Review: Watch Dogs Legion – Hack the Future

Review: Watch Dogs Legion

Watch Dogs Legion is finally here and we are surely glad that it is. Bringing tons of new mechanics and a brand new setting, Watch Dogs Legion is so far the biggest and the most feature-rich title in the franchise and it is evident from our time with the game that Ubisoft has really worked their magic this time around. This is our review of Watch Dogs Legion on PC in which we hack some police cars and make them jump off the bridges while exploring a beautiful futuristic London.

The story of Watch Dogs Legion starts with you playing as a DedSec veteran and an unknown bad guy who goes by the name of Zero Day bombs major sites in the cities and all blame falls down on DedSec which causes the agencies to shut it down and hunt down any of its last remaining members. This causes a dictator-like organization Albion to take over the city and start running things their own way. Albion transforms the city of London and automates everything thus reducing the use of man and more dependency on machines and drones. The futuristic London sets up the perfect backdrop for the story of Watch Dogs Legion.

You start the game as the only last remaining member of DedSec who must rally other resistance fighters, recruit them to DedSec’s cause, form a resistance, and take back London from Albion who is running the city as a brutal dictator. Apart from Albion, there are other factions fighting for control as well however your main enemy is Albion and your goal is to take back London, one borough at a time by weakening Albion’s control and rallying up important people to your cause to make DedSec powerful again and clear out its name from the bombings. The main show of DedSec is being run by a quirky AI known as Bagley and a veteran DedSec member Sabine who managed to survive the original raids against DedSec.

Review: Watch Dogs Legion

Right from the very start, futuristic London is your playground. You can explore the world at your will, completing story missions, side missions, and activities, or just goof around playing with all the new hacking toys and gadgets that the game offers. While the story is pretty linear and follows a set pattern, you can complete the story at your own will. I had the complete map in Defiance status before reaching 20% of the main story and I had a 20 people strong team with me as the game allows you to explore everything right from the start of the game. There are various activities for you to complete in the world of Watch Dogs Legion apart from the main story missions.

Some of the recruitment missions take quite a decent amount of time as well and I spent my initial 6 to 7 hours just recruiting different people into DedSec and strengthening my numbers. Taking over the boroughs of London also takes up quite a long time. While the points to take over are not as much as you would find in Far Cry titles, some of these locations are pretty challenging and will take quite a bit of planning before you can reduce Albion’s control and increase the Defiance state of any district in the game. These activities include missions like taking out VIPs, which in this game turned out to be massive drones that shoot back, free some locked up freedom fighters or taking pictures of Albion’s dirty work, and releasing them to the public.

Taking over each borough of the game allows you access to a very powerful operator as well which are all specialized in one particular field such as an assassin, getaway driver, and such. After a certain progression in the game, you can also complete some missions for different factions in the game as well. If you are bored of all the action, you can simply head down to commercial areas and buy some new clothes for your operatives or head down to a quiet park and practice your Kickoff skills. You can also partake in melee challenges that will help you master the art of melee fighting in the game. You can also deliver some DedSec packages here and there for a quick buck. If you want to lay low for a bit, there are tons of activities for you to complete giving a much-needed break from all the hacking and fighting.

This brings me to the gameplay of Watch Dogs Legion. Watch Dogs Legion offers a variety of gameplay mechanics some of which are returning from the old games in the franchise while some of them are completely new to Legion. The game is played in a third-person mode where you are free to move around anywhere you want. You have all of the basics at your disposal such as crouch, vaulting over things, shooting, driving, hacking, and melee combat. For combat, melee was one of my favorite mechanics and I fought most of my fights in the game without firing a single bullet unless drones were involved. There is something extremely satisfying about punching the bad guys in Watch Dogs Legion as you dodge their attacks, roll around, counter them with powerful punches, and more.

One of the things that I loved about Watch Dogs Legion is that the combat changes according to the player’s status in the game. If you start a melee fight, enemies who are wielding weapons will holster theirs and will start fighting you with batons, bats, or fists. They will not use their weapons on you until you take out your weapons which gives you an open opportunity on how you want to clear your missions. In addition, stealth is always an option. You can decide your approach that whether you want to go in all-guns-blazing or you want to use stealth. Both approaches are equally rewarding however using stealth eventually feels more accomplished in the game. Nothing beats the feeling of dodging a full army of armies and running away with the critical documents without raising a single alarm.

However, with that being said, combat in Watch Dogs Legion is exceptionally good and can get overwhelming in certain situations as well. Patrolling scout and combat drones making sneaking around much more difficult and having combat drones shooting at you along with an army of soldiers quickly makes you realize how quickly the tides can turn in the game. However, you have a few new tricks up your sleeve as well. If you want to go in all-guns-blazing, you have quite a decent selection of weapons from which you can choose your arsenal and takedown armies of enemies in the game with careful combat. There is no such thing as full head-on manslaughter here as the only thing that will get slaughtered here is you.

Review: Watch Dogs Legion

This is where hacking comes into play. Ubisoft has further improved how the game handles hacking in combat and various other situations in the game. For me, hacking is one of the best mechanics to use in combat because it allows to you get a situational edge over your enemies in the game. Pressing L1 on a hackable object opens up detailed options about how you can manipulate that particular item. You can open/close doors, hack security doors and consoles for keys, and even cameras to look around. If you have no other option, you can throw your trusty Spider Drone and use it to move around opening doors, collecting evidence, and download codes to your smartphone without any hassle.

