Watch Dogs: Legion Hands-On Preview
The third entry in Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs franchise takes the action-adventure series in an experimental new direction with an ambitious promise. Offering a dynamic open world that allows the player to become any of the citizens they see in it, Watch Dogs: Legion sacrifices one meaningful main character in the pursuit of many — and surprisingly enough, it works.
No Place Like London
Watch Dogs: Legion takes place in London, which feels unsuspectingly more lively and vibrant than either of the previous cities. There are tons of details to admire in the many narrow side streets you can explore, and no shortage of cars and characters crowding the city. Corruption has taken over and the city has regressed into a police state, prompting DedSec to resist and fight back.
To strengthen DedSec’s resistance, you must work to liberate the city and garner the support of as many citizens as you can. Not only can you recruit any individual you see on the entire map to join DedSec’s cause, but you can actually become them and play them as your main character.
It’s not as easy as just spotting a random pedestrian and morphing into them, though. You must speak to a new person and complete their personal missions before they’ll join your roster, and some people will be more averse to this than others. Each person, be it a doctor, a politician, or a construction worker, will have their own set of abilities and skills that can be utilized differently. While this audacious mechanic may understandably draw a lot of skepticism, I found it quite exciting in how it affected my style of play from moment to moment.
When trying to recruit a politician whose mission required entering a hospital, for example, I switched my main character to a doctor in my roster and walked straight into the building unquestioned — all thanks to her uniform. Having a roster of characters to choose from not only grants you things such as stealth, hacking and combat benefits but also gives you access to different personalities and occupations that can change how you approach a given mission.
All For One, and One For All
Though you can build a pretty huge roster of characters to choose from, they can be permanently killed or injured critically should they find themselves on the losing end of a conflict, rendering them unavailable for play. The melee system won’t help you out with many assisted mechanics, such as helping you close the gap toward your opponent when swinging, so don’t expect to skate by during every fight if you enter one unprepared. It can be tough to land punches at times, but the hand-to-hand combat does at least feel satisfying and weighted.
Driving around in Grand Theft Auto fashion feels better than ever, though North Americans are in for an amusing challenge trying to adjust to life on the other side of the road. The hacking mechanics both in and out of driving feel extremely familiar, and my time with the demo left me wondering how many new gadgets and environmental interactions we’re actually going to see.
When Ubisoft revealed the newest entry’s “play as anyone” angle, like many others, I pegged this premise as undeniably ambitious and met it with both excitement and skepticism. After a few hours with the game, I’m a fan of the new and adventurous feature for one main reason: In giving the player the ability to truly step into the shoes of any random citizen on the map, Legion expands on the most interesting and compelling part of Watch Dogs — the people.
Watch Dogs’ biggest achievement has always been its portrayal of real-life people and the conversations we drop in on when we peer into the windows of their lives. Legion solidifies this by letting us explore these characters deeper; exposing us to their backstories and ensuring that we see and speak to them again before allowing us to embody these people. While it does come at the price of sacrificing a main character we can build a significant attachment to, it also grants the reward of approaching the game in an entirely different way. The newfound player agency means that this is not only your fight to take back London, but everybody else’s, too. Who will you become along the way?