Watch Dogs: Legion
Developer: Ubisoft Toronto
Platform: Xbox One (also available on PlayStation 4, PC and Stadia with next-gen releases/updates to follow)
Age Rating: PEGI 18
Release Date: 29/10/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
It would be fair to say that the Watch Dogs series of games has had its share of ups and downs, from unfulfilled promises to trailers that weren’t representative of the final product. All of this had an impact on the trust of the gaming community and the series fan base. When Ubisoft first revealed Watch Dogs: Legion back at E3 2019, the stakes were high. They promised an expansive open world where any NPC (non-player character) could be recruited into your team and they would have unique missions, skills and personality. This went beyond anything that a game had promised before, but did Ubisoft pull it off? We’re pleased to say that they most certainly did and have made Watch Dogs: Legion a must-buy for any action-adventure loving gamer.
Set in the heart of London, Watch Dogs: Legion follows a hacktivist resistance group known as DedSec as they try to bring down a corrupt private security organisation known as Albion. This is all done whilst trying to stop an opposing group of hackers known as Zero Day, as well as bringing down the corrupt Clan Kelley. Sounds like a lot but the way the story weaves together is like watching a police crime movie. A lot of similarities are drawn to modern times and, without too much thinking, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine some of the aspects of Watch Dogs: Legion happening. There will be no spoilers in this review, there are a lot of twists and turns that we want you to discover for yourselves.
London is a city that most of our readers will be familiar with, and seeing it come to life in this gritty dystopian future setting is beyond surreal. From famous landmarks like Buckingham Palace, Leicester Square and China Town, to even areas such as Seven Dials Market and Camden Lock, Watch Dogs: Legion has captured everything London means and more. This game isn’t a one-to-one recreation of The Big Smoke but it takes its artistic licence and runs with it. Some areas are closed off and some are a lot closer to others than expected, but this is a video game and not a travel guide so exceptions had to be made. Players will be forgiven if they spend a vast amount of time sightseeing, Ubisoft has gone above and beyond here.
Getting around the city is just as easy as you’d expect with a wealth of options available to players. Autonomous cars are one option that will allow passengers to sit back and relax whilst the vehicle follows the waypoint that is set on the map screen. Of course, if you want to get there faster you can always control the vehicles yourself and disobey every rule of the Highway Code. These won’t land you in heat, however, which would’ve been a nice touch if it was added in, just be careful as some of the vehicles you can control are extremely fast and others handle more like Bambi on ice than an electric car.
Aside from the vehicular transportation options, players can fast travel to any underground station they have discovered (this can be done either from the map or by walking into a tube station), cutting down travel times to just a quick loading screen. All this technology would be worthless if it didn’t give players a new way to move about right? Summon a cargo drone to your location, hop on top and essentially fly to wherever you want. This can take a lot of the challenge out of some missions, but the trade-off is how defenceless you are when up in the sky.
Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It…
Speaking of missions, Watch Dogs: Legion is packed full of main quests, side quests and fun little mini-games for players to get stuck into. The mini-games can range from playing rounds of darts, reaching high scores in games of keepy-ups in the park to even full-on underground bare-knuckle (for the most part) brawls. There’s always a neat little distraction to keep players entertained when they fancy a break from saving London. The side quests come from a variety of sources: some are activated when trying to recruit new members to your team, whereas others are activated when each of the boroughs have started to fight back from being oppressed.
The latter is achieved when players have completed several smaller tasks (such as capturing incriminating evidence on film or destroying propaganda) that build up the morale of people living in those areas. Once an area is standing against Albion, you’ll be given another (bigger) task to complete that will reward players with special team members as well as revealing the location of collectables in that borough. Watch Dogs: Legion has so much for every type of player to enjoy and although some side-missions can be very similar, players still have a wealth of options on how they choose to tackle them each time.
Watch Dogs: Legion gives the player a choice: do you go into each mission all guns blazing, or would you rather use all the gadgets at your disposal and hack as much of the enemy’s technology as possible to complete your task in an as stealthy way as possible?
Regardless which you choose, there are pros and cons to both but they keep the gameplay interesting. Going guns out sets you up for a quicker run through the scenario, however, if you’re not kitted up with appropriate gadgets you’re in for a bad time. Enemies can come at you from all angles (even above and below thanks to the drops and sentry guns that are positioned around the place) meaning that just because you’re able to take out the flesh and blood foes doesn’t mean that’s all you need to worry about.
However, doing so is certainly faster than the stealth approach. If you want to spice up your gameplay you can hack into every security camera that’s around, use your robots (in the shape of spiders) or drones to investigate and subdue foes without ever having to fire a bullet. This approach can feel extremely rewarding when you pull it off, even if it means taking you a little longer.
As great as the combat is, the enemy AI can be a little too much at times. They seem to be able to pin down exactly where you are, even after just one shot. Granted, there is a lot of tracking technology in this world but it shouldn’t allow for this to occur. Sometimes it feels that as soon as you break your cover you’ll be either fighting off hordes of enemies or praying you’ve hidden well enough that the AI gives up looking for you. It can be a little bit of a pain, however, it does tie into making players a lot more considerate about how they approach their missions.
Not Everything Is As It Seems
The game presents the player with a wealth of different mission types and scenarios to enjoy. From the fetch-quests, shootouts and hostage situations, the game provides what you’d expect from the action-adventure genre. That being said, the game provides some really out of the box mission styles too. For example, in one mission players take control of a spider-bot as they climb up the internals of the clock tower to ring Big Ben (think Tick Tock Clock from Super Mario 64 but you’re a robot spider, not an Italian plumber).
