I’ve always been a fan of the Watch Dogs series (and yes, that includes the original game and Aiden Pearce), but I was a little apprehensive going into Watch Dogs: Legion. Whilst the game has looked pretty sweet in previews and the London setting ticks plenty of boxes for me, the idea of not having a single protagonist just felt weird and a bit gimmicky on paper.
Well, now that I’ve blasted through the campaign, seen all corners of London, and played as a TON of different characters, I’m happy to report that the idea of multiple protagonists that you can recruit just works REALLY well and makes for a fun and varied experience. Sure, it does come at the expense of the narrative a little (more on that later), but gameplay-wise Watch Dogs: Legion really is something special.
In previous titles in the Watch Dogs series, we’ve seen Deadsec establish themselves as a worldwide hacking collective that want to expose the greed and corruption found across the bustling corporations that rule the roost. They’ve been a group that normal everyday folk can root for, regardless of the semi-illicit activities they might be involved in… one thing’s for sure and that’s that they are definitely not seen as the bad guys.
Unfortunately, that changes in Watch Dogs: Legion’s London settingwhen they are framed for a terrorist attack that they didn’t commit, causing an authoritarian mercenary force known as Albion to take control of the city through force and discrimination. This sees a rise in some of the ‘normal’ folk of London who want to make a difference though, with individuals pooling their skills together and forming as one group to bring down Albion and return the great city to the people. Deadsec’s reputation may well be tarnished, but that doesn’t stop them from fighting the good fight.
Ubisoft have been parading the fact that players can take control of ANYONE in Watch Dogs: Legion for a long time now, with this entry in the series not giving you a typical protagonist such as Aiden or Marcus but instead offering a large group that bring with them different skills. One might be a good fighter, one might be sneaky, one might be tech savvy, or one might be able to control bees (seriously) – either way, they all offer a completely different way to approach each mission that allows you to either cater to your playstyle or simply have fun potching around with all of the different skillsets to see what works best.
Of course, you don’t have these people available from the word go, but instead have to recruit them whilst exploring London’s streets. Just about anyone you encounter can be recruited and you can assess their skillsets ahead of time to see what they benefits they will actually bring – all it takes is a press of a button and you’ll profile potential allies as you pass them. There’s a surprising amount of information on offer when profiling them too, with things such as their skills, weapons, and alignment on show, making it easier for players to learn if they’ll be easy to sway to your cause or if it will take a bit more work (or even if you want to bother recruiting them at all). And heck, if someone is AGAINST DeadSec, there’s even a way to find out how they tick and what motivates them, making them easier to convert to the cause.
These often result in recruitment missions, which see you having to do a little something-something for someone before they’re willing to return the favour. More often than not, these tasks are pretty straightforward and see you just beat someone up or do a little bit of hacking, but there are times where you’ll have to do a little bit more work to get someone on your side. Either way, these missions are always enjoyable to complete and add an extra dose of personality to each potential recruit, even if some will start to repeat as you spend more and more hours with the game.
Recruiting characters is a really neat concept and it’s something I had a lot of fun doing as I progressed through Watch Dogs: Legion’s story. Whilst I’ll admit that I do generally prefer to have one lead protagonist to follow in an open-world adventure, there was something revitalising about the game’s approach that ensured that your skillset never grew stale as you approached each different mission. The game deserves credit for offering plenty of diversity in its mission design too, with each one catering for the different play styles that each character brings – there’s no right or wrong way to approach them, whether you’re power-housing your way through, hacking devices to cause distractions, or simply sneaking past enemies by blending in… each one allows you to genuinely play however you want to. It’s a lot of fun.
Your main goal throughout these missions is to liberate London and take down the different factions that plague its streets. Much like other open-world titles, there are plenty of smaller tasks you can perform to ruffle the feathers of your enemies, whether it’s by performing a few hijinks through hacking or simply destroying the advertising materials that they use to push their cause, with each pissing off your enemies that little bit more to open up more substantial hits to take against them. It’s the sort of thing that players have done plenty of in the past, both in the Watch Dogs series and other open-world titles, so don’t expect anything too innovative here – even if the tasks themselves are fun to perform.
