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 July 12, 2020 @ 12:45 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

We already knew that Watch Dogs was moving to London with Watch Dogs: Legion, and Ubi Forward gave us a chance to run around inside the near-future world for a few hours. It wasn't a direct hands-on experience (we had to remote play over the internet due to the coronavirus pandemic), but it was completely free-form within the demo. Ubisoft dropped me into the middle of the game and let me run wild.

The biggest change from prior demos is that your crew is no longer one-and-done. You can still recruit anybody, but you don't lose them if they are killed. Instead, they are either "arrested" or "sent to the hospital" for a timeout. Once the timer hits zero, they are available to use again. A Ubisoft representative told me that perma-death will be an option in the game, but it is no longer a default. On the one hand, this should make it more accessible for players of all skill levels, but on the other, it does change how the game is played, if you no longer have to be careful with all of your crew members.

Speaking of crew, Watch Dogs: Legion highlights specific members of the public who have useful skills. While you can recruit anyone, you probably want to focus on those who have special abilities (such as a lawyer who can help reduce the amount of time your crew members spend in jail when caught, or a police officer who can sneak into restricted areas because he has a uniform) as opposed to a random grandma. Recruitment missions do take time as you must convince NPCs that you're worth partnering with. You can't just say, "join me," and expect them to jump at the chance.

Once you have a crew, it's on to the missions. The demo had two missions, and I chose one that had me spying on the main antagonist of the game. It was a multi-stage affair that required doing research on his current target and then finding someone on the inside that I could recruit to do the spying. The mission combined basic puzzle elements (defusing a booby-trapped apartment) as well as standard stealth, but it did so in a way that made sense within the narrative of the game world. For example, at one point, I had to craft a fake ID so I could get into a secure area. While that happened, the game gave me backstory on my target.

In addition to the main missions, there are several activities that offer up more choice in how you approach them. I was able to go stealth or full-frontal assault. Watch Dogs: Legion didn't seem to care how I approached a problem much of the time, which was a plus. The camera hacking mechanic was key to scoping out a situation before running in, though even that carried a bit of a risk. Spend too much time looking at a camera, and someone may notice (and attack) you without you realizing it.

How you choose to play depends somewhat on the character you choose to use, so if you're up for a brawl, get a hooligan on your crew. Want to simply shoot everyone? Snag the spy.

While the security cameras in the game are relatively innocuous and appear to be there just for your use (I was surprised that the cameras didn't detect me), there are alarms and drones that will detect you if you're not careful. Alarms can be defeated by remoting in via a camera and then disabling the alarm, while drones can be hacked. Again, you must be careful because if you take over a drone, someone else on the other side might just hack it back.

Hacking is part of your core ability set, but what you can hack is determined in part by the special abilities you unlock over the course of the game. As far as I could tell, you can unlock special abilities in any order, as they are gated by a limited type of item that you can find around the world. For example, one skill allows you to temporarily disable turrets. Power up that skill, and you can also order a turret to attack enemies or take control of it and manually shoot them down yourself.

The more I played, the more I encountered the mechanic of remotely taking over gadgets. While I never remotely took over a car — I drove plenty, though — I hacked a crane for a side mission, and yet another side mission had me breaking into a base and then hacking a maintenance drone to take out a server farm.

On the world-building side of things, Watch Dogs: Legion appears to be making a very timely commentary on both the surveillance state and the issue of income inequality, but it remains to be seen if that ties into the storyline or is just superficial window dressing. I'm hoping that the game digs in a bit, if only to see where they take it, because when the illusion of the world works, it works well. That also means the points where Watch Dogs: Legion breaks the illusion are pretty obvious.

For example, I already mentioned the security cameras, which don't pose a threat. At one point, I decided to steal an armored SUV from the main security faction in the game, who are the villains. They're the big bad who put up the surveillance state in the first place. There was not a peep, no alarms, and no vehicles chased me.

As a story geek, I did like how elements of the backstory are told via snippets of information that you find as you explore locations within the world. Even if they don't relate directly to the main plot, they help bring future London to life. I'm also looking forward to seeing what "normal" activities are in the game. During the demo, I was able to win money by playing a round of darts with a patron at a local pub. It's a small time-waster, but it helps to bring the world to life. If there are more small things like this to discover, it'll be a plus.

Watch Dogs: Legion promises a free-form romp through an expansive version of future London. The variety of characters to play and ways in which you can interact with the world should mean plenty of options for players, regardless of whether you prefer stealth, a direct assault, or something in between. In this regard, it seems to offer more flexibility than Assassin's Creed: Valhalla — at least when you compare what was available in the two demos. I'm looking forward to seeing how the final version of Watch Dogs: Legion turns out when it reaches the masses on Oct. 29.

For additional Assassin's Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs: Legion hands-on gameplay trailers, check here.

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