Very few games can do what the Watch Dogs: Legion can. The freedom to how you approach missions is seen in other games as well, but it somehow feels very different when you play Legion.
That’s no thanks to the fanciest trick in Ubisoft’s arsenal, converting any and every NPC into playable, and likeable characters. It’s intriguing and recruiting is as natural as our human curiosity. I always wanted to know which character will best fit for a mission and make sure they’re equipped to carry out my stealthy plans or just go in guns blazing. Unlike other games where you have skill trees or even faction/class/race differences separating your approach to missions, here you can arm a 60-year-old gran with an automatic rifle or send in a gadget-loving Spy straight out of a Bond movie.
Ubisoft’s games that have anything to do with guns and drones usually have the same story running in the backline. An evil corporation has taken over and now you must now stand against it by uniting people or forming your own army. It’s the equivalent of anime protagonists that have a traumatic childhood and must overcompensate to lead the story. Been there, done that.
I won’t get into the details of the story but as you progress through missions, Legion starts to make a mark of its own. It’s a good story but not the best. Enough to separate it from Ubisoft’s own Division and Ghost Recon series that have had a similar formula in recent years.
Legion is set in a near-future London where flying drones are littered in the sky and the world is on the cusp of shifting from the old to the new. It’s not your replace-everything-with-a-cybernetic kind of crazy but it’s getting there.
The world around you is filled with holographs and gun-mounted drones. And the evil corporation called Albion has deployed a personal army with standard firearms and drones to keep Londoners from pub fights, football fanaticism and dissent.
What holds this game together is the fantastic sentient AI called Bagley. Pascal Langdale has done one of the best voice actings I have seen in years. The AI is genuinely funny and it always keeps you entertained throughout the game.
It’s also fascinating to see how a character within a game was able to add so much flavour and depth with just voice alone. And it doesn’t just end there. Each and every character you see on the street is done with proper voice acting and stuff. They even have personal relationships with other NPC (Now Playable Characters, according to Ubisoft Twitter) from the Watch Dogs universe.
When you start the game you’re given a choice to enable perma-death or not through difficulty settings. I chose perma-death for my operatives and I would recommend you do it too.
Albeit, I'm not a perma-death fan but I convinced myself for this game. Missions instantly felt more interesting. You have to work your way and make sure your operative doesn't die because some of them can really add value to the team.
Enemies will start shooting if you trespass restricted territories, right? That’s the videogame law. So in a side mission where I had to rescue a freedom fighter from a police cell, my initial thought was to swap in with a construction worker. And because of their ability to summon a massive cargo drone, you can piggyback on top of one and circle around the building looking for the right opportunity to sneak in without attracting a lot of attention. But this wasn’t working well for the perma-death choice I made earlier. Of course, I can recruit another construction worker and move on, but I want it to mess around a bit.
After using my neurons a bit, I immediately remembered that I recruited a Police officer that can waltz right in and out of this restricted zone. So I did exactly that. Walked right in the department and unhandcuff the freedom fighter, and marched right out. This sounds easy but it’s actually not. Think of it as an Assassin’s Creed mission where you have to blend with the crowd to get access to a place without getting noticed easily.
Being a police officer in a police department doesn't offer immunity. Only your visibility is reduced so basically it means that the cops inside will take time to recognize you. They won’t immediately jump to grab your neck. You have to tactically distract, sabotage and avoid direct eye contact to survive in restricted areas where an operative is allowed. Pretty much just like Hitman games where you change your appearance to sneak in.
There are cameras everywhere to help you distract and trick enemies into looking the other way. Hacking cameras are as easy as breathing and the sheer number of them inside buildings is troubling.
You can even finish an entire mission without ever entering the mission site. Just by hacking and controlling a spider bot. Some missions and collectables will require you to deploy and use the services of spider bots to reach in places shut behind doors and walls.
