When I first played Watch Dogs back in 2014, I thought that this is what a modern-day Assassin’s Creed game would be like or I hoped it could be like. The open world and traversing in the game and the world around us felt alive and add in the hacking, it reminded me of one of my favourite movies ‘Hackers’. The first two games in the franchise are based in the US, but thankfully, in Watch Dogs: Legion we have now moved a little closer to home and arrived in London to cause some mayhem, chaos and have a little fun along the way.
In Watch Dogs: Legion everything is done a little bit different than the previous two games. In Watch Dogs 1+2 you were just in control of just your main protagonist, but in Legion, you have a team at your disposal. You need to recruit the people of London to help DedSec fight back against Albion, an enemy law enforcement faction and company, and against a mysterious group Zero Day, the ones who framed DedSec for the terrorist attack on the city.
Watch Dogs: Legion starts off with you in a boat arriving at the Houses of Parliament and you must get inside to see what is going on. It is here where we get to be a DedSec operative named Dalton Wolfe and we must infiltrate the building to prevent an attack. Once inside, you quickly discover that there is a group masquerading as DedSec and is trying to frame them for the attack. As you progress through the building, you can disarm the explosives, however Dalton is ambushed by two drones that project a hologram showing a mysterious figure. A series of explosives go off around London, throwing the city into chaos. Dalton is then killed before he gets to send the evidence to DedSec. Everything basically turns to crap and DedSec was hunted down!
From here the game kicks off and it is up to you along with the last remaining DedSec operative, Sabine, who acts as your co-ordinator. She is the one who recruits you at the start and from there you must rebuild DedSec with the help of Bagley, the all-seeing and quite sarcastic AI who speaks to every DedSec operative throughout the game, recruit the people of London who will help us fight back against Albion and Zero Day. When Ubisoft said that ANYONE could be recruited, they were not kidding! Every single person on the streets of London you meet can be recruited to the resistance. If you hold down the LB button you will get a profile of that person and you can see what their strengths are and if you would like to recruit them to DedSec. Now, not everyone will be to your liking or perhaps some may not want to join. However, you can change this by freeing the boroughs that they live in from Albion control. Once a borough has been liberated, it opens for you and more of its residents will be eager to join you.
To make a ‘Borough Defiant’, you will need to weakened each one by striking at specified targets that will weaken Albion’s presence overall and making it then easier for you to recruit the people within that bourough. Once they become ‘Defiant’ you will also be awarded with a rare new character that has unique and powerful abilities that would be vital to your team. For example, having someone that works in construction will come in handy since they will have the Cargo Drone. These drones are bigger than the standard drones and will allow you to carry yourself up to those hard to reach places in missions and even during your down time and doing some free roaming
If you are looking for people with specific abilities to reinforce your team, that will come in handy in later missions, you will need to use that big brain of yours a bit. For example, the best place to find the toughest and hardest melee fighters will be inside bareknuckle arenas or if you are looking for a weapons dealer, you need to seek out an area what has high criminal activity. Thankfully, we have Bagley to us out in this area. He is your AI assistant who will drop a gently word in your ear and will highlight skilled recruits directly on your map, these are marked with a green icon. Also, just by happening upon a citizen in trouble and saving them, can have them added to your recruits. They may even join the team without you having to do a recruitment mission too. Though completing the Borough Uprising activities are still the best way to get the high skilled recruits and should always be considered first.
There are those that still have a negative view on you and DedSec, which will be indicated with a red thumb symbol on their profile when you use your Profiler app. You can however remedy this by upgrading your tech and get the Deep Profiler app. Once you have this unlocked you will be able to save them to your Recruits by holding RB. If you then go to the Team app, you can check out their Profile by pressing Y. From here you can select one of the leads that will help you find a way to help them. Doing this will then make them see you in a different light and reconsider joining the resistance. Then there will be those who will have two red thumbs on their profile, and these are non-recruitable. This can happen if you hurt that person or someone that they are related to or friends with and so on. They will also try to capture some of your DedSec operatives if they get the chance.
