Ubisoft Montreal learned from its mistakes from the first game. They diverted away from the serious and depressing tone to something lively. Watch Dogs 2’s colorful, upbeat tone in terms of character and the location worked. However, Ubisoft Toronto took a step back, bringing this installment back to its gloomy roots as it sets towards the path of having DedSec as resistance fighters trying to free London from a private-military company known as Albion.
Watch Dogs Legion, for the most part, is cluttered, not knowing what to do but just wants to have everyone involved in one big propaganda; making character development non-existent as you don’t have a main playable protagonist, but rather make every walking NPC and convert them into your own arsenal of controllable people with little to no backstory or whatsoever.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the franchise, especially the second entry, Watch Dogs Legion, for some reason, is far off from what I’ve expected as a successor to Watch Dogs 2.
When you start a new game, you’re given a whole bunch of operatives to choose from and make him or her as your initial character. If you decide to go for a new campaign, the list of operatives aren’t the same. This gives you that non-scripted experience as Watch Dogs Legion tries to give you that sense of distinction. But at some point in my playthrough, I’ve managed to encounter the same exact character model — matching face, clothing, everything but with a different name. It gives me an impression Ubisoft Toronto made a tiny glitch, a fixable one, but if we look at a bigger picture, this is simply negligence; even if it only happened once, there’s still that possibility you might meet your doppelganger.
The shift in focus from concentrating on specific characters with personalities like Marcus Holloway to the “Play As Anyone” isn’t a direction I expected the franchise would take. Ubisoft Toronto wants to innovate the franchise by heading in this direction, that you could make anyone the main star of the story, it just doesn’t work for me.
The reason why I loved Watch Dogs is its diverse cast, you have the serious vengeful Aiden, an upbeat Marcus, and a pure anarchist like Wrench. Yet, it’s disappointing that Ubisoft Toronto took the path of having hundreds of characters with little detail of who they are without any substance instead of crafting a main character that we can adore and even relate to.
Sabine and the AI Bagley (pretty much like Tony Stark’s Jarvis) are the two most interesting characters in Watch Dogs Legion. They provide life to the game, and the characteristics that you want to see from DedSec members — witty, wise, determined, Ubisoft Toronto got this right at least. Without these two, Watch Dogs Legion would’ve been a game without endearing individuals.
While the plot is centered around the existence of the private military company Albion and how DedSec was framed for a terrorist attack, there’s nothing more to its story aside from taking down crime syndicates and stopping Albion overall. You don’t feel involved, rather, you’re simply an expendable soldier who just fights back against an evil corporation. Unlike Watch Dogs 2, it doesn’t make you feel that this crusade has a purpose.
Fortunately, the core gameplay of Watch Dogs still exists. Players will still have the basic form of hacking abilities from the very foundation of the franchise. You get to hack through personal details of each living character in London, control cameras thus switch from Cam 1 to Cam 10, raise roadblocks to stop enemies from chasing you, and even set up traps, everything is still there.
The hacking mini-games still feel great to solve. It doesn’t seem to be in the way of progress, but it still gives you that enjoyable freedom on how you approach a specific angle. I find myself not wanting to be inside a building to face off enemies, but would rather stay outside and let technology do all of the work.
Which makes me want to talk about the Spiderbot. I’ve had more fun controlling this araneae machine to infiltrate restricted buildings and areas than with the remote-controlled jumper from Watch Dogs 2. There’s this bad-ass feel to it and the way it moves, the Spiderbot can do many things when upgraded.
Furthermore, what gives the experience is huge boost are the specific traits and perks you get from your operatives. One might have specific faster tech cooldown capabilities so you could use your equipped tech again quickly, or even give you the option to wear a police offer or a construction worker outfit, there are operatives that could call in drones.
The amount of flexibility that you’ll have with all of your operatives can be endless. It gives you the freedom to do whatever you think is best for the situation. And the best thing too is that you can switch between operatives easily as you won’t be locked into a specific character when you’re already progressing through a mission.
