Watch Dogs Legion review: A solid game with unfulfilled potential
Watch Dogs Legion promises to reinvigorate a series begging to become the absolute must-have game. The newest sequel introduces some never-before-seen mechanics and makes for a tantalizing proposition. Whilst some of these new features aren’t fully realized here, the game is a step in the right direction for the series.
Now that the game – first shown off back at E3 2019 – is finally here, we’ve been able to get our hands on the new multi-protagonist system. The game’s promotion heavily insinuated that you can essentially create your own narrative. You’re not constricted by set characters and compulsory heroes.
Do you want a bartender to be London’s savior? Ubisoft is literally nodding in approval.
Watch Dogs Legion has some big shoes to fill, based on all of its advertised freedom. It definitely delivers in some aspects of the game as it can be a lot of fun. Conversely, other areas also leave a lot to be desired in the grand scheme of things. A few refinements here and there and Watch Dogs could be heading towards a bright future.
Let’s take a proper look at the game with our Watch Dogs Legion review.
Watch Dogs Legion Review
- Copy: Watch Dogs Legion (PS4)
- Price: $49.99/£51.99 – Amazon
- Developer: Ubisoft
- Release Date: October 29
- Platforms: PS4/ Xbox One/PC
The game quite literally gets off to an explosive start.
One moment the Houses of Parliament are about to be blown up, the next second some of London actually is blowing up. It’s made immediately clear that the MO is to frame the elite hacker group – DedSec – as the perpetrators.
Following these tragic events, the aftermath is dominated by DedSec’s purported crimes and exile. We also learn of London’s key defenders, Albion. A private military company run by ruthless leader – Nigel Cass. Albion’s continual pushing of anti-DedSec propaganda is being used to hide the truth.
It’s immediately evident how much control Albion has, as you can’t go anywhere without seeing their logo. It’s plastered all over London’s famous landmarks such as Big Ben, the London Eye, and even Buckingham Palace.
The story is probably one of the weaker areas of Watch Dogs Legion, it has to be said. Instead of focusing on one key villain, the game essentially has four of them. They don’t really get enough screen time to last long in the memory. Nigel Cass has an interesting backstory and so does another villain introduced later in the game.
The other villain is the most fascinating one of all but is pretty much scrubbed away in the blink of an eye. It left me feeling a bit flat and underwhelmed.
The story’s mix of supposed terrorism and counter-terrorism is cool enough and works well as a concept, but the writing just feels a bit undercooked.
It was an unusual experience picking one character, of many, to start the game.
Watch Dogs Legion is all about recruiting an army of people that want to fight for the oppressed. Gathering lots of frustrated onlookers that are tired of being under Albion’s thumb and want their identity back.
But in order to have an army, you need to create one.
Your first DedSec recruit could literally be a former soldier, a games developer, or even a social influencer. Each person comes with their own specialist skills, passive abilities, weapons, and even vehicles. You could opt for a commando armed to the teeth, or go for someone that has an expensive car you can access anytime.
Whomever you choose gets taken through a brief tutorial culminating in a fight with a former boxer. It’s understandable that video games need people to suspend their disbelief at times. However, some average joe suddenly becoming a technical whizz, toppling a former professional fighter, and expertly wielding firearms is somewhat absurd.
Every person in Watch Dogs Legion is supposedly unique, and it does appear that way.
Roaming around the game you will see all manner of people with various occupations. Each individual’s role will usually tie-in to their characteristics. For example, you can recruit an accountant that can boost the ETO you earn – the game’s currency. Or a medic that reduces the recovery time for teammates.
The premise sounds great in principle, but when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, the issues arise. It’s great having this level of freedom, but the truth is that there’s not much incentive to do so. Once that wave of liberty dissipates, you’ll become grounded again and probably stick to the same two or three members.
You don’t level people up and the game never pushes you to use multiple DedSec recruits at a time. Meaning, once you’ve picked out your favorites, the rest will inevitably gather dust in the corner.
Hacking and gadgets
Hacking is the game’s niche and forte.
It’s generally quick, easy, and accessible. Most things can be hacked from drones to doors, to weapons themselves. Some of the game’s best moments are provided by the hacking system. The calculated puzzles return from the previous two games, offering a series of broken circuits that need to be rectified.
Furthermore, the Spiderbot gadget is used quite frequently in Watch Dogs Legion. They help to infiltrate buildings, distract enemies and provide some genuinely fun platforming sections. You literally get to scale the innards of Big Ben in one, long, wonderful section of jumping and timing. This climb is exhilarating and is one of the coolest things seen in gaming this year!
It doesn’t stop there, though, there are plenty more abilities and gadgets to unlock and upgrade. You do so by finding and earning Tech Points. This in turn provides the player with many choices including new weapons, increased invisibility cloak capabilities, and turning drones against the enemy.