When it comes to Free Roam in Watch Dogs: Legion, there is quite a few things to do when are you not out recruiting or taking back the city. There is Kick-up, where you get to mess about with a football and try to keep the ball off the ground for as long as possible and if you time it right, he will pull of some tricks. Darts (self-explanatory), and there’s the Parcel Fox (a nod to Parcel Force I presume) deliveries that you can do, which sees you picking up packages and dropping them off to a drop off point. Each of these have their own properties, Timed, Fragile and Contraband. You will also get a recommend delivery and these are the ones that will be located near your current objective. These can be a lot of fun and they also nab you some ETO (in-game currency)
In Watch Dogs: Legion, there is quite a few things to do when are you not out recruiting or taking back the city. There are activities like Kick-up, where you get to mess about with a football and try to keep the ball off the ground for as long as possible and if you time it right, he will pull of some tricks. Darts (self-explanatory), Bareknuckle Arenas and there’s the Parcel Fox (a nod to Parcel Force I presume) deliveries that you can do, which sees you picking up packages and dropping them off to a drop off point. Each of these have their own properties, Timed, Fragile and Contraband. You will also get a recommend delivery and these are the ones that will be located near your current objective. These can be a lot of fun and they also nab you some ETO (in-game currency). There also some collectibles you will come upon that you can scan or pick up and these will give you new customisable options or ETO.
Speaking of ETO, this in-game currency can be collected in multiple ways by exploring the streets of London. Gaining access to secured safes that are hidden in restricted areas is a great way to find some extra ETO. ETO Skimmers are also hidden across the city and you can hack them from a distance and if you are able to, there are plenty of Parcel Fox drones to hack as well. A plus as well is to have an operative on your team whose ability will boost the revenue you can grab, which is always a plus!
The hacking gameplay in Watch Dogs: Legion is the same tried and tested mechanics that were in the first two titles. Those that played the first two will never feel like you left, while newcomers will easily come to grips that how intuitive the hacking is and how well it works. If you are looking to do a quick hack, then a simple tap of LB will see you opening a door, accessing a security camera, or blocking off a part of the street with bollards or security walls. This works wonders when you are being chased and looking to make a speedy getaway. You can easily distract enemies with the same button, giving you the perfect opportunity to sneak by. You can also shock or distract enemies too that will give you those few precious seconds to take them down. While holding the LB button will bring up a hack dial of sorts and you can see some advanced hacks. These will allow you to set traps, hijack drones and even attract enemies to your traps to immobilise them. There is a lot of fun to be had and you can get really creative with the environment and the damage you can cause.
When you first approach a building or restricted area, you will press the right stick down to activate a Scan. This is like a pulse that emits from your phone and it will highlight everything that is hackable in the area, and even see through walls. Then using your phone, you can hijack a camera or drones and check out your surroundings, tag enemies and even hack into a computer or mobile device. The possibilities are endless. However, there will be times when you can’t hack a door or panel remotely, as it’s locked via closed-circuit terminal, you can follow a red connectivity line that leads to these terminals (red boxes). You will have to get up close and personal as these terminals will need physical interaction. The good thing about these terminals are that you can unlock them in different ways. You can either be standing right in front of them and access it yourself, or you can grab your trusty Spider-bot (I call mine Barry) to access for you, or simply destroy it with a trap or by shooting it.
Access Keys are also ways to get through a locked door or access a laptop/PC. These keys can be download if they are in range of yourself, a Spider-bot, a drone, or a security camera. If you can recruit a Hacker, then you will have the ability to get access the key from a long way away, as long as they have line of sight.
