Watch Dogs: Legion. An honest opinion.

PlayStation 4/PlayStation 5/Xbox/Windows

I’m one of what I imagine to be a small minority of gamers that holds the Watch Dogs series in higher regard than the more universally adored Grand Theft Auto series. That’s not to say that I don’t like GTA in any of its guises of course. But I’ve always felt that Watch Dogs took the basic premise of GTA and built upon it in such a way that made the repetitive nature of the gameplay appear deeper and more fleshed out.

I originally played the oft-maligned first entry in the Watch Dogs franchise on Wii U. A console that wasn’t exactly known for its diverse library of mature open-world titles. But it played well despite the obvious hardware limitations, and I had a great time playing through the main story and all the additional side quests. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that when it came to upgrading to a PlayStation 4 I made a point of choosing a Watch Dogs hardware bundle that came with both the original game for PS4 and the sequel, Watch Dogs 2.

With Watch Dogs 2, Ubisoft took the original game and, with the exception of the core hacking mechanics, threw it out the window and rebuilt things from the ground up. Wet and windy Chicago was replaced with sunny San Francisco. Mean and moody Aiden Pierce was replaced with the likeable Marcus Holloway and his crew of Dedsec hackers. The dark, often morbid storyline discarded in favour of having as much fun and causing as much havoc as possible. Watch Dogs 2 was everything that its predecessor probably should have been. But because of the unjustified ill-feeling associated with the first game, many people will have given it a wide berth.

Which leads me to Watch Dogs: Legion. The third and most recent game in the franchise.

Watch Dogs: Legion is not as good as the game that came before it. I would even go as far as to say that it isn’t good as the original entry. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad game.

The gameplay of the first two games revolved heavily around hacking. The first game made good use of the ability to hack CCTV cameras and intrude on different people and situations from a safe distance, while the superior sequel expanded on this with the introduction of the drone and the RC buggy. Although you had plenty of weapons at your disposal, it was usually much safer and more satisfying to use stealth and hack your way around each location in order to achieve your goal. This really helped to set the franchise apart from others in the same genre.

In Legion, you still have the ability to employ stealth in your approach. But I found that nine times out of ten it was much easier and quicker to just dive in all guns blazing. Only bothering to use the hacking abilities when absolutely necessary. This made the whole experience feel much less like Watch Dogs and more like Grand Theft Auto.

The big, headline grabbing point of Watch Dogs: Legion is the ability to recruit and play as any character that you see in the game. It’s a nice idea and having a broad range of playable characters with their own unique abilities at your disposal should influence how you approach each mission. Only it didn’t, for me at least. Once I had recruited a professional hit-woman and a professional spy, these were the only characters I ever used. Simply because of them having the best, most effective weapons in the game. Like I mentioned a moment ago, the ‘all-guns-blazing’ approach was preferable for the majority of missions, with stealth and hacking taking a back seat. In fact, the only other character types that I bothered to recruit were those required for unlocking various trophies such as a beekeeper or a living statue. The rest were largely irrelevant.

Hacking is still something that remains prevalent in Watch Dogs: Legion. You can still hack vehicles and cameras like before, but now you also have the ability to hack various types of drones as well. The most useful of these being the cargo drone which you can stand on top of and fly around the sky with. The downside to this however is that it becomes all too easy to rely on the cargo drone as the easy way to tackle the majority of the challenges you’ll face along the way. Rather than using stealth and planning a tactical approach in order to reach an area, you can simply fly straight there with a cargo drone and ignore anything else that’s going on around you as you achieve your objective with ease. Where’s the challenge in that?

Something that Ubisoft have sadly left out from Watch Dogs 2 is the ability to forge evidence against an adversary and have the police or a rival gang set upon them. It was always great fun and extremely satisfying sneaking around a restricted area, doing what you needed to do while another gang were busy taking care of all of the bad guys for you. District Blackouts too, which were a useful ability from the first Watch Dogs game are also sadly noticeable in their absence.

Now seems as good a time as any to talk about the overall presentation of the game. So, time to throw a little bit of controversy out there and say that, in my opinion, Watch Dogs: Legion doesn’t look good. Certainly on PlayStation 4 anyway. In many ways it’s on par with a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 title of the same ilk.

London itself just doesn’t feel right. Yes it sort of looks like London. It has some of the key locations of our great capital such as Buckingham Palace, The Houses of Parliament and Piccadilly Circus. But there’s also so much missing as well. Where is Leicester Square for example? Where is the former Millennium Dome? Why are only certain parts of the city included and others omitted?

Why for instance can’t you head down into the Underground and ride in a tube train like you could with the trains in the original game? The Underground is such a key part of exploring London that it seems absolutely baffling to me that it was reduced to a series of quick travel portals that you didn’t need to ever really bother with as quick travel could be accessed a whole lot easier from the world map.

Why does all of the city look so similar? It almost feels like the developers have taken a bog standard city layout, dotted a few red telephone boxes and a smattering of union jack flags around the place and called it a day. The cities in Watch Dogs and Watch Dogs 2 felt big and bursting with character. The London of Watch Dogs: Legion feels small, claustrophobic and lacking in any real depth.

Then there are the character models. My goodness they’re an ugly bunch. None of them have any of the character or personality of Aiden Pierce or Marcus Holloway. Instead they all stare blankly at each other as they interact. Devoid of any charm or likeability. And why have they all got terrible teeth? Every time one of them opens their mouth to speak you get a glimpse of their rows of brown or yellow pegs. Do the developers think that dentistry isn’t a thing in the UK?

The dialogue and voice acting is severely lacking as well. The voice acting itself is terrible. Stiff and awkward like the actors themselves were just going through the motions. None of the voices themselves fit the characters particularly well either. One of the characters I interacted with – a young, feisty woman – sounded like an old cockney grandma. Another one – a young guy in one of the pubs – sounded like an upper class country gent. Seriously. I’m not making that up. It’s almost like the developers have tried to tick as many regional accent boxes as possible. Newcastle? Check. Irish? Check. Scouse? Check. They’re all there. Yet every piece of dialogue in the game sounds so stilted and wooden. It’s a far cry from Marcus Holloway and his cheery band of hackers.

So, would I recommend you pick up Watch Dogs: Legion? Absolutely. Certainly if you enjoyed the first two games you’ll find plenty of familiar elements here to keep you entertained for a few hours. Aside from the main story there are plenty of side quests to complete and a whole raft of collectibles to seek out. It’s also a nice easy platinum for the trophy hunters amongst you.

If you’ve never dipped your toe into the Watch Dogs franchise until now though, might I suggest you start with the second game instead? Because both it and its predecessor are vastly superior to Watch Dogs: Legion in almost every single way.

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