The third game in Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs open-world, high tech game series takes place in a futuristic version of London. Dedsec – the not-so-evil hackers’ collective that you’ve been a part of in the first two games – has been framed for blowing up half the city. In Watch Dogs Legion, the British arm of the organisation is either dead or scattered, and so you start afresh with a brand new crew. Unlike the first two games, Legion doesn’t have one fixed protagonist, as the whole “play as anyone” mantra has been this game’s selling point for a while now.
Legion definitely delivers on that promise, but creates something of a disconnect between the characters and the player. I never felt attached to any one character because I kept switching between them, depending on the task at hand. Need a stealthy infiltration? Switch to the secret agent. Want someone with access to faster hacking? Choose the hacker (duh). And while I appreciate the variety, a lot of the switching felt unnecessary.
To test out my theory, I played through a bunch of story and side missions as the spy, and didn’t for once think that I should have rolled with another character instead. That being said, other characters can make certain situations easier. The construction worker, for example, has access to a huge cargo drone you can hop on to and fly around with. This can help you bypass locked gates and fences, or avoid heavily armed spots. Another simple example would be if you had to infiltrate a police station, you could recruit a cop for that mission and no one would suspect a thing.
In that respect, Legion is definitely quite non-linear in its approach to missions, allowing players to choose multiple paths to their objectives. But after the ten-odd-hour mark, you’ll probably have seen and used these approaches – lethal, non-lethal or spider-bot infiltration, and the novelty may wear off. In this case, you may be tempted to roll with whatever is most efficient, and weirdly, the ‘killing everyone’ approach works the best since this game’s AI is just bad.
You can simply murder every bad dude as they run at you in a straight line. Stay out of sight in front of a pillar just two feet from them and they’ll call off the search. Why go through the effort of hacking or stealthing into a heavily armed based when I can easily just gun my way through it? And best of all: killing doesn’t seem to have any sort of repercussions. No cops chase me after I’ve left a trail of bodies, nor does it affect the game world by making it more dangerous. This can be balanced out to a certain extent by choosing Permadeath mode before you boot up the game. This will make you a bit more cautious with your operatives, because once they die, they stay dead. But then again, that isn’t a problem because you can go ahead and recruit anyone with similar skills off the street.
But no matter which approach you choose, you’ll almost always have to indulge in this hacking mini-game that I am not a huge fan of. It’s the one where you have to connect nodes from Point A to B, and yes, it isn’t rocket science, but if definitely overstays its welcome when nearly every second story missions throws this at you.
Combat in Legion is your standard third-person cover shooter fare. It’s not as fluid as that from The Division 2, but it’s solid enough to keep you entertained. The driving mechanics, on the other hand, feel completely off. Controlling cars is overly sensitive, turning just an inch to your left or right and you risk ramming into oncoming traffic. Pedestrian reactions are also exaggerated at times, with them weirdly just throwing themselves into your way out of sheer panic.
The game’s missions are structured like the older games and, in between story based missions, you’ll be free to explore London, partake in some side activities like drinking at a pub, playing darts or football at a park. You’ll also stumble upon side-quests from pivotal characters, and embark upon character-specific quests to recruit that particular character. And then there’s the matter of liberating a borough. In each of London’s oppressed boroughs, you’ll have to perform two-three activities to fully liberate it, and unlock that area’s character. These characters are definitely worth chasing down as they offer unique skills or gadgets.
The characters you unlock through your journey in Legion can be killed, kidnapped or arrested. Once they “die” they just won’t be available for a while, but if you have a paramedic on your roster, you can speed up this process. If they get kidnapped, you’ll have to embark on a rescue mission to bring them back. Should they get arrested, you’ll need the services of a good lawyer, which – as you guessed, will need to be recruited as well. This whole aspect of recruiting literally anyone of the street definitely feels like you’re building a resistance and are part of something big, and it makes you truly appreciate the scope of this game.
I played through Legion on the PC, and this is one beast of a game. Even on our fairly beefy AMD-powered rig, I had to play with all settings at High to achieve a decent frame rate. Even then, my PC would have trouble holding the frame rate in place. Driving fast through the streets of London would temporarily dip my frames, and if by chance I embarked on a car chase, they would tank even further. That being said, the game is definitely gorgeous and will shine if you have the right hardware. London looks meticulously detailed, and is packed to the brim with all sorts of crazy details.
Watch Dogs Legion does so many things right, but sadly doesn’t quite stick the landing. It has a lot going for it, but stumbles with repetition and standard quest design. Given the setting, I’m upset they didn’t go the Black Mirror route, creating a truly frightening and twisted world. One mission in particular did stand out as it felt like something Charlie Brooker would come up, but most of the time, I just felt like a high-tech errand boy. The world of Legion is meticulously designed, but doesn’t feel as oppressed as Ubisoft wants it to because there aren’t a whole lot of repercussions for your actions. Fans of this franchise will definitely enjoy Legion for all its high tech action, but if you didn’t like the previous games to begin with, this one won’t change your mind.
Our test PC powered by AMD
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
- Graphics card: Sapphire Radeon RX 5700 XT 8GB
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG B550-F
- AIO: NZKT Kraken M22
- PSU: Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 1200W
- SSD: Samsung 860 QVO
- Memory: 16 GB DDR4