Watch Dogs Legion - Day One Review

The latest and greatest Ubisoft game is finally here and, as a huge fan of the series since the original way back in 2014, I’ve been playing it non-stop (with only short breaks to collect the Halloween currency in Dead By Daylight) since it released yesterday.

This latest entry in the Watch Dogs series follows the hacktivist group Dedsec as they attempt to overthrow a corrupt government in London. If you’re new to the series, it plays a little like GTA, but in a near-future where the government has eyes and spies everywhere. The main conceit of the game lies in the hacking. Using a cellphone macguffin, the player is able to instantly hack into computer terminals, cars, flying drones, ATMs, and even snoop into the social media accounts of random people on the street.

One major change from previous entries in how hacking works is the removal of the “hack energy” bar. In previous games, you had an energy bar, which meant you could only perform a certain number of hacks before needing to recharge. In this one, the energy bar is gone and replaced with cool downs. This means that you can hack as many street lights, cameras, security systems, etc as you want without worry of running out of energy. The more hostile hack actions now have cool downs. You can hack a drone to make it fall out of the sky, but then you’ll need to fight off the next drone while you wait for that ability to recharge.

I personally like this a lot more than the old system. I think Ubisoft did a great job of making the hacking feel much more fluid and cinematic in this game.

Oh, and you can wear a mask too. Hashtag covid.

Oh It’s Ubisoft… So It’s Full of Bugs, Right?

Yeah. There are a few bugs. One gamer reported that Watch Dogs had caused their Xbox to get so hot it shut down and wouldn’t restart for several hours. Players on Windows are seeing disappearing character models, cars that float in the air, motorcycles that… do something funny. Word around the Stadia grapevine though? No such problems. I’ve personally seen some pretty terrible framerate drops at times, especially when there are lots of character models on the screen at once, but otherwise—no game breaking bugs. Avengers, this is not!

Are We Still Terrorists Tho?

The previous Watch Dogs games have faced criticism for essentially allowing you to play as a terrorist. In fact, ignoring the “hacktivist” angle you are quite literally a terrorist in the first two games. On any given mission you may be breaking into a government building, accessing secured data of private citizens, stealing government secrets, or killing/assaulting civilians. I don’t intend to get into a one-sided political debate on the difference between terrorists and “freedom fighters” but it seems it was a conversation worth having, as Legion tackles this a little differently. At least in the beginning.

The game still has you doing all of those things, but from the very first mission you are presented with the Real Villains. And this time, they’ve framed the villains as not only the corrupt government, street gangs, and the ever-present evil security/technology company. In Legion, there’s an actual honest-to-god terrorist organization that exposes itself to you in the very first mission. So now we’re not terrorists! We’re just… hacktivists… fighting against the terrorist! Yeah. No spoilers.

Hang On, I Can Play As ANYONE?

Yup! The new gimmick in this game that everyone has been raving about is how you can play as pretty much anyone, if you’re willing to put in the work of recruiting them. I’m assuming there will be some important evil NPCs that you probably can’t recruit, but I haven’t seen them yet.

How it works in a nutshell is you scan a rando person on the street with your phone to see what their basic skills and occupation are. Some characters will have special skills based on their occupation, like a Construction Worker will have access to heavy cargo drones that you can ride on. I’ve spent most of the game so far riding around on these things, they’re awesome. Other occupations like the Spy or the Drone Hacker will give you access to a Spy Watch and dive-bomber drones, respectively. Other occupations will provide Uniformed Access to some restricted areas. Recruit a surgeon, and they can walk into restricted hospitals without incident. Recruit a police detective and they can enter police stations. Recruit a Buckingham Palace guard? You get the idea.

The majority of characters you can recruit won’t have any specials skills like that, though they will have perks that can be extremely helpful. A lawyer can bust your team out of jail faster, a banker can give you regular injections of cash. It’s good to branch out and recruit a lot of different types of characters, as you find them.

How’s the Scenery?

Watch Dogs Legion takes place in beautiful future London. No, the one in England, not Ontario. I’ve never been to London (either of them), so I can’t speak to the accuracy, but as in most Ubisoft games I’m fully expecting to learn about several iconic locations from the real life place. I’ve already visited the big clock tower, the queen’s palace, and… why is there a giant ferris wheel in the middle of the bay? I dunno, but I went there too.

The world is alive, immersive, and beautiful. The characters react to you when you interact with them, and with the new profiling system they will remember you. Hit someone with a car while decked out in Dedsec gear? That person will remember that you assaulted them, and prove much more difficult to recruit if you need to talk to them later. The reverse is also true though. If the evil Albion corporation is harassing someone on the street and you step in to help, that person will remember that positive experience and be more likely to help you.

Interested in side games? All the classic London activities are here! Throw darts, get sloshing drunk, kick a ball around, and engage in some bareknuckle fighting. I’ve never been to London, but if I learned anything from Guy Ritchie these are all pretty standard activities for a Londoner.

Okay, But Clothes Though

There are SO MANY clothes in this game. It’s almost ridiculous how much you can customize your character. There are boots, coats, shirts, hats, glasses, earrings, covid masks, and holographic cat ears. And the variety is nuts, I’ve seen dozens of styles of clothes that I don’t even know the names for. Want to deck out your 85 year-old grandma tax collector in some spiked punk leathers? Go for it!

Seriously, check out some of the fashion posts on Twitter. It’s amazing.

Final Verdict

I’m loving it. I’ve always been a fan of the series, and this entry is amazing so far. With a few incoming patches already in the works to deal with the performance issues, I see this game being my go-to video game entertainment for quite some time (sorry Dead By Daylight, I’ll miss you). Barring any delays, there is a multiplayer update coming free for everyone on December 3rd, which should add even more enjoyment to the table.

I’m looking forward to playing with you all on Dec 3rd!

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