I wasn’t sure what to expect from Watch Dogs: Legion, but now after a few hours of playing around with a near-final version of the game a week ago, I discovered it’s a variety of my favorite genres wrapped in what could be one of the most compelling gaming experiences of 2020.
At times, Watch Dogs: Legion feels like a collection of “best of” moments from other Ubisoft games, like Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. And with Creative Director Clint Hawking (Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, Far Cry 2) at the helm, it’s no coincidence that some of that game DNA is present here as well.
Namely, there’s a massive, incredibly detailed city of London for you to dive into, featuring a multifaceted story that includes a mix of government conspiracies, corporate overreach, and gangs of hackers – and that’s just in the first few hours of the game. All of this is in addition to some solid shooting, driving, platforming, and melee combat give you a compelling open world to live in. Oh, and you can play as anyone. Yep, anyone.
As a member of the hacker resistance group DeadSec, your primary goal from what we’ve seen is to uncover the mastermind behind the Zero Day terror attack that has rocked London and framed your group of hacker buddies. To clear your name, you are going to need a crew. You have likely seen one of the game’s more unique aspects, the recruitment feature, in action.. In that, every NPC in the game can become a playable character, each with their own unique traits, skills, and perks.
Prefer playing stealth games? Assemble a crew that specializes in cloaking, hacking, and subterfuge. Like action games? Look for characters that specialize in weapons, explosives, and combat. Being able to put together a crew that compliments your playstyle, in addition to what is needed to overcome a variety of mission parameters, is what will give this game legs long after release on October 29. Legion really does give you the choice to play how you want (and with who you want) and I was pleased to see how well this feature sticks the landing here.
On top of configuring and playing as anybody, the mission design and variety, from my experience in the early going, was open-ended in how you are able to approach and complete your goals. Objectives remained the same in some instances (hack this terminal, scan these objects, retrieve this spider-bot…), but how you get there is tied to your crew and your preferred approach, such as sneaking by or beating up guards or hacking cameras to help bypass locks.
All of this is just a few hours into the main game. I can only imagine how much more mission variety will appear later as you upgrade abilities and specializations. Will it rely on your ability to find the perfect crew member, or will it really let you approach missions as you see fit, utilizing Tech upgrades like AR Shroud (cloak bodies from view) for those who want to ghost their way through the game? All questions I’m looking forward to answering in the final release.
One of your biggest tools in Watch Dogs: Legion is the ability to hack a variety of electronic interfaces in the world, indicated by a thin white line the juts out from your phone and shifts from object to object based on your perspective. I loved using this throughout my session, either by sending memes to a guard’s phone allowing me to sneak by them, hacking cameras to set off explosives, or raising a barricade in the middle of the street to help ditch the cops on my tail. This hacking ability can also be used to profile people on the street for recruitment to DeadSec (i.e. your crew). By looking them up on your phone, you’ll discover if they’re sympathetic to your cause, making them much easier for recruitment. If they’re not, there may be something you can do to help bring them to your cause, like breaking into a precinct and clearing their arrest record as one general example.
From a tech perspective, I was really impressed by both the level of world detail and how seamless it all felt, as I would transition from DeadSec’s hideout to walking on the street to driving a car, all the way through to controlling a tiny spider-bot in air vents to break into a police lab. It was all very impressive, although I did find it amusing just how many terminals, drones, and cameras there were in the city for me to interact with. But that’s London, I suppose.
A tremendous open world to interact with and a seemingly unlimited number of playable characters, matched up with a compelling revenge narrative to play through, sets the stage for what could be an incredibly immersive and unique experience to play through when Watch Dogs: Legion launches later this month on October 29.
Watch Dogs: Legion