Just to note before we get started, the multiplayer aspect of the game does not launch until December, so this review is entirely based on the single-player campaign. The game itself is due for release on October 29th and you can preorder Watch Dogs Legion now.
Now in its third game in the franchise, the Watch Dogs series got off to a shaky start with the first entry showcasing a lot of great ideas, but not quite sticking the landing to qualify as a stellar gaming experience. The second was much better and embraced the fun and absurdity of the concept, providing new additions and new quirks to make it an often silly but overall solid game with a lot more replay value.
So all eyes are now on Watch Dogs: Legion, a game that ups the ante with the storytelling and moves the setting to London - albeit a London that is much grimmer than the one we are used to. And I’m happy to report that Legion is a great deal of fun - even if there are certain key aspects of the game that stop it from being an outright classic.
London is now under the rule of Albion, a military organisation that has seized control of the city and turned it into a surveillance state. They did this by blowing up key areas of the city and framing our very own team at DedSec, and killing one of them, in the process. The aim of the game here is to work out who is responsible for the carnage and to take the city back - building DedSec back up and clearing their name in the process.
Watch Dogs: Legion quick verdict
A solid and enjoyable third entry in a franchise that embraces the silly aspect of the genre and runs with it more than ever. The game looks beautiful, particularly when playing on next-generation consoles while the gameplay is fun - if a little repetitive on occasion.
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For: Stellar graphics and fun gameplay with a story that is compelling and fun missions that have multiple ways you can choose to approach them.
Against: The game does feel a tad repetitive at times while the choice of who to play as does not work out quite as well as hoped, with some questionable voice acting from the playable characters at times, as well as some dodgy dialogue that lets the side down.
Watch Dogs: Legion narrative
The game takes an interesting approach to how it tells the story and how you navigate your way through it.
There are main characters here, but they exist to further the narrative rather than to serve as actual playable characters. Instead, you can essentially take your pick for who you want to play as from the whole of London. People who live in the city can be recruited to the DedSec cause and you can then play as those who you have been able to successfully sign up.
It’s a neat change to the formula, but it is not without its disadvantages. For one, it does not feel like you are fighting against the tide to start the rebellion when it seems that almost anyone and everyone is fair game to fight alongside you – even soldiers from the enemy group, Albion.
Not only that but while the voice acting is solid from the main characters that push the story along, it is not quite as strong from the random characters you spend the most time with. I found myself cringing at the vocals and the dialogue more than I was enjoying it, depending on who I was playing as, and the overabundance of swear words feels more juvenile than it does realistic at times (although there are some great British cuss words in the mix that did raise a smile at first).
As for the gameplay, happily, it remains a huge amount of fun - even if a repetitive feeling does seep in at times. Outside of the main missions, there are a ton of side quests to complete and you get one for every recruit you try to sign up. London, divided up into boroughs, can be brought into the fight through a series of sabotages of Albion equipment, and while these do on occasion feel same-y, there are some highlights - one of which being a drone attack on a propaganda-filled London Eye.
How does London look in Watch Dogs: Legion?
Speaking of London, the city looks fantastic and, happily, not glamorised. In fact, the graphics overall are stellar, even on an older console and they spring to life even more when played on a next-generation device.
This is a dystopian version of the city, but it resembles the London we all know - good and bad. Even the weather here is typically British with rain being prominent on many occasions and puddles to run through on the pavement. Driving around the city is fine if a little unrefined. Vehicle control lacks the smoothness you would hope for, particularly when compared to something like GTA. That being said, being able to control other vehicles from behind the wheel of your own car so they swerve out of your way never stops being fun. (Not that you need to drive that far as the handy tube network acts as your fast travel system and there are enough scattered about that you will never end up too far from where you want to go.)
The missions themselves are elevated by the numerous ways that you can choose to go about completing them. Being part of DedSec gives you access to numerous gadgets to hack your way through a multitude of locations and they all have their quirks. You can control a security drone to scope out an area, even inside, and even hack devices remotely while using it. Then there is the robotic spider which was my go-to tool. It’s incredibly handy to have this upgraded as not only can it open doors and turn off security gates but eventually, you can cloak it with the use of skill points so you can slip by guards undetected.
Some missions are more frustrating than they need to be. Recruiting someone who works at the location you want to infiltrate should be a nice simple way of going about things. Instead, for some reason, if you get too close to enemies, they somehow know just by looking at you that you have turned and this aspect ended up being more frustrating than enjoyable - happily, this does not crop up too often in the campaign.
A lot of the campaign missions do have a habit of repeating what came before with an over-reliance on a puzzle-solving mechanism that quickly wears out its welcome. But for the most part, the choice of how you go about completing the missions is yours and I tried to make sure I used different approaches where possible which kept it feeling fresh.
Collecting the data packs to spend on tech is a must too as there is so much you can do, ranging from interfering with enemy mics so you can creep past them undetected and even jamming their weapons if you are caught up in a dangerous firefight and need to buy yourself a few seconds. All of these make sure that you have many options available to you when it comes to completing missions in stealth mode. That being said, if you want to just go in guns blazing and take out everyone inside then you can do that too - just be on the lookout for the weaponised drones that can at times overwhelm you.
Combat itself is simple yet effective. You have many weapons you can choose from and the point-and-fire mechanism is uncomplicated and enjoyable - and super satisfying to pull off a headshot (that does not always kill an enemy outright if you are up against one of the tougher ones). Hand-to-hand is perhaps less fun though. There is not that sense of satisfaction in fighting someone using your fists and it can be a tad frustrating - although the final takedown move that triggers if you get an opponent's health low enough is good fun.
How good is the Watch Dogs: Legion Story?
The story itself is an enjoyable one with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing right up to the end - and some unexpected curveballs that push the narrative into directions that I did not see coming. The seriousness of the plot does not detract from the fun that is embedded into almost every aspect of the game - the absurdity of what you can do with the tech that you have is not distracting as it feels like the game knows how silly it is and runs with it.
You also have a snippy AI, Bagley, who keeps talking to you throughout and he is one of the funniest aspects of it all - providing some of the most amusing one-liners I’ve heard while playing a campaign in quite some time. Let's have him back for Watch Dogs 4, please.
Even once you have finished the campaign there is still so much to do that you could easily sink multiple hours into these side-tasks. From taking part in a fighting ring to a football skill trick game that is far more challenging than it should be, Watch Dogs: Legion is littered with activities and fun things to sink your teeth into. And for fans of Assassin’s Creed, the links to that game do not end with a playable assassin. There is, at least, one other Easter egg relating to that franchise that was delightful - completely taking me by surprise and putting a huge grin on my face, something that Watch Dogs Legion did many times as I was working my way through it.
Overall, Watch Dogs: Legion is a solid third entry in the series and easily the best and the most ambitious the franchise has given us yet. Like Watch Dogs 2, this builds on what was there before and adds a ton of new features and quirks that make this a solid and enjoyable experience, a game well worth picking up for those who already love the franchise and for those who are debating trying it out for the first time. It may not be perfect, but it is, mostly, one hell of a good time.
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