However, hacking is not just limited to electronic devices this time around. Since London is digitalized, everything is using a chip inside it which includes vehicles on the roads, drones, security check posts, and everything. These open a brand-new opportunity for you to explore the game. You can use these new mechanics to your advantage in the game in various ways. For example, during combat, I always hack vehicles in the area to drive them forward or backward to run down enemies close to them. There were instances where I was also able to block roads with vehicles to block reinforcements or hack into enemy drones to shoot their own people and drones. This causes chaos in combat but also some really funny moments. I cannot even remember now how many times I hacked police vehicles chasing me to drive themselves into water or just randomly causing police vehicles to drive off the road and into a tree. This opens up a brand-new playground for you to explore and use these new tricks to your advantage. You can unlock and use some cool new gadgets as well by collecting Tech Points hidden around the map of the world along with other collectibles in the game. Each recruit can carry one of these gadgets however you can change them on the go

Recruits play a vital role in Watch Dogs Legion and the game uses this very mechanic in a brilliant fashion. As overwhelming as it sounds that you can play the game with anyone that you see in the game, it is actually extremely easy to do so. When you see someone moving around London, you can approach them, and a command appears over them to recruit them to your cause. You can also analyze them before making your decision which will tell you what that particular recruit can offer DeadSec in return. These include their special skills, abilities, or even unique weapons that are not found elsewhere. While DeadSec offers only non-lethal weapons, some of the Prestige recruits and NPC recruits bring lethal weapons into the play as well. While you can always go for a smaller team, having a large team offering a diverse set of skills can drastically help you in various situations.

For example, the very first time one of my recruits were critically injured, the game told me to recruit a medic or someone with hospital access as they will allow our injured recruits to return back quickly from the hospital. Also, the very first time one of my recruits were arrested, the game told me to recruit someone in the law firm as they could help us get out of jail quickly. Unless you have Permadeath mode on, your recruits never actually die in the game. They get arrested or taken to the hospital and must spend some time there before they are available again in the game to play with. While they are recovering or serving their time, you cannot use their skills, abilities, and weapons as well so having them back quickly certainly pays off in the long-run.

Apart from this, certain NPC recruits also come with additional skills such as taking more damage before they are critically injured, drive faster than normal people, additional ammo capacity, a particularly powerful weapon, and even unique weapons that cannot be acquired anywhere else. You can access their character panel to see everything that they have to offer you while you are playing with them. You can use their abilities to really exploit certain limitations of the game as well such as the construction worker can call in large pickup drones that you can climb aboard and use it as a makeshift plane to fly around and reach hard to reach areas. I even used the drone to clear certain missions where I had to steal information without confronting a single enemy as I would just through the spider drone in the area from above and be done with the mission quickly.

Each person in Watch Dogs Legion also comes with their own unique timetable and personality as well. They also belong to diverse ethnic backgrounds which is something that you do not see in many games. You will find people belonging from regions from all over the world in the game. Each person dresses and talks according to their personality in the game and this difference in accents, dresses, and timetables is pretty easily visible in the game. While you are inspecting NPCs, the game tells you of their schedule as well such as how much time they will be spending in the current locale so that you can recruit them later or come back another time. If you want to save a particular person, you can add them to your list of potential recruits as well and then later add them to your team later.

Review: Watch Dogs Legion

Recruiting the NPCs begins a recruitment mission. After you ask them to join DedSec, you must help them with something that is bothering them to gain their trust. After that, you must try to complete the mission if you want to recruit them because otherwise, you will simply make them hate DedSec. Once, I accidentally hit the NPC I wanted to recruit, and he got critically injured. He was already added to my Recruiting list, so I had to wait until he was back from the hospital and then go back to him as a different operative to recruit him again. He remembered the face of the operative who attacked him and refused to join if he went to him again. Most of the time these missions include finding missing people or clearing out dirty files. Once you offer something, the people of London are eager to join your cause against Albion.

This brings me to the final aspect of this review which is the city of London itself. Watch Dogs Legion features a beautiful futuristic London that might be going down the drain economically, but it looks extremely beautiful. Ubisoft has really pushed the game to the limit thanks to the new-gen tech and power that consoles are bringing to develop a game that truly looks gorgeous. Everything in the game from the shadows to the water detail, everything looks really pretty. The world feels really alive with traffic, drones, people, boats in the water, and the continuous hum and buzz of life everywhere around you. The game also features a large number of vehicles on the roads as well which look really cool. From classic muscle cars to modern EVs, everything is fun to drive and look really cool as well. Buses and cabs have screens on them which have ads that change on-the-go which really adds to the whole futuristic feel of the city. There are tons of activity everywhere you go and the world does not feel empty or shallow at any point.

Before finishing the review, I will however point out some of the things that need to be worked on in Watch Dogs Legion. During my entire playthrough of the game, I did not encounter any sort of glitches or issues that would break the game or crash it. There were no crashes for me at all. The game feels pretty solid however there are some instances where the game dropped frames a lot such as water sequences. Every time I went near the water, the game would drop frames which would cause me to check my GPU and CPU temperatures to see if anything was acting up from my end. Ubisoft detailed that optimization patches are on the way so I am sure that these problems will go away soon from the game and will make it more stable in the coming weeks.

Final Verdict:

While Watch Dogs Legion pretty much follows the traditional Ubisoft format of titles where you must start as an underdog and take down massive evil organizations by weakening their control over a particular region, it brings enough fresh content to the table that makes it the best installment in the franchise. I loved the futuristic London that the game portrays, and I loved how it handles the vast NPC system where every person feels like a real person rather than just a simulated AI with a different skin on top. There are a few things that still require some more refinement such as the driving physics could need some more work and the game could be optimized some more for PC at this point to make it utilize the available resources in a much more effective manner. Ubisoft has made combat and stealth much better and using hacking to your advantage even more fluid to the point that it does not feel like a separate chore and everything is silky smooth. Whether you are a returning fan of the franchise or a new player, Watch Dogs Legion has something for everyone to enjoy. Watch Dogs Legion is the perfect title to start your next-gen journey.

Final Score: 8.5/10