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Watch Dogs: Legion

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Stadia, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Toronto
Release Date: Oct. 29, 2020

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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Watch Dogs: Legion'

by Adam Pavlacka on Oct. 6, 2020 @ 11:00 p.m. PDT

Watch Dogs: Legion is set in a near-future, dystopian version of London. It's a post-Brexit world in which society, politics and technology have changed and altered London's fortunes.

Pre-order Watch Dogs: Legion

Watch Dogs: Legion is nearly here, so last week, I connected with Ubisoft and sat down to play with an updated build of the game. The core is still the same as when I gave it a spin earlier this summer, but in the intervening months, a lot of little things have been polished up. For this go-round, Ubisoft let me jump in mid-game and go pretty much wherever I wanted. Most of the map was unlocked and side missions were available, but I wanted to get a feel for the campaign.

My main worry coming off my last round with Legion was the depth and flexibility of the playable missions. Would I have to play through them in a very specific way due to the story, or would I be able to approach things from multiple angles? I'm happy to say that the answer appears to be the latter. That's not to say that missions in Legion don't have specific goals; it's just that for many of them, you have options on how you want to approach the goals.


In one mission, I found myself inside a detention center for immigrants. My stealth attempt turned out to be not-so-stealthy, so I had to punch (and taser) my way through some enemies. Near the end of the section, there was a locked door. Sure, I could have spent some time figuring out how to hack it, but I noticed a guard patrolling on the other side of the door. Since the guards were already on alert, I made myself visible, and the guard came running out, unlocking the door in the process. A quick taser blast later, the guard was down, and I had one less hurdle in front of me.

Normally, unlocking a door like this means finding the main junction panel and hacking it in order to enable a signal to the door. Red line = locked. Blue line = you can hack it. The less subtle option is to blow it up.

Hacking items also extends to cameras, computers, gadgets, and vehicles. Cameras are a great way to recon an area before heading in, while gadgets have a variety of uses. Vehicles ... well, let's just say that remotely driving a parked armored vehicle into a guard is a great way to cause a distraction when you're trying to sneak in somewhere.

In the early part of the game, your hacking skills are limited. You upgrade these as you progress by spending tech points, which are earned for completing missions or can be found throughout the world. Some skills have multiple levels. For example, you can disable an enemy drone as a level 1 skill. Upgrading that skill to level 2 allows you to hijack it, and upgrading to level 3 gives you a betray option, so the drone will attack enemy characters for a limited amount of time. On the plus side, the tech upgrade menu is accessible at any time, so if you have tech points banked and are in the middle of a mission when you decide you need an upgrade, you can go to town and buy what you need. Think of it like purchasing a tool online: instant delivery.

 


Out of all the tools in the game, I quickly became attached to the spiderbot. This little guy was my go-to option for playing stealth. In fact, I was able to complete more than one mission without ever physically entering a restricted area. I simply deployed the spiderbot and then controlled it remotely. The spiderbot even has a sweet takedown maneuver that is decidedly inspired by "Alien." You're not going to take out a group with it, but a single enemy is not a problem.

While I'm not expecting the story beats to be subtle (one of the villains has slaves with remote-controlled kill chips), the development team isn't shying away from social commentary. It's clear that both Brexit and current events in the U.S. have influenced the game themes. I'm hoping that continues on through to the end of the campaign and isn't just surface-level window dressing.

What's also of note is that there appears to be multiple intersect campaign storylines. I saw a bit of this with the earlier demo, but it was more integrated this time around. A few hours into my hands-on, I ran across another hacker group in the game. Friend or foe is still something to be determined.

Because I focused on the campaign, I didn't dive into the side missions, even though they were available. Some of the activities include fighting and package delivery. There are even random objectives that you can run across by exploring the world. The more you explore, the more background you'll pick up on the overall story by finding recordings. It's not necessary to find all of them to enjoy the game, but it does flesh out the world. Think of these story bits as similar to the recordings scattered about the world in The Division 2.

 


Character-wise, you have plenty of options to choose from in Legion. Recruiting different characters increases your staple of DecSec members to choose from, as well as granting you different abilities. For example, recruit a lawyer to your crew and you'll get captured compatriots out of jail faster. It's an interesting way of handling "extra lives" as well as special abilities, since there doesn't seem to be anything stopping you from going crazy with recruitment.

The variety of characters extends into the open world, with an assortment of faces as well as voices and accents. It's quite possible that things will start to feel repetitive once I'm 20+ hours into the game, but for the purposes of the demo, talking to different characters felt like talking to actual people, rather than just talking to generic NPC #47. It made the virtual version of London feel more real.

One final note is the pacing. While the missions can vary in style — some are very freeform and others direct you down a specific path — they all seem to be designed with breaks in mind. You can sit down and play for a few hours, or you can hop in, knock out a single mission in 15-20 minutes, and then get back to real life. That kind of flexibility in play is a plus, especially if you're an older gamer who can't dedicate a whole weekend to exploring.

Earlier this year, I was ambivalent as far as Watch Dogs: Legion is concerned. Now, having played it twice, it is easily my most anticipated Ubisoft title of the year. What I've seen is polished, but more importantly, fun. I can't wait to see if the final game holds up to expectations.

 



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