Aside from expanding your team of operatives, you can also earn tech points to ensure the gadgets and gear at your disposal is of the finest quality – it’s something you’ll definitely want to invest in if you like using things such as drones, hacking tools, or the spider-bots (trust me, you’ll DEFINITELY have fun with those). There are plenty of little side tasks to dive into if you want a diversion from progressing through the story or recruiting too, with the player able to stop at a pub for a pint and a game of darts, partake in some bare knuckle brawling, or even help out grime superstar Stormzy if they want. There’s certainly plenty to dive into in the game and it just helps strengthen the experience as a whole.
What really helps set Watch Dogs: Legion apart from those other open-world titles is its London setting, and yes, I do have a bit of bias there seeing as I am a Brit who has been to the city on more occasions than I can count. It’s absolutely fascinating being able to explore this unique futuristic take on the United Kingdom’s capital, with plenty of familiar sights and landmarks given a tech-orientated twist to make you feel like you’re really in this dystopian version of the city where things have taken an unwelcome turn. If you’ve been to London before and seen things such as Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, or Leicester Square, you’ll have a REALLY fun time simply driving around and taking in the sights. Heck, I’ve even seen some players find the offices where they work in the game, which shows the authenticity of the city itself.
It’s worth mentioning that it all manages to look fantastic too, even on current-gen hardware. Whilst I’ll admit that some of the playable characters could get a bit samey in appearance and often lacked the detail of the story-focused allies or enemies, the city itself was wondrous in design and a real sight to behold. I cannot WAIT to see how it looks on the PlayStation 5…
Whilst the gameplay and London setting of Watch Dogs: Legion is top notch throughout, there were some shortcomings that were a little difficult to ignore.
For one, the lack of a typical protagonist meant that some story sequences just felt a bit… well… weird. There are so many different characters to be played as at any given time and they bring with them their own voices and unique lines of dialogue, but sometimes this didn’t translate well to the narrative-driven sequences. It left some conversations feeling unnatural and detached their presence from the overall sense of progress, especially when you swap between characters on such a regular basis. It’s an idea that works brilliantly from a gameplay perspective, but story-wise? It lacks that sense of consistency and character.
There were a few technical flaws too, such as the long load times that came when performing simple tasks such as switching characters or travelling between locales. Whilst this definitely won’t be a problem for gamers who decide to stick to the PlayStation 5 version of the game with its sexy SSD, you can expect to be left twiddling your thumbs or checking social media on your phone on more than a few occasions throughout the game’s roughly twenty-hour runtime.
Oddly, I also came across a couple of crashes, but nothing game-breaking. It’s never fun to be sent back to the dashboard and forced to boot the game up again, but I rarely saw much progress lost because of it and it didn’t stop me actually moving forward through the story… it was more of a minor annoyance that happened two or three times for no apparent reason. A patch has been issued in the mean time and I haven’t come across any crashes since, so HOPEFULLY that has fixed the issues.
Watch Dogs: Legion was a lot of fun to play, with its multi-character approach to gameplay and its cleverly-crafted missions making for a fine open-world adventure. There was something undeniably satisfying about recruiting all-new allies for your cause, whilst exploring the magnificent London setting itself and toying about with your hacking abilities never stopped being enjoyable. There’s just so much to do and see… it’s a blast to uncover it all.
That’s not to say there weren’t some flaws though, with the lack of a main character in the story sequences making for some odd moments. There were some technical issues too, with long load times and the occasional crash causing issues throughout.
Fortunately, they weren’t enough of a problem to deter from what Watch Dogs: Legion does best: offer a brilliant world to explore that’s full of fun missions that you can approach HOWEVER you please. It took an idea that felt unique to the genre and did something genuinely worthwhile and innovative with it, and it has really paid off dividends in the final product. Whether you want a last hurrah for your current-gen consoles or are looking ahead to the launch of next-gen, Watch Dogs: Legion should definitely be on your radar.
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC