Thursday, 5 November 2020

Watch Dogs: Legion ★★★★☆


Watch Dogs: Legion is the latest instalment in the futuristic action-adventure series Watch Dogs, which defines itself from the crowd with a focus on modern technology, hacking and augmented reality. Having been based exclusively in America before, Legion brings us overseas to a reimagining of the Big Smoke, old London itself. The city has been built fantastically; instantly recognisable as you walk around the streets. It’s not just the perfect recreation of famous areas and landmarks. Legion captures the feeling, the energy of London in a way that’s hard to put my finger on - even though it’s been reimagined into a tech-dominated near-future dystopia. A London covered in drones, technology, private policing and augmented reality; which really does look cool as hell. 



This terrifying (is that a word? I’m sticking with it) of London is one of the plot devices of the story. Increased reliance on technology has created a dystopian surveillance state that you, a member of the hacker group DedSec, are rebelling against. Your organisation has been framed for a string of terrorist attacks it didn’t commit, and it’s up to you to clear your name and liberate the masses along the way. You use your hacking and AI abilities to control technology around the city, recruit allies, and expand your influence.

When I say ‘You’, I guess I should do so in the plural sense. Watch Dogs: Legion has introduced an ingenious ‘play as anyone’ system that lets you walk up to any NPC in the sandbox and recruit them to DedSec after doing them a favour or two. Once recruited, you can swap between any of your recruits at will, picking them up wherever they were in their own life. Maybe walking in the park, working their job or grabbing a pint at the pub. Their hobbies and jobs inform their own unique skills - soldiers have access to arms, builders have access to drones. Every character you recruit goes about their own life while you’re not playing as them, and it really makes them feel alive. 

Alive until you accidentally get them killed. Permadeath is an option if you want to really put some emotional weight on your gameplay, otherwise, your recruits need time to recover in hospital, or serve their time in prison if you get them arrested. Missions usually revolve around the same small group of illegal activities; steal this, break into there, wipe this hard drive. I didn’t find this repetitive gameplay too damaging to my overall impression, though. I challenged myself to switch up my own playstyle for variety. Can I steal this as a police officer? Can I break in here as a grandmother? 

This wild variety of characters and lack of any main protagonist is a blessing and a curse. While it creates probably the most original sandbox experience that I’ve played in years, there’s no denying that the most character you’ll get from your allies is the artificial intelligence in your ear Bagley, who is the standard sassy snarky sidekick cutout. Your army of auto-generated NPCs have little personality of their own to contribute to the story, no matter how many funky outfits you can dress them in. 



Speaking of story, it’s all a little familiar if you’re a fan of this kind of technophobic drama. If you’re caught up on Black Mirror little in this story will surprise you. I still enjoyed the story, but I don’t think the fact you’re playing with an army of pretty characterless disposable nobodies does the familiar story beats any favours. 

In summary, Legion stands tall as easily the best Watch Dogs we’ve seen yet, and it’s one of the most original sandboxes I’ve played in years. It actually delivers in a way that it feels like other Watch Dogs games haven’t. If they’ve got any sense at all, the Play As Anyone Recruitment system will be here to stay for the rest of the series’ lifetime.  

★★★★☆
Jake James




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