With a game that was advertised to allow you to take control of any NPC you like and have an arsenal of hacking gadgets at your disposal, you’d think it would be consistently fun, but sadly Watch Dogs Legion falls short of the mark.
On this premise, Watch Dogs Legion should be way more enjoyable than it actually is, especially following on from Watch Dogs 2, which personally I really enjoyed. Maybe it’s the lack of an actual ‘main character’ as you just kind of flit between a number of operatives, but the characters just sometimes feel flat and uninspired. Using your phone, you analyse NPC’s to decide whether they are viable to join your cause in which you can determine if their skills fit the bill and if they’d bring anything useful to your operations team, which sounds like it should be enjoyable right? Being whoever you want to be in an open world Post Brexit London should be a good time, but for me it just feels kind of dull. It sort of just feels like Ubisoft are flexing that you can play whoever you want, but then the game itself gives you very little reason to do so. The gadgets each operative come equipped with can be pretty cool to use, one of them being a Spider Bot, which is small enough to access vents, sneak through enemies mostly undetected, providing you don’t linger too close to them and can hack certain objects for you which may be out of your human reach.
I much preferred the previous 2 entries, where you take control of Adrian Pearce and Marcus Holloway, and you could build up their techniques and characteristics to make them a fully fledged and fleshed out. To me this feels much more rewarding than just rotating between a number of different characters. This felt very impersonal and didn’t really inspire me to want to get to know them per say.
With all that being said, the open world itself is very delightful to explore. Like any standard open world game, there are a variety of collectibles, many vehicles you can hijack and gorgeous scenery to embrace which makes for a very good time. If you’re a Londoner yourself, or are just very familiar with the area, it’s amazing to see the Landmarks recreated in this world, even if they are plastered with neon lights and ‘Severe Terrorist Threat’ signs. The hacking itself can be quite fun and quirky too, like for example, you’ve caused a scene and you’re being chased by the police right? You can hack road barriers while you are driving so that they raise and create an obstruction, giving you plenty of time to make a get away, provided you like the driving mechanics in this title, but that’s something else I will cover later on in this review. If you take the time to look above, you will be greeted with an abundance of drones, be that security CCTV drones which watch the moves of every resident in London.. (think Big Brother style) or you will see cargo drones which can sometimes carry loot for you to use at your disposal. Provided your selected operative has the correct skills, they can also request in cargo drones and then ride on them to reach the more out of arms length locations. Fancy a trip to the top of Big Ben anyone?
Okay, so like I just previously mentioned, the driving. Oh boy.. I’m not saying it is awful, and it is definitely an improvement on the driving of the first Watch Dogs game, and the driving from Watch Dogs 2 has been slightly improved on, but personally I felt the vehicles were too, drifty? If you catch my drift. (Puns for days) None of them felt like they had any weight behind them and I often found myself being flung off my motorbike due to the handling. The game does the usual thing of using the controller triggers to accelerate or decelerate, but the driving just felt light and not too in control. Vehicles do give you the option of ‘Auto Drive’ which does mean the drifting driving issue does go away, but the auto speed is super slow. But if you don’t fancy driving or walking, you can always put faith in your trusty Oyster card and take the tube! But be prepared for what can feel like some pretty excessive waiting on the loading times. I hope that the free next gen upgrade will provide the player with smoother load times and less buggy gameplay.
Being from the UK myself, I’ve been to London my fair share of times, and let me tell you, the accents are definitely not executed well in game. The dialogue at times can be really corny and cringe so mixing that with what sounds like a pretty low budget London accent – yikes! I don’t like to admit it, but I found myself laughing more at the writing than what I did laughing along with it, so again throw that in with some pretty miss timed lip syncing and it all just looks a bit lazy.
In conclusion, Watch Dogs Legion is just a mindless bit of fun. If you’re not too worried about cringe writing and sometimes poorly executed mechanics, then it can be tons of fun to explore Pre Pandemic London. There are challenges scattered around the districts, such as football keep me ups, bare knuckle fight challenges and so on. These can be fun to discover and complete, and can provided your selected operative with perks and clothing. By all means, I did not have an awful time with Watch Dogs Legion, but it just wasn’t as polished as it could have been. I really liked and appreciated that they were going with something different with the ‘play as whoever you want’ gameplay, but it just felt unnecessary. I didn’t find myself switching between operatives much at all as the one I had selected to play could do everything I needed to complete a mission. The missions themselves feel very rinse and repeat.. sneak into this restricted area, hack some terminals for insider information, escape the area and so on and so forth. It all feels very recycled.
I am looking forward to seeing how it looks and runs on a PS5 in a couple of weeks, but as I’ve said above, the world itself is pretty gorgeous already. If you’re a fan of the Watch Dogs series like I am, you may find yourself agreeing with me that it is the most lack lustre edition to the franchise, which really is a shame.