Watch Dogs: Legion evokes a lot of feelings, but one that I can’t seem to get out of my head is relevancy. Its themes, motivations, and characters mirror the real world much more than I believe the team at Ubisoft Toronto first imagined.
Now we can argue all day about Ubisoft’s stance on politics in games, but Watch Dogs: Legion is flying as close to the sun as I’ve seen in this sense. Protests of police brutality fill the streets, an incompetent and power-hungry government rule with the threat of big brother, and it’s in the collective power of the people to make a difference.
All of this sounds familiar, right? It’s hard to buy into the narrative when so much of the game itself is rooted in, well, being a video game. What I mean by this is that by “liberating” different districts all you’re really doing is a checklist of activities like pulling down military propaganda or taking a picture of some hidden evidence. Next thing you know, boom, the area is liberated and the folks of London are rallied.
It’s very basic in understanding what liberation actually means, and I don’t know if that says more about what I want from a Watch Dogs game or more about how we view fixing societal problems.
This isn’t to say it’s bad, in fact, I think the game is actually quite good. It just stumbles in trying to marry these two elements together, which could have made Watch Dogs: Legion a true must-play video game.
All of that aside for a moment, the biggest addition to this game is the play as anyone mechanic that allows you to literally recruit any NPC in the game to join the resistance hacktivist group DedSec.
The biggest question I had was how this new mechanic impacted the story, and I was pleasantly surprised with the results. Not only is there a ton of unique and different voice lines recorded for the game, but the game even has additional voice lines when going through the mission as certain archetypes. For instance, in one mission, I was a spy, and the game had a spy specific voice line to comment.
It’s the gameplay area that I think this mechanic suffers the most. While it’s great that any NPC can be recruited, that doesn’t mean every NPC is particularly useful, in fact, many of them are useless.
Every character has a list of traits visible to the player before you recruit them. This can range from perks like “has an assault rifle” to “may die randomly” and each NPC has a different number of them.
I found that many NPC’s had simply one or two uninteresting traits, so it was never worth my time to recruit them. Once I discovered my select group of operators (around 6-7) I never felt the need to recruit anyone else, and the game is built in a way that you don’t really need to.
As far as Legion’s core gameplay goes, it’s pretty similar to the other entries in the franchise. You can hack just about anything and anyone using a myriad of different techniques, from shocking them to draining their bank account of crypto-currency.
The shooting feels a little sloppy and at times, can be frustrating when you’re forced into a gunfight. The game allows you to go the non-lethal route with guns that electrify the target rather than outright kill them, but the real guns are way more powerful, especially later in the game.
Watch Dogs: Legion’s greatest strength is in its stealth gameplay. Every character has different animations for taking out guards or drones and paired with your hacking abilities, it really feels like a spy infiltration.
This is undercut in many cases when you complete an area in full stealth, but then for the story’s sake, it forces you into a gunfight with guards. It happens quite frequently, especially towards the end of the game. It was frustrating to make it all the way through an area undetected only to have to kill all of the guards guns blazing on my way out.
As for the city itself, London looks great and there are plenty of dense areas filled with life. Plenty of NPCs roaming the streets, drinking in pubs, and protesting out on the streets. I look forward to seeing what the next generation of hardware will allow this game to do in terms of the city’s density.
Which brings me to my next point about the game. The PS4 Pro version ran well for the most part, but there were noticeable pop-in and textures not loading. The game also crashed on me a handful of times. If you’re on the fence about Watch Dogs: Legion I recommend picking it up on the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X.
I am looking forward to hopping back in on new hardware to put Watch Dogs: Legion through its paces because I think it can really shine on new hardware. It's clear the team bumped up against the hardware limitations of the machine.
Watch Dogs: Legion feels like a culmination of lessons learned in open-world games of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One era. It’s certainly a nice send-off for this generation of consoles and is an easy recommendation for any fans of the series, or open-world games in general.
- Excellent stealth gameplay
- A beautiful rendition of London
- Some really impactful and powerful story beats
- Long load times and texture pop-in
- Most NPC's feel underdeveloped and useless
- Forced gunfights after successful stealth sequences
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.