We Are Legion
Watch Dogs: Legion is a strange sequel. It gets rid of so many things that made Watch Dogs what it is, yet it somehow works. Gone is the city full of pedestrians who report you for a crime. Instead, you are surrounded by much simpler AI interactions that lend to a more enjoyable playground. Issues with the story and writing keep Legion from matching the best in the genre. However, the gameplay presents one of the most fun sandboxes I can remember in an open world game.
Gone are the days of the main protagonist. Instead, you will be rebuilding London’s Ded-sec hacker team by recruiting “anyone and everyone”. The team at Ubisoft Toronto has gone to great lengths to offer a variety of different potential recruitments. Procedurally generated citizens are everywhere, and at any time you can attempt to get them to join the cause. After a mysterious group called Zero Day has framed Ded-sec for a series of deadly bombings throughout the city, an organization known as Albion replaces the local authorities and puts the populace under a highly intrusive surveillance state. Story beats tend to be formulaic and the tech the developers used to differentiate the small pool of voiceover work for the recruited characters occasionally is a complete mismatch. Faces seem to be re-used quite often as well, resulting in one cutscene starring two characters—who were just meeting for the first time—with identical faces and hair.
Your Own Personal Brigade
Overall the system works well enough, as you get a nice variety to the recruits you’ll find or be rewarded with. One of the meta goals of the campaign is to rally the people to become defiant of Albion, and each separate part of the game’s map will reward you with a special type of recruit that is hard to find out and about. My personal favorite was a professional hitman who looked like Agent 47 and had a thick Eastern European accent. There are a large number of positive and a few negative traits that can be randomly generated for your potential recruits. Things such as “faster hacking” or “unlimited range on stealing data keys” can be quite useful, while “randomly passes gas” or “doomed” (a passive that randomly kills your character) are certainly not. By the time I was halfway through the story, I had a diverse team of 20 recruits that I was able to switch between on the fly—as long as I wasn’t in combat or a restricted area.
Hack the Planet… with Guns!
You have a small arsenal of non-lethal weaponry which I tended to stick with. Available are a pistol, SMG, shotgun, and grenade launcher that all have a fairly generous ammo supply. Certain characters do have lethal weaponry available to them, but if you kill too often you are subject to losing recruits to kidnappings as their bad deeds have not gone unnoticed. Other tech you have available is more familiar to fans of the franchise. A large assortment of drones, turrets, and specially crafted tools flesh out the tech system in a satisfyingly diverse way. You will need to find the tech power caches throughout the city if you want to have an easier go of things as you progress through the story—but I never felt forced into any upgrade path to get the job done.
The gunplay feels solid with a generous auto-aim and lock-on mechanics for any sidearm. Melee combat is serviceable but not spectacular. There is a small pool of fighting animations, and you will see them a lot if you choose to end your fights with fisticuffs instead of a gun. I started the game on normal difficulty but bumped it up after a few hours as most combat situations were far too easy after getting a couple of items upgraded. AI is nothing special, as no matter how many you have killed, you can always break line of sight and hide for a minute to get them to completely reset. This part of the game ends up feeling similar to the Hitman series. The computer is there for you to mess with and have fun—and almost every mechanic from the first few games that would keep you from having fun has either been removed or toned down considerably.
Hack the Planet! (for real this time)
Hacking is still one of the biggest parts of the game and you will be jumping between cameras a few thousand times before the credits roll. Holding down the left bumper will bring up a contextual menu depending on what you are targeting and a quick tap will do a specified action such as “hack” when looking at a camera or “disable” when looking at a drone. One of the most useful by far is the disrupt move you can unlock for people you are targeting; it makes them an instant takedown target for an extended period of time. Large cargo drones are all around the city and these can be climbed onto and then hijacked allowing you to fly (very slowly) anywhere your eyes can see.
A Beautiful Recreation of London
Graphically the game is beautiful on the Xbox One X, not so much on the One S. Performance is steady on the X with slowdown being rare but not completely absent. On the One S, however, it is both low resolution and a stuttering mess. The old hardware is really showing its age here and I hope they can patch it up post-release to at least be acceptable. We will have coverage of the next-gen versions of the game at and around launch. From what I’ve seen in the pre-release footage, it appears that any issues with texture quality or performance are gone and the ray-tracing looks fantastic.
The soundtrack is solid with a mix of musical genres when you are in a vehicle. Annoyingly, you can no longer use music or your phone at all while walking around. A lot of the previous game was streamlined in a good way, but these are choices I did not like. It was jarring to go back to Watch Dogs 2 and see just how much functionality was stripped away. There is DLC planned and the Gold Edition that Ubisoft generously provided with us will allow me to see if the returning characters from Watch Dogs 1 and 2 add much value. This review is only for the campaign for now, as the multiplayer mode is due to be released as post-launch content on December 3rd, 2020. A variety of cooperative missions are planned along with one PvP bot vs. bot fighting arena mode. I did not play a lot of Watch Dogs 2 multiplayer content, but with the sandbox presented I could see it being a fair bit of fun with some close friends.
Watch Dogs: Legion is an incredibly fun game to play. It is brought down by its mediocre writing and hit-or-miss voice acting. Bugs in the Xbox One version of the game were mostly rectified by a launch day patch, but I still had the game crash on me twice in the roughly 10 hours I have played since then. If you were a fan of the gameplay of Watch Dogs 1 and 2 then you will love Legion, but be ready for a lesser story in comparison to 2. If you have never played either but the idea of being a legion of hacktivists that take it to the man sounds intriguing, then I can easily recommend this game.
Reviewed on Xbox One X