The Watch Dogs franchise has had a bit of a rocky past, yet the world behind it has always been fascinating. Its base gameplay of hacking, shooting and sneaking past the bad guys to save the day is a satisfying, if cliche, loop. This being said, they all seem to have bigger issues driven by too much ambition, an unwillingness to change up, and now, a little bit of both. Watch Dogs: Legion, paradoxically, sits in this strange space of doing a little too much to work properly and not enough to stand out.
Opening up with Dalton - a member of MI5 - you must traverse underneath parliament to investigate a bomb threat. It has you sneak through, hacking cameras to see your way and taking down bad guys so you don’t get caught. You have nothing but the comforting tones of Bagley, your AI computerised companion, to see you through. He does things like come out with one-liners and give necessary information to pass on through - a fun if formulaic companion. After making your way through and to the roof, you manage to stop the bomb, only to be shot down mercilessly by the mysterious Day Zero. In doing so, they set off multiple bombs across London implicating Ded Sec as the sole perpetrator.
This sets up the central gimmick of Watch Dogs: Legion quite well. You play a group of people drawn together through common ideals, the resistance to Albion and the military state. You pull together a group of punky idealists who want to work together to right the wrongs in London. This works to varying degrees. You can, in fact, pick any person from the street and attempt to recruit them to your side. This is an interesting idea and all possible recruits have flavor text like their age, profession, and various hobbies they engage in. This is a nice way of encouraging world-building and some attachment to characters. I felt far more invested in mediocre recruits when I found out they were a board game designer who loved kittens or I kitted them out in tacky tourist gear and pretended they were some revolutionary who found their way to Britain as a tourist. This is helped by the fact possible recruits have unique perks, weapons and gadgets.
Watch Dogs: Legion, paradoxically, sits in this strange space of doing a little too much to work properly and not enough to stand out.
This appeal wore off as all people in the street started to feel the same with similar rewards. The game has a progression it sort of makes you take in regards to your recruits. Certain recruits are necessary for progression and unlocked through missions and the majority of those walking the streets aren’t worth your time. You often find the same people walking around with similar body types and heights and cars never have people in them. The world of Watch Dogs: Legion is that of an architectural facade. When looked at from an angle, it’s very impressive but when those walls come down, you spot everything wrong in one go.
Watch Dogs: Legion sure does look pretty though. There are stills from buildings in Watch Dogs: Legion that are nearly indistinguishable from actual buildings - though looking at the clothes gives it away. It is an incredibly impressive work in this regard. Whilst the bodies and faces are a bit mediocre, some of the buildings and skyline are wonderfully well rendered.
The same analogy can be used in regards to the gameplay. The act of hacking bollards as you go by or swerving cars to the side is incredibly satisfying and the same can be said of gadgets. Using the spider bot to crawl through vents or drones to shoot down oncoming enemies works very well. It works so well that entire sections are built around it and they feel fun and refreshing when added into missions. This all being said, the gunplay is mediocre and doesn’t feel any different to the past two Watch Dogs games. You have options like a sprint and some basic climbing but that doesn't develop much further and often feels a bit too weighty and inconsistent. Watch Dogs: Legion's gunplay is quite similar to Grand Theft Auto with a cover system and one dot reticle for your aim but all guns feel very similar in both handing and damage.
Speaking of damage, a dedicated fist fighting mechanic helps to shake up a little bit of the moment to moment gameplay but often finds itself a more viable way of taking down big guys. Shooting them won't stun them but punching will. This accentuates the issues in Watch Dogs: Legion - The entire game falls apart at the seams if you mess around with it too much. Acquiring the cargo drone allows you to fly above the city bypassing some of the hardest parts of infiltration. You can often get into rooms you shouldn’t yet and - if you’re really unlucky- you might get yourself stuck there.
Watch Dogs: Legion feels like its missing content to make it really stand out. Outside of the main quest, there are some side activities but nothing new. You can take part in activities to turn boroughs like destroying propaganda and getting in the way of Albion operations but these feel, very much, like standard Ubisoft fare - world design that hasn't changed in a decade. There are also side quests like competing in a fist fighting ring and a strange Stomrzy cameo mission but the charm fades fairly quickly
This is a shame as there is so much to like in Watch Dogs: Legion. I hope this world is revisited in the future as there is promise here but I still don’t think they’ve fully found it. Watch Dogs: Legion is a game that could do with more time in the oven: its recruitment system is interesting if a little shallow, its graphics and sound design are great but its story is cliche, its gameplay is outdated and it doesn’t compensate well for experimentation. There are so many good ideas here but it never really lives up to them in a meaningful way. I enjoyed my time with Watch Dogs: Legion but the whole time I played it, I was phishing for more.
TechRaptor reviewed Watch Dogs: Legion on the Xbox One with a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X.
- Beautiful World
- Interesting Ideas
- Hacking Still Feels Great
- World Feels Empty
- Not Fleshed Out