Be warned, you can only equip one gadget at a time, and if you’re in a restricted area or in combat, you won’t be able to change your ability to suit the situation. This oversight is quite startling and counterintuitive to the game’s idea of openness and freedom.
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But otherwise, there’s plenty of room to maneuver with regards to abilities and equipment.
However, the game’s core is littered with issues that really hamper the overall experience.
For instance, the A.I is glitchy. Enemies will journey on their predetermined patrol path and suddenly start ragdolling and zigzagging. Enemies, and civilians, can randomly climb objects and fall off them again. Guns can appear active, but not be visible. Plus, the physics are very janky too as character models can appear inside of each other and clothes will frequently pierce the body.
Missions and side missions
Let’s move onto how you’ll be spending your time in Watch Dogs Legion.
There are plenty of missions and side missions for you to sink your teeth into. There are also a handful of mini-games to engage in such as Bareknuckle Fighting, Darts, and doing Keepy-Ups. Also, there are multiple boroughs in London and they are each controlled by Albion’s presence. It’s your goal to reduce this intrusion by causing an uprising through anarchistic means.
This can include destroying propaganda or taking out key targets. Completing the objectives in an area unlocks a final mission with successful completion resulting in the borough becoming defiant. It will net you cool rewards in the process. And as with every modern, open-world game, there are many collectibles for you to obtain too.
It’s a shame that for a game with so many possibilities, the missions largely become stifled by creativity. The early dopamine buzz can wear off pretty quickly and you start to see the game’s laziness. It seems like more attention went into incorporating the “use every NPC” selling-point. Resulting in a lack of care and polish for the missions themselves.
So often the missions end up becoming about hacking your way into a building and then leaving it at the end. That can honestly be applied to at least half of the missions in the game. Which is disappointing given how memorable the odd mission can actually be.
Bringing down a laser defense system by guiding microdrones through a series of tight obstacles is fun. Defending the London Eye using a badass drone to fend off other badass drones is fun. Endlessly hacking into buildings and downloading data is not fun.
It also doesn’t help that the game isn’t one, connected city. A few areas are guarded by dreaded loading screens. But these loading times are atrocious and can venture into the 30-40 second territory.
Which isn’t really good for a late-gen PS4 game.
Arguably the best thing about Watch Dogs Legion is its jaw-dropping graphics.
Ubisoft rarely fails to deliver top-notch visuals for their sandboxes, and they’ve delivered once again. The intricate detail that’s gone into this recreation of London is astonishing. It’s genuinely possible to become lost in this game by driving around for hours and just exploring.
It’s to your benefit to pilot a cargo drone and fly around the city, identifying famous spots. It never gets old seeing the Shard needling up towards the sky or Westminster Abbey standing imperiously near the Thames. It’s a wonder that no one else has thought to recreate London to this degree. But Ubisoft has done an excellent job doing so.
The rain is exquisite, the attention to detail in the iconic city’s graffiti is a marvel, and it’s the small details that make the game’s eye-candy pop. Smaller touches are noticeable such as people entering and exiting their houses too.
It’s also hard not to drool over the draw-distance at times and is a reminder of how far games have come. Even when you reach the outer boundaries of London, there are still buildings for miles to see.
First and foremost, DedSec’s AI companion – Bagley – has to be a contender for character of the year.
Bagley represents the somewhat stereotypical nature of English people in that he’s very deadpan. He constantly chirps in with funny and witty lines and he’s very brazen. His personality brightly shines and completely juxtaposes the rest of the game’s controllable characters. Whilst the antagonists and DedSec NPC’s have their own identity, no one else seems to.
In comparison to Bagley, the controllable character’s dialogue comes across as half-baked, generic, and lazy.
The game’s single, streamlined radio station features a nice mix of music for you to listen to at least. Whether it’s Stormzy, the hard-hitting instruments of Bring Me The Horizon, or the chilling brilliance of Mozart, there’s plenty to appease a wider audience.
Watch Dogs Legion review | Verdict: 7.5/10
It’s hard not to feel a bit disappointed by Watch Dogs Legion overall. It’s anything but a bad game, but it crumbles under the weight of expectation.
There’s plenty of joy to be had with the game, though. Hacking is spot on and continues to be one of the series’ strengths. London, the graphics, and Bagley are worth the price of admission alone.
The issues plaguing this game are not that devastating, as bugs/issues can always be patched out. The story missteps are a sore point as this could’ve been Ubisoft’s best tale to date. Additionally, the ‘control everyone’ mechanic is a welcome feature that just needs fleshing out and refinement.
Watch Dogs Legion is a game worth playing. If a few of these issues are addressed, then we’ve no doubt that Watch Dogs can still compete with the leading games in the open-world battle.
Reviewed on PS4