The combat in Watch Dogs: Legion has been given quite the upgrade this time around and is grittier. You can even visit some Bareknuckle Arenas to get some practise in or if you want to just pummel the living hell out of someone. Fighting has three basic movements, X is your bread and butter where you can punch and kick depending on your characters fighting ability. Y is used to break someone’s guard/block, which see you taking a different stance while striking and throwing an uppercut of sorts. Then you have the dodge move (B), which is handy due to it allowing you to counter an attack or just to regain some health. Getting to grips with the dodging and counter attacking will allow you to take on multiple enemies at once. If you are sneaking up on someone, you can use the X button to do a takedown. Some of your operatives will use a taser to take them down, or hit them with whatever weapon they have in their hand, while others will simply choke them out. To further your fighting prowess in your team, it is better to recruit a bareknuckle fighter, as they will be able to hit harder and take more damage. If you don’t have a fighter in your team just yet, someone who is proficient with a melee weapon like a wrench or crowbar. You can also pick up gadgets like the Electro Fist, a knuckle duster, which will give you that extra thwack when in a fight!
London is a tech-centric world in Watch Dogs: Legion and nearly everything can be hacked, hijacked, and controlled. When it comes to the gadgets you will get some cool gadgets like the AR Cloak and my favourite, Barry the Spider-bot. I love to use Barry in all situations that allow me to, as he can really get into those hard to reach areas when you need to access a terminal or to allow you to take down a massive server. He can also take down enemies quietly and it keeps you out of immediate danger in the process. I’ve used him a few times to get to those hard to reach Tech points, or you can climb aboard a Cargo Drone and reach newer heights for those valuable points. Then there is Barry 2.0, which is my Combat Spider-bot, and this little guy is your right-hand bot in a fight. You can also have him jump on the roof of your car and he will protect you while you drive. Once you have your bots unlocked and upgraded, there is quite a few creative ways that you can use them.
Once you have collected enough Tech Points, you can purchase new gadgets and upgrades for your team. Some of these upgrades will give you an upgraded Profile app to better recruit to DedSec, while other upgrades will allow you to improve your drones and Spider-bots. You can also purchase better drones that can make quite a mess of London and even improve on your non-lethal weapons. To find these Tech points you can either use your Scan to locate them or wait until you have completed some of the Borough Uprising activities for them to be revealed.
Once you have the tech and the tools to aid you in your mission to free London, you can start to do some of the objectives that Watch Dogs: Legion has to offer. Early on in the game you will come across the likes of Mary Kelley, or Bloody Mary as she is more known as. She is a ruthless lady, a kingpin of the smuggling world. However, her commodity that she smuggles is people and likes to ‘dabble’ in the harvesting of organs. She also likes to hold auctions and sell immigrants into a slave workforce. As an incentive to keep them under her thumb, she likes to put explosives inside their heads and has no qualms about killing them if they step out of line or to show ‘the rest’ what is in store for them. She truly lives up to the name Bloody Mary! This mission alone sets the tone of the story and what DedSec are up against.
The missions are broken down into objectives and are quite varied though linear. Some will have you doing simple snatch and grab of sensitive data, for example someone is being blackmailed into working for Albion. You will need to access a secured building or site and find a server to hack into and wipe all the incriminating evidence. This can be either done remotely or by sending in your trust Spider-bot to do it physically, or if you are feeling really confident, you can do it yourself. In other objectives you will need to deliver some cargo, equipment or a vehicle to a drop off point.
While this may sound monotonous, it’s the approach you can take that makes these missions and objectives so much fun! With each objective you are about to undertake, you will want to think what the best way is to approach it. The stealth option is strongly advisable as you are less likely to run in to too much confrontation and it’s more enjoyable once you completed it. If you go in all guns blazing, you will be overrun with security and armed guards everywhere. There will also be Captains who can call in reinforcements and that’s when the shit can hit the fan!
In the later missions you can better prepare when you have recruited an operative that is best suited to the objective at hand. So, for example, you need to get into the Tower of London, which is now a heavily guarded Albion facility. While you can do it with any of your operatives, its best to use an operative with ‘Uniformed Access’ at Albion locations. This ability will reduce awareness towards you, and it’s easier to access restricted areas. So it’s best to try and recruit potential operatives that have this ‘Uniformed Access’, as it’s a really vital ability to have later in the game.
In certain parts of a mission or objective, you will get to use the AR Reconstruction tech, which is surveillance tech that SIRS (Signals Intelligence Response) has developed. What this does is it records the people of London as they go about in their daily lives. How we can use this tech is to do an AR data reconstruction on what happened in a particular location. You will see a 3d holographic playback of what happened, and you will also be able to analyse certain aspects of the data to find out more vital information. It works in much in the same way that Batman from the Arkham games gets to use his Detective Vision. It’s a nice addition to the game and works in moving the story forward while you are watching the reconstructions.
If you want to add an extra challenge to the game, there is an option at the start that you can choose in relation to your operatives and that’s Permadeath. This feature turned on will cause you to permanently lose your operative when they die. It makes it more of a tactical choice when starting missions, as you may love using one of your operatives more than others, but with this option on, there is always that chance you could lose them forever. It can be turned off if you chose to but having it on is a nice way to balance out the games challenges and of course, that overcrowding Safe House.
The visuals in Watch Dogs: Legion are bright and vibrant at times, from the sun shining through the London Eye, and casting a shadow on the street below, to the neon signs in Piccadilly Circus refracting off the rain soaked streets, and back to the Westminster Abbey church with its holographic imagery rather than actual stained-glass windows. The city is a mix of traditional London blended with a near future aesthetic of technology that covers the buildings and buses you see in the streets.
The character models in Watch Dogs: Legion look incredibly detailed at times, especially the operatives you recurit into DedSec. While not everyone is given the same treatment, they are given enough variety to not feel like you are in a world of clones like most open-world games. The voice acting in the game is a bit hit and miss as well, with some of your operatives sounding like they have a few brain cells missing or that they are trying to come off funny, but are just cringy.
There is an online mode in Watch Dogs: Legion, however it’s not yet available and will launch on December 3rd and it’s a stand-alone online experience that brings the Play As Anyone innovation to the next level by letting players build their DedSec team online and fight back against the oppression together. Players will have the freedom to explore our near-future London alone or with their friends, recruit anyone and build the best co-op teams, work together to complete brand new missions or have fun with unique new game modes.
Free-roam open-world co-op where players can team up with their friends for up to four-player co-op and explore the city of London and participate in side activities.
New co-op missions for two-to-four players using new co-op gameplay mechanics and giving players the opportunity to recruit the perfect team.
Four-player co-op Tactical Ops missions which will require teamwork and efficiency.
The first available Player-vs-Player (PvP) mode, Spiderbot Arena, where players control armed Spiderbots and compete in a high intensity free-for-all death-match.
While this does sound like a lot of fun, I will try to temper my expectations, as in the previous Watch Dog titles, the online aspect wasn’t up to the task in terms of gameplay, matchmaking and overall presentation. A small negative, but still a negative all the same.
So, is Watch Dogs: Legion the perfect open-world game? Almost. Some of the characters you meet or that are apart of your DedSec team are cringy at times when they are trying to come off as funny. Their vocals with some of the characters accents are just downright cringy at times, when they are trying to come off as funny. A lot of the accents that they have in the game are really well done, but there are those few that just make you scratch your head and wonder why, oh god why. Also, like with the previous Watch Dogs titles, the driving is still not on par with the rest of the game and can feel a little skittish when you are turning. These are minor issues I’ve had, but it didn’t detract my enjoyment of the game too much. Hopefully, with the next-gen consoles coming out next month, it may resolve some of these issues, but who knows.
Watch Dogs: Legion is the game that I have been waiting for. It takes everything I loved about the hacking mechanics from first game, adds in the humour from the second and wraps it all up with a great story, beautiful visuals, and a great soundtrack! Watch Dogs: Legion for me has been an amazing experience and one that will only improve on PS5 and Xbox Series X this November!
While it’s not without it’s issues, it’s still a hell of a ride through the city of London!
GoG Rating: 9/10
**A copy of the game was provided by Ubisoft for the purpose of this review**