cars and culture now reflecting this new world of technology. Dedsec, the heroic hacker group who challenge anyone who would use technology to impose their will on the people, is still going strong and the London branch discover a plot to blow up Parliament in a V for Vendetta meets HACKERS merger of plot devices. Sending an operative to put a stop to it, they quickly discover that another Hacker group calling themselves Zero Day is taking responsibility for the attack and not only that, but they have outsmarted Dedsec in every way, not only have they set up Dedsec to look like they planned the bombing, but just as the bomb in parliament is about to be deactivated, Dedsec are raided by armed and well trained attackers who slay the members of Dedsec with only their leader Sabine able to escape and Bagley, their own super AI shutdown. Zero Day was thorough in their planning, though the bomb at parliament was stopped, several others around the city then go off and Dedsec is blamed.
The resulting aftermath leads the UK Government handing the security of London and task of hunting down Dedsec to Albion, who quickly seize power in the city with armed soldiers, checkpoints and bases in every borough of London. You as the player are then recruited by Sabine and tasked with rebuilding the London branch of Dedsec and to investigate who was really behind the bombings, who Zero Day are and freeing London and its people from Albion control. Sounds like we have some work to do!
It has to be said that Watch Dogs Legion is the best looking game Ubisoft has done yet for me, this is after Assassin’s Creed Odyssey of course but you can really see how that engine has been refined and it looks incredible on the Xbox One X bringing London to life, I can only imagine how this game will look on the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 with boosted visuals including raytracing! London is truly brough to life here with all the recognisable landmarks there to see and visit. But as a Londoner familiar with the streets between these landmarks, I do get a real buzz both walking and driving down the streets between those landmarks, all recreated so close to flawlessly can you could use it to learn to navigate Central London. Of course, some changes have been made such as no real-world branded shops but having the game contained to one large city space still offers so much to visit and do, I am really looking forward to seeing this on the next gen consoles.
So, to answer the question does Watch Dogs Legion do enough to stand out on its own, In short, yes. Watch Dogs Legion set itself a massive challenge right from the very start with its evolution of its gameplay from the previous titles. The action this time has come to London which is very personal to me as someone born, raised and still lives in London. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate made Victorian London a playground for me so I was incredibly eager and a little nervous to see a more current even if set a couple of decades in the future, version of my home town. But there is one massive factor that quite frankly Legion is relying on which if it works would make it awesome but if it failed it would be a complete non starter as a video game so, Legion already has that hurdle to jump over. That hurdle….the ability to play as ANYONE.
This system actually works incredibly well and was the biggest concern I had for Legion. This system allows any and all people in the world to be a recruit for Dedsec and therefore playable by the player and each will have certain requirements in order to recruit them adding an abundance of side activity to do as you have to convince them to join Dedsec. These side missions can be helping to solve a problem for them such as hacking and erasing incriminating evidence Albion has on them or helping by rescuing a friend of theirs. Once recruited, they join your team and can be hot switched to at any time outside of combat of course. This is really important because the system will randomly generate how they look but more importantly, the skills they have. Some people may have a certain weapon or their own personal vehicle. The skills however is the most important thing with some having more positive ones than others such as some having boosted melee combat skills, better hacking skills or extra perks such as being able to help your team out passively by helping to make money, giving a discount for things or reducing the arrest or injury time should a recruit be taken down.
But they can also have negative perks as well, we have all seen the early gameplay trailers showing the more elderly people you can recruit and these “Granny Gangstas” as I came to call them, will move slowly and be unable to use the cover system. Some may even have a flatulence problem meaning that during a stealth section they will quite literally fart which will alert guards and drones to your presence. Some will even have a death wish meaning they will try to get themselves killed which is even more damaging when you play with ‘Perma Death’ switched on. In Legion, your recruits can be injured so badly they can’t be used for a certain time, they can be arrested removing them from the pool of recruits for a certain time but with Perma Death turned on, should they die then they are dead and you lose them for good. This can really suck if you happen to be using a character with a particularly good set of skills gets killed in a careless gunfight or an explosion. Now this mode is optional but believe me, this is the only way to play the game if you want to experience the “play as anyone” system because once the novelty of using a Granny or a farting person has worn off, and you are into the seriousness of playing the missions which can be challenging, once you build a good team of recruits tailored for any mission type, to lose one can be a big problem, especially if they are so unique that the chances of finding someone else with the same skills is rare.
That is where Legion really comes alive for me, completing the style of Watch Dogs missions that can require stealth, hacking or just good old-fashioned gunplay and Legion blends the grittiness and tone of the first Watch Dogs game with the more colourful and vibrant Watch Dogs 2. Legion certainly finds the right balance with big missions and hard impacting themes of how technology could both help and be abused as it continues to evolve. It also suffers from repetitive missions especially in the side and recruitment missions which often will have you completing multi-step missions that simply take you from one part of London to another meaning you spend a lot of times in vehicles or using the fast travel system of moving between London’s tube stations. Now I never bully became bored of doing these missions but I did find myself simply recruiting a full squad of 34 members and just keeping them and even when one was lost through the perma death mechanic I just simply never replaced them.
More issues come as a result of the game constantly needing to populate London with potential recruits and I came across many doppelgangers of those I had recruited on the streets of London with their clones from appearance right down to appearance and skills without them having a different name from the one I had in my team. The world also fails to really respond to your actions, once you have freed boroughs from Albion’s influence it would be nice if you had to fight to main them or the threat of losing them via your actions. You can pretty much go around beating up or killing anyone you want without any repercussion’s other than the Albion guards maybe searching for you but its so easy to escape or they just give up so quickly its never really troubling to get away. Which is a shame because London does feel alive and the culture of London is reflected in the different types of people including accents although whilst some are regionally correct for certain parts of London, often the voice of a random person won’t suit that person. I often had an elderly voice for someone who was young or a posh English accent for someone who was suppose to be a street punk.
Overall Watch Dogs Legion is great fun with a solid main story and enough to give players to do and I am really looking forward to the co-op/Multiplayer side which is due to launch in December for the game. Visually stunning and a great soundtrack brings my city of London to life in a way only Watch Dogs can and I had and am having great fun playing it. Once boosted with Series X/S or PS5 enhancements pushing the visuals and performance of the game even further, than Legion is a great title to have if you are getting one of the next gen consoles and it really is just a solid game experience that does enough to stand on its own but I can see how it will be overshadowed by AC Valhalla and particularly Cyberpunk 2077 should it actually release this year.
Watch Dogs Legion is worth your attention if you are a fan of the series and will other enough gameplay to make it fun to have and not a bad way to try out your shiny new next gen console should you get one or find one under your Christmas tree this year. It will be interesting to see what DLC will bring to it with the Season Pass but for now, there is enough here to keep you going and it will never not be fun to recruit a team of OAPs and have them take down an entire enemy base!