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Watch Dogs: Legion

Posted by GG Goblin On November - 12 - 2020

Oi, Geezer! You wanna join DedSec and liberate London?

 
Some six plus years ago, Ubisoft introduced the gaming public to an open-world adventure that focussed on the joys of hacking. Sharing a slightly disturbing vision of the near future in which everything was pretty much hackable and no-one had any privacy whatsoever, Watch_Dogs was an instant hit, and then obviously became Ubisoft’s next big series. Jump forward and we have the latest entry in that series, Watch Dogs: Legion, which, while not necessarily a huge jump from that original formula, has some cool ideas and drops the player into a horrifying dystopian future London. Watch Dogs has come home.

 


 
Hacking and causing trouble for the sake of it is always an option, but Watch Dogs: Legion has a story to give the player some purpose. The game starts out with the player controlling a DedSec operative of a distinctly Bond flavour as he tries to prevent a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. The mysterious organisation behind this reveals themselves only when the bombs go off all around London, framing the DedSec organisation for the act in the process. As a result, DedSec is all but shut down and the British government brings in the private militia group Albion to provide security in the nation’s capital.

 
Thus we arrive in a London with an oppressive regime in charge. Armed police patrol the streets and weaponised drones fly freely overhead, looking for any sign of disturbance. At this point, the player is able to choose their character from a randomly generated selection, each of which comes with a different skill or piece of equipment. As one of the last remaining members of DedSec, this character will first have to get the DedSec headquarters back up and running, including reactivating the all important AI, and then rebuild the organisation, find out who was behind the bombings, clear the organisations name and liberate London from this police state. All in a days work for a regular Joe.

 


 
The recreation of London is both frightening and impressive. Obviously compressed, the game world is still reasonable large and packed with things to discover. Anyone with knowledge of the city will recognise certain areas, and the big landmarks are all present and correct. The thing is though that this is not a happy city any more, not that I am sure it ever was. It is a much more technological city now, with advertising and signage on almost every surface, and the whole city seeming downtrodden. Self-driving cars are zipping around, the sky is filled with drones both large and small, and the general public are all dressed like bad parodies of London folk. It takes a little getting used to, but all will be better once the city has been liberated, well, presumably.

 
The city is divided into boroughs and the player will have to liberate each borough through a variety of missions in order to move the story on. As the player won’t receive any form of experience or levelling up through the game, they have to rely on finding Tech Points hidden throughout the city to upgrade and unlock new tech. Once a borough is liberated, all of the Tech Points in that area are revealed, making it much easier to gather them up.

 
Getting around the city, the player has various options. There is the fast travel of the Underground to discovered stations, but many may choose to simply hop in a car, or on a motorbike, and take the roads. The driving mechanics in Legion are quite nice, although the very nature of driving through the city makes it much easier to crash if the player wants to travel at anything more than a snails pace. Still, there are a nice selection of different vehicles to play with, if that is your thing. There are also the large drones that players can gain access to. These are just excellent as the player can then rise above the chaos of the city. Using this method for certain missions does feel a little like cheating, But I won’t tell anyone.

 


 
So, the driving is fun but nothing special, and the same can be said for the combat. Much of the time the game expects players to take a stealth approach, which works quite well, and make use of the various gadgets. But there will come times when the fists come out and someone reaches for a gun. The melee combat is always preferable, DedSec are trying to restore their reputation after all, and while it can be a little vague, the hand to hand is quite fun. The guns though feel a little weak in the game, and once the player draws their gun the enemies become much more aggressive.

 
The big new feature in Watch Dogs: Legion is the ability to recruit almost anyone in the game. This is a brilliant idea, in that the player is able to wander around the city and scan all of the NPCs to see their personal skills and abilities, and a glimpse at their randomly generated background. If they choose, they can then try to recruit the character into DedSec. They may jump at the chance, or they may need the player to complete a side mission first before they join. This means the player can build their team how they see fit, bringing in characters with faster hacking skills, or a handy uniform that will get them into restricted areas. Some may bring their own gadgets or weapons, while others may bring otherwise useful abilities, such as reduced time in hospital or prison for operatives that get captured or injured.

 


 
It’s a great system that really adds flavour to the game, especially once certain high value NPCs that have really special skills, such as spies or hitmen, are located. The down side is that, as the player will be swapping between characters, there is little chance to get attached and actually care about their fate, especially as the player can simply recruit a replacement if they need to. There is a permadeath mode that will remove any fallen operatives permanently, but otherwise they will keep coming back after a short break.

 
The missions in Legion, especially in the early game, can be a little repetitive, generally involving going somewhere, hacking something, and then getting out again. The missions get more interesting in the later game, and the major bad guys are fun to confront. There is a great deal of freedom in how the player approaches the mission though, which means the player can keep things fresh by mixing up their approach or sticking to what they find fun. Personally, I really enjoy using the spiderbot, a remotely controlled spider robot, but players can go in guns blazing, sneak around, hack cameras, activate traps to take out enemies, or just fly to somewhere safe on a giant drone platform. The freedom to choose is fun.

 
Playing on the Xbox Series X is a notable improvement over the Xbox One version of the game. While the loading times are still plentiful they are much shorter on the SSD. The visuals are beautifully 4K and the ray tracing has a marked effect on how things look. The frame rate is set at 30FPS, but the game still manages to feel and play much smoother than before. London has never looked better.

 


 
Watch Dogs: Legion, despite the new “play as anyone” system and the excellent London setting, still doesn’t feel like a massive jump forward for the Watch Dogs series. The various other systems, such as the combat, stealth and driving, all feel uninspired. With that said, the ability to approach missions in so many different ways gives the player a great freedom on choice, and London really is an excellent dystopian playground. With plenty to discover and plenty to do, there is little chance to get bored in this near-future capital city. Essentially though, Watch Dogs: Legion is a massive amount of fun and anyone looking for an open-world sneaking, action, hacking game will be happy to spend time in London.

 

 ★★★★★★★★½☆ 



 

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Coming later this year to Xbox One, PS4, PC and Switch.

 

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