It would be very easy for sections like this to pale in comparison to the rest of the game, but the team at Ubisoft have done everything they needed to ensure the controls and platforming sections here were as tight as possible. Players will also have to solve a multitude of puzzles from navigating pitch-black corridors via the light of a news reporting drone, to ensuring power follows the correct path to reach certain hackable objects. There’s never a dull moment!
By default, players will have weapons that fire “non-lethal” shots at targets, as well as ways to bring down foes in melee combat that won’t necessarily kill them. These are all upgraded in the “tech” menu, where tech-points (a collectable that can be found around London) can be spent to unlock new hacks (like the ability to take over enemy sentry guns), upgrades (for example, taking less damage) and even new gadgets (cloaking devices for example). Most of these have upgrade paths to them as well, ensuring players will search high and low to ensure they’re kitted out with all they need to restore London to its former glory.
London has many secrets to be discovered, both in real-life and in Watch Dogs: Legion. Aside from the tech points, players have a whole slew of collectables to hunt. The backstory is told through audio recordings and data logs, currency can be found from hacking ATMs and opening safes, and new masks can be obtained if players look hard enough. The map will show you roughly where these are in relation to your current position and does a great job of providing you with all the tools you’ll need to fill your pockets. The currency found can be spent at the many shops littered throughout the streets of London, allowing each character to enhance their look through a wide range of cosmetic options. They even included clothing from souvenir shops for those that want to complete that tourist vibe.
We Are One, We Are Many
What sets Watch Dogs: Legion apart from other games in the open-world action-adventure genre is the ability to play as any of the NPCs that you see walking the streets. Consider how Borderlands (you can read our thoughts of that here) approached the weapons in that game, giving the player “over one billion” options to discover, that’s how Watch Dogs: Legion approaches characters. There are a few set characters in the story, however, players will be in control of any of the operatives on their team.
Your team is expanded via the recruitment missions we mentioned earlier, which are unlocked after choosing which member of the public you wish to join your ranks. These can range from doctors and policemen to football stars and singers, to even members of the Albion forces and Clan Kelley. So long as you can turn them to think favourably of DedSec (usually done by performing a favour for them) you can get them to join. That’s not to say you have to always do it this way, sometimes just stopping unlawful arrests or assaults in the street can reward you with the newly freed person wanting to join up. The game never fails to impress with how deep this system gets.
In London Everyone Is Different, and That Means Anyone Can Fit In
Each character has their backstory and perks, which almost always tie together. Older members of the public are slower and lack mobility, doctors have access to restricted areas, construction workers can summon cargo drones and policemen can make arrests. There’s never a dull moment and players are encouraged to try out new characters to see how they suit their play style. However, it’s not all rosy. There have been occasions where certain characters haven’t been as “unique” as hoped for, with voices, appearances and perk/weapon load-outs being repeated. This is to be expected due to the size of the task at hand, but it was certainly jarring when two operatives that look completely different have the same voice.
Death is an inevitable part of life, and the same goes for Watch Dogs: Legion. Perma-death is an option that can be turned on at the start of a play-through and off should the player wish (once-off, it cannot be turned back on without starting all over again). Players should play with it on though, it adds a level of risk involved with each mission and every choice you make has weight. Will I survive this shoot out? Can I make it away from this police chase safely? Knowing that you may lose a character that has perks that are extremely useful to your play-through makes you think more about your actions.
The Crown Jewels
To say Watch Dogs: Legion is a gorgeous game would be an understatement. The City Of London pops with its bustling streets, and the graphical fidelity of the game is pushed during the night time. This review was done on an original Xbox One, however, footage from a One X and even next-gen consoles shows that this game wanted to be known for how much it can squeeze every bit of power out of a console.
Dialogue is delivered is such a natural way, even the citizens of London walking the street all have things to say. If you close your eyes it can feel like you’re in the city. The Albion guards and drones have an authoritative tone to them that can be quite chilling and the radio stations are alive with modern music and talk shows. Every consideration has been made to bring London to life in Watch Dogs: Legion.
That’s not to say everything is perfect, we did notice a few instances of texture issues (quite possibly due to the hardware that the game is being played on) and have dealt with quite a few crashes too. However, the developers have released patches to rectify issues so fingers crossed they keep on top of it. Thankfully the game auto-saves a lot, so whenever a crash did occur nothing of real value was lost.
As for updates, there is DLC in the works and a season pass is available for the game too. The usual tropes of a Ubisoft game are also present, with a marketplace that allows players to use real-life money to purchase in-game currency. Although some may not agree with this practice, it’s never forced on the player and the upgrades seem purely cosmetic at this moment. Online multiplayer is coming soon too, however, at the time of review, this wasn’t available.
Watch Dogs: Legion has done a lot to impress; with its gripping story and unique approach to character design it has captured us in a way few games have managed to. The team at Ubisoft have brought the gritty dystopian future of London into our homes and made it feel like a possible reality. Let down only by some sections of repetitive gameplay and technical hiccups, the game is a must-buy for anyone who’s itching for their next slice of an open-world game. Join the resistance today!
Rapid Reviews Rating
Watch Dogs: Legion can be purchased for the Xbox One here.