Video games has taken itself to a whole new level with the advancement of technology. Simulation games now offer some pretty believable texturing while also capturing the realistic physics-based responses to a character’s actions. One good example here is Red Dead Redemption 2’s notorious ball physics where your horse’s balls shrink depending on the current weather. Something that I personally wouldn’t even care about if it wasn’t mentioned online through many social media channels but since it did, I feel inclined to praise it for its realism.
But the guys at Ubisoft hopes to challenge that. While you might not be able to see someone’s testicles shiver in the cold during the rainy seasons of London, Watchdogs: Legion’s take on the dystopian near-future of London captures a larger than life populace with characters that are both weirdly interesting as it is disturbing. Unlike other games of the same genre, there’s a unique taste to Legion’s characters. Aside from not having a true main protagonist to focus the story on, it doesn’t have a lot of non-playable characters like, at all.
Almost every aspect of the word NPC is non-existent here. Every character you meet in the streets, from the high profile individuals to the more middle class junkies takes you into a world that simulates a living and breathing space of the real world or at least for the most part…
Legion’s unique system and ambition to make a game that is solely focused on creating your very own team of DedSec operatives from just about anyone in the street is one that has me hooked at the idea. At the very early parts of the game, you’ll be choosing from a handful of characters with each of their own quirks and unique abilities. But soon enough, you’ll be swapping through the hundreds of individuals from construction workers that got fired after pulling the trigger of a nail gun at their co-workers or sex therapists that I probably wouldn’t even need to mention why they’d even consider joining a group of anonymous hacktivists.
Simply put, each character in Legion’s makeshift sandbox offers something unique whether it’s their names, jobs, their skill sets or even their relationships with other characters. Often times, I would meet cousins or lovers of my fellow DedSec mates or even bump into ex-DedSec peeps while taking a casual stroll. And probably one of my favourite encounters is having a shootout with a former DedSec member while infiltrating an Albion-infested hub. Spoiler alert, it didn’t end well for the other party involved.
Despite its lack of a confined and controlled set of characters, it doesn’t exactly bleed as bad as it sounds. Its supporting characters like Bagley, an AI that has a more than human sense of humour easily takes up much of its needed baggage to its storytelling. It never really felt as dull as it would seem at first but it also doesn’t help when your chosen protagonist doesn’t exactly have the best of modulated voice overs. So that’s that…
The game doesn’t have the most expansive of storylines nor the most robust of its elements either. There’s a handful of chapters that have you going through a couple of faces that terrorizes London but sadly, its mission types are often one-off objectives such as hacking a terminal and what not before escaping the area to go into somewhere farther into the map. The constant back and forth is often one of the most annoying parts of the game which can be blamed on how the characters are made in conjunction.
Since characters are made with preset skills and abilities that range from none to a maximum of four, not every character is made equal which throws off the balance of its core gameplay elements. Often times, while a professional hitman with a bad case of the hiccups can still do a pretty good job at gunning down an enemy-infested hub, Ubisoft opted for an easier approach where even say a cosplayer or investor can finish the same job with little to no effort because enemies lack better AI behaviours. Yet despite its lackluster showing of better and more enjoyable missions and progression, it doesn’t fully destroy the experience but only makes it a weaker showing to other games of the same genre.
But what really bothers me the most with its AI behaviour is its lackluster persistence through wanted levels. Even after reaching 4 or 5 stars on the wanted level, simply boosting up through a roof with cargo drones breaks the game’s balance which instead of pulling out all the stops to arrest a wanted man with a very prominent London-themed getup, all you get is two to three drones that simply blow up in a couple of shots.
Watchdogs: Legion similar to past titles also offers gadget and unlockable skills from cloaking fields to the many drone types other than its abilities to hack enemy drones or disrupt enemies on their tracks. What’s great here is that it doesn’t follow a skill tree that locks you out of options until you gain access to its prerequisites though each ability can still have its own upgrade levels to improve them. These can be unlocked through tech points scattered throughout the map or gained by finishing certain quests that reward them.
Visually, there’s a dark and gloomy feel to the streets of London. One that tries to imitate closely to the realistic tone of the real world unlike Watchdogs 2’s colourful and vibrant spray of paint along with Marcus Holloway’s cheery and often cheeky behaviour. I do wish there’s a wider selection of vehicles though, from motorcycles and its awkward steering behaviour to the more high-end of luxurious vehicles that I can only imagine to wreck moments later. But even then, that level of detail to its world is an impressive feat on its own.
Watchdogs: Legion also has an online mode coming out on December 3 this year. Something that I find myself pretty excited for considering the direction the game took this time around. Since each character has its strength and weaknesses, I would assume that it’s going to play a large role into teaming up with other players in tackling missions or more challenging side activities aside from its PvP modes like the Spiderbot Free-For-All Deathmatch Arena for its online environment.
In a nutshell of a seashell, Watchdogs: Legion while it might not be the most stable of games that released in the past few years, it definitely has some room to grow into something far more than just another sandbox simulation game. Ubisoft is definitely on to something here with its new entry in the Watchdogs franchise and it’s something that was well worth its effort trekking. It’s fun for the most part, and in games, that’s what really matters, isnt it?
Watch Dogs: Legion is available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia, Microsoft Windows
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game which can be purchased here for £59.99
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