Side missions are also not forced upon you like other Ubisoft games. Where Assassin’s Creed Odyssey would throw you into a carrot chase, Watch Dogs Legions eases you into things. In fact, it never really forces you to do anything. You can drive around London hacking things and into places for fun or recruiting potentially powerful allies.
Spending Tech points to upgrade or buy newer tech is a great incentive to do side missions. Once you unlock Deep Profiling using Tech points, you can even convince the NPCs on the enemy side. Like I recruited a Police officer. The process, though, is very repetitive. You press and hold the mouse wheel and then press Q to save someone from the enemy side you see into potential recruit list. Then open up the list and press whatever button it is to Deep Profile. Bagley will say a few words and then all you have to do is hack into someone’s email or smartphone by walking or standing 5 feet next to them for 30 seconds. Done. Enemies like Albion soldiers, police officers and whoever dislikes DedSec will join… DedSec.
The best recruits, however, are behind area based side missions. You start demilitarising or shaming the Government/Albion in a region to gain cookie points for DedSec duties and you’ll be rewarded with a skilled recruit. Much like liberating camps in Far Cry, minus the guns and explosions, but more hacking and painting graffiti stuff. After liberating an area, I unlocked a Hive Master that can control robot-bees. What is cooler than robot-bees? Nothing!
The game is not without its problems though. There are a lot of bugs. Even though smashing the quick hack button to push traffic aside while I cruise down the road like an invincible hacker god, the cars themselves are rather finicky. We waited a couple of weeks to publish this review so that Ubisoft can fix the bugs but it's still a buggy mess even at the time of publishing this review. The cars move like surfboards. You can drift with nearly any car, even busses. Coming from the story-driven game like Mafia Definitive Edition which really grounded the driving mechanics, Legion’s cars felt more like go-karts.
Even spamming the quick hack button furiously while driving sent other cars to their doom which, in an ideal videogame world, would attract cops and notoriety scaling but Legion’s hacking is guilt and problem-free. Running over pedestrians is like walking over grass. Zero remorse and no risk.
PC performance is also terrible. Depending on how you look at it, the game really demands a lot of hardware resources but doesn’t utilize what’s been given. Our Nvidia RTX 2080Ti, a lakh rupee GPU, had massive problems running this game above 35 fps on Ultra at 2K resolution. Weird.
All that said, Watch Dogs Legion is one of the most beautiful looking games of 2020… when its raining. Turn on Ray Tracing and the game springs to life. Reflections and lights are fantastic and so detailed. Even the level design and the city is built thoughtfully. It’s no surprise that Legion is from the same guys who recreated the post-apocalyptic Washington D.C, and that same level of map precision and world design is put for recreating London as well. From towering buildings to tiny spaces for thriving spider bots, Legion looks and feels great. Too bad it’s not optimized well before its launch.
If you’re rocking an HDR monitor like us, we recommend pushing this thing to its absolute limits and seeing if your system can handle it.
Processor: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2920X; Liquid cooled by Corsair H115i RGB Platinum
GPU: Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti
Motherboard: Asus PRIME X399-A
RAM: 32GB of Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB
CPU Case: Corsair Obsidian 500D RGB
Keyboard: Kingston HyperX Alloy Elite RGB
Power Supply: Corsair AX850
Watch Dogs: Legion is a good game. It won’t be reaching our Top 10 list of videogames but its certainly one of the good games from Ubisoft’s stables. It’s not half-baked in terms of story and game mechanics but we wish they pushed the launch date to iron out the bugs.
If you’re looking to grab this on a PC, we say to keep an eye out for the updates and then jump in.
And if you’re looking to call this a GTA clone, don’t. Legion has a lot of personality and differences. Many of which are not found anywhere else. The ability to recruit anyone in your team is honestly, way better than chasing objectives to unlock in a skill tree and in my gameplay I haven’t met any repetitive NPC models. All of them are unique and fun to play with, especially the rare ones.