Anyone in Watch Dogs Legion can be recruited as long as they support DedSec’s cause. These people have different sets of abilities that you can find useful during missions. But in your attempt to get these people to join your cause, you have to finish a side-mission to convince them to join up. These missions can vary from destroying an AI computer to getting shipments diverted. I find it enjoyable taking up these missions as they don’t tend to repeat every time I recruit someone new. There’s also a sense of fulfillment when you accomplish them.
As there are tons of people to recruit in London, there are also many things for you to do. These side-missions, called borough activities, are more of an activist movement where DedSec tries to regain the trust of London citizens to push their messages towards the government. Getting the Londoners’ approval of DedSec in a section of the country will you give you more cryptocurrency, ETO (the money they use in this near-future world), and uncommon skilled operatives that you could potentially recruit. To add, Tech Points can also be earned through finishing missions or by simply stealing them in specific areas available on your map. It’s fun trying to find and gather ETOs and Tech Points since you get the chance to encounter specific real-time scenarios such as Albion officers brutally assaulting citizens on the sidewalk that you can intervene.
I also love that you could do some side activities like doing tricks with a ball by pressing the right button, and plus the darts mini-game in pubs. You could even explore areas to find clothing shops that will sell you specific outfits. Let’s take Covent Garden, for example, you can buy high-end and business formal attire to get that James Bond look, or if you’re looking for something gothic then head your way to Camden High Street. The amount of small detail that was added to the game is something to appreciate.
The gunplay in Watch Dogs Legion holds the same level of quality that Watch Dogs 2 has. You can effectively hide behind covers, and the shooting feels great with your non-lethal DedSec pistol. The controls is something to praise as you could maneuver your drones and Spiderbots, however, the driving feels a little off. It seems like the issue of how clunky and floaty the driving mechanics were in the first Watch Dogs game is back. Every time you steer the wheel with your left analog stick, especially with fast cars, it’s unusually sensitive and absurd. They’ve fixed this in Watch Dogs 2, hopefully, Ubisoft Toronto can do the same in a future patch.
Visually speaking, Watch Dogs Legion looks like a downgrade of Watch Dogs 2. It doesn’t seem to have the same level of detail and graphical fidelity as the two Watch Dogs games when it comes to character models. You can notice the dull texture detail of the characters’ face, even the lipsync is off at times like the mouth is moving for the sake of moving. Plus, the surface reflections are grainy and horrible to look at.
However, what overshadows the lack of character detail and horrendous looking reflections is the fact that London looks absolutely great. This is where the effort of Ubisoft Toronto shows in recreating the country in a near-future setting. You can see the aftermath of the terrorist bombing and martial law. You will see protests in certain areas, even poor citizens living in tents on the sidewalks. It may not be as happy as San Francisco, you will feel the depression as you venture through the entire island, but it still looks stunning — graphically speaking.
Knowing that Watch Dogs Legion is best played on the PS5, how does it hold up on the current-generation PS4? It’s highly recommended you play the game on a PS4 Pro as it can give you better consistency with its framerate. I didn’t encounter any hiccups in terms of overall stability, but I do have a huge problem with the loading screens. It breaks the entire pace of the game as every time you get into a building for a mission, it puts you on a loading screen. If you get into the hideout, it puts you on a loading screen again. And when it takes time to load, this is when the frustration creeps up behind you.
Watch Dogs Legion tries so hard to innovate the franchise, but in doing so, it feels like a product that was either rushed or there was no love for it. Ubisoft Toronto did their best to give us a whole new Watch Dogs experience, but when the second installment of the franchise is the benchmark, it’s hard for me not to nitpick on these issues I find in the game. I love the franchise, but this isn’t the kind of innovation I’ve expected Watch Dogs to have.
Watch Dogs Legion – Review
We tell you, it’s a good game! It’s not average! It might have some problems here and there, but you have to admit it is a “Good” game.