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May 2021

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: Nov. 10, 2020


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PS5/PS4/XSX/XOne/PC Multiplayer Preview - 'Watch Dogs: Legion'

by Adam Pavlacka on Feb. 22, 2021 @ 9:00 a.m. PST

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.

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When Watch Dogs: Legion launched last fall, it did so as a single-player experience. Yes, there was an "Online" box on the main menu, but it was grayed out and unavailable. That's about to change when the online mode for Watch Dogs: Legion officially goes live on Mar. 9. We got a chance to check out some early gameplay, and what's here is promising but wholly distinct from the single-player game.

Multiplayer in Watch Dogs: Legion is set after the end of the single-player campaign, but there's nothing blocking you from jumping in early if you choose. In the multiplayer world, the primary bad guys have been defeated, but to keep them from rising up again, multiple DedSec cells form in London. Each operates independently of the other. This means you're building up a new crew from scratch. The only exception (at least during the beta) was premium characters. They were available in multiplayer when I started up a session.

Growing your crew is done via spending influence. Unlike the campaign, you don't have to do side missions to recruit someone. As long as you have enough influence points to cover the cost, you can make an immediate recruit. Characters with more default abilities cost more points, so you won't be able to recruit them right away. Instead, you'll need to play through some missions and earn more influence. You'll need to balance your recruitment with expanding your skillset.

All of your tech gadgets and upgrades start at zero, and you need influence to unlock them. If you've already gone through the campaign, it can be a bit of a downer to unlock everything again, but it does force you to be judicious in how you spend your resources.

The free-roam version of London is essentially the campaign map with a handful of small activities on it. Each mini-mission can be completed in a few minutes, and they're mostly there to give you something to do while waiting for other players to join. You're never going to have a massive crowd, since each instance maxes out at four people. On the upside, this means that the core playlists are tuned for a group of players working together.

Easily my favorite time with multiplayer — and I can't wait to give it another go — is Tactical Ops, a series of five missions that follow a loose storyline. They're designed to be challenging and require coordinated teamwork. If you're a group running around at random, you're not going to get very far here.

For example, the first mission required us to split up into pairs and attack two separate locations at the same time. Voice communication was an absolute must because we had to worry about the guards at our chosen locations, and we had to initiate our hacks within seconds of each other.

It was the second tactical ops mission that really solidified my group, though. We were in a "death zone" that was being patrolled by four military drones. The task sounded simple enough: disable and destroy the drones without being killed. It's not so simple in practice. The military drones were strong, our individual guns were weak, and our life bars drained quickly once they started firing. After wiping out a few times, one of the guys had the idea to ride a cargo drone into the area. All four of us jumped onto the cargo drone, each watching a direction and calling out avoidance instructions to the pilot. After disabling one of the military drones, four people unloading into its weak point did a noticeable amount of damage. While the mission goals might sound simple, the teamwork made the mission feel refreshing. The satisfaction from finally taking out those military drones was real.

In addition to tactical ops, there are a handful of individual co-op missions that can be done with as few as two players and don't require as much team coordination, but they were still plenty of fun. Going through the co-op playlist was a good way to learn how your fellow team members mesh as a team. You can probably muddle your way through the co-op playlist without voice communications, but having a mic is still highly recommended.

Completing the co-op playlist and tactical ops missions earns rewards that allow you to rank up in typical season fashion. As you move through the season rewards, you'll gain more influence and other items. You also have the option of doing daily and weekly challenges in the open world. For example, one of the daily challenges when I played was to drive three double-decker buses into the water.


Finally, there is the Spiderbot Arena. This mode is separate from the rest of the online play and is a highly focused deathmatch arena for the spiderbots. It's simple and focused, but the play can be intense. Because of the spiderbot's jump ability, each arena had a decent amount of verticality. You're not just running around shooting each other. You're also moving up and down, lowering and raising blast shields for cover, and attempting to steal weapon power-ups before someone else does. Kill streak bonuses give you an incentive to stay alive, but they also give other players an incentive to gang up on you, so you don't dominate the match.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I first jumped into Watch Dogs: Legion's online mode. While there's no global invasion system and the free roam is limited to four players, the tactical ops missions seem finely crafted. If you can find a solid group of players to team up with, there is a good time to be had.

The big question is longevity. Right now, there are only five missions in tactical ops and a single playlist in co-op. During the preview, I didn't see anything like leaderboards to encourage replays, and there's no definite promise of more content. If this ends up being all there is, it might be something that gets played and dropped as folks move on to newer things.


The other big question is how the solo experience is going to be. While the game may not require mics (we used Discord to chat while playing the press preview), it's difficult to see how you can have a successful run without one. If you're randomly pairing up, chances are good you'll find someone without a mic. If you're the person without a mic, will others even want you on their team?

We'll have to see how the random element plays out once Watch Dogs: Legion's multiplayer mode goes live on Mar. 9. Until then, I'm cautiously optimistic on the experience. I really enjoyed my time with tactical ops, and I'm looking forward to giving it another go.


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