Watch Dogs Legion – Hands-on with the revolution
I’m following a police officer after she finishes her shift for the day at New Scotland Yard. After hacking their profile, I discover that her name is Kathy Dorneanu, and I can view her entire schedule for the day, including where she is heading next.
According to her ctOS profile, Kathy was questioned by the anti-corruption unit. Her schedule includes training with her personal trainer, shopping with her mother, and something else. Later that night, I see her – now in plain clothes – suspiciously move behind a building and I watch as she destroys valuable evidence and walks away.
Looking at her schedule again, I discover that Kathy is secretly patching holes in the NHS servers to protect it from malicious hackers. The game allows me to then talk to her and enable a recruitment mission. Doing this would make Kathy an official member of DedSec, and a playable character. She has her own unique abilities due to her profession, with a police uniform, baton weapon, and option to bail out fellow DedSec members.
The twist? You can do this for every single person in the entirety of the game, no matter who it is.
This is the feature at the forefront of Watch Dogs Legion, the third instalment in Ubisoft’s hacker franchise. During a sit-down with Ubisoft, I was lucky enough to play the first 3 hours of the game and see what all the fuss is about.
Immediately after the prologue (which I can’t talk about), I’m thrown straight into a new, reimagined London. While previous games took place in the States, Ubisoft is bringing resistance to Britain – with its own twist. London is controlled by a private military known as Albion, but I’ll talk more about them later.
For now, I’ve been thrown into London and I have many tasks ahead of me. I can choose to advance the story, look at some side quests, or just explore the open world. I opt for the latter decision and walk around.
With the profiler, which has been around since the very first Watch Dogs, I’m viewing everyone’s professions and schedules. It’s pretty awesome. Legion expands on previous iterations of the profiler by showing you trivial details like a person’s opinion of DedSec, anyone they are related to or acquainted with, as well as what they’re doing next.
The area I started in is filled to the brim in politicians. Gross. So, after recruiting a protest leader to the group, I make my way across fascist London. I notice quite quickly that this game is surprisingly beautiful. For a series which became infamous for the graphical downgrade of Watch Dogs after E3 2012, Legion looks really good. It’s nothing ground-breaking, but I can stop and appreciate it every so often.
After harassing and recruiting some more people on the street, I keep noticing that each NPC has a cutscene talking about their lives and what will make them join DedSec. I ask my demoist if every single NPC has a special unique cutscene like this, and he mentions that while everyone is playable, the more unique cutscenes are given to more notable characters.
Of course, this entire ‘play as anyone’ feature is extremely impressive at first. I’m going to literally anyone I can find and learning as much as I can about them as a person. It’s really fun. During my preview, I don’t see any duplicates or repeated characters. In fact, I even bump into the same people more than once on the street after saving them to my list of possible recruitments.
Although, I don’t doubt that duplicates exist in Legion and you will find the same player model for multiple NPCs. I notice that while roaming around, some characters do have the same repeated voice lines in situations like almost running them down in your car or pushing them over in the street. But this is an early build, that could always change.
When Watch Dogs Legion was first announced, I was impressed at how different it was compared to previous titles. However, my concern was that Legion would lose all sight of being a Watch Dogs game in the first place. Those concerns were put to rest pretty immediately.
Legion is very much a Watch Dogs game, and it feels more like it than any of the games before. While running around the gorgeous recreation of London, I try to find ways I can compare it to something like Watch Dogs 2. For starters, Legion does not have a skill tree. You have to find a character that holds a trait you want and recruit them to your gang.
While the process of switching between all these characters sounds tedious, especially during missions, it’s not. The UI is surprisingly easy to navigate and lets you switch characters with a single button press. The only interesting side effect of this is being able to see your previous character walk away.
So yes, you can bump into your own operators every once in a while, and they have a special tag on them to let you know they’re on your side. But that’s not the coolest thing about being able to bump into anyone in Legion. While walking around, I begin to notice that some NPCs will occasionally be brought to my attention by the game.
After profiling them, I spot that they are actually relatives or close associates of someone I previously interacted with. Not only that, but it seems that if you kill these people or fight them, it will affect your relationship with their family/friends. Some doctors I find have some of their patients listed in their profile.
I quickly realise that it’s not just a basic amount of characters you can encounter, but all kinds of people from every corner of London. When admiring the London Eye, I notice a person walking around with a camera.
After profiling them, I’m told they are a streamer and then my AI assistant Bagley informs me that they would particularly be a good recruit due to their fame and influence. As a livestreamer, they have a unique ability which allows them to summon camera drones. Personally, I don’t find this too helpful and move on without recruiting her.
Instead, I hop in my car and drive to DedSec headquarters. It seems to be located in former London underground tunnels behind a pub known as The Earl’s Fortune. Inside this safehouse, I see a 3D printer – similar to the previous game – as well as every single person I’ve recruited to DedSec thus far.
It’s a large safehouse, and I would love to see what it looks like once your recruits hit numbers of 100 and beyond. In the tunnels, I see a blue police telephone box. Yes, it looks exactly like the TARDIS. Never-the-less, I step inside and find out that this is a photobooth.
While Legion doesn’t have a photo mode that I know of yet, the photobooth takes all of your DedSec members and puts them into a group photo for you to customise.
The safehouse itself doesn’t have much to do inside, but the pub it uses as a front has some neat options. While in there, I have a few games of darts with random NPCs and get drunk. There’s a few of these trivial activities around the game. Earlier, I was doing kick-ups as a copper.
There are a few pubs around the map, and I check out some more to see if they have any other activities. In the City of London, I find a pub named The Martlet’s Nest. It looks nice, so I enter. The pub doesn’t have anything new to do, so I once again play darts and get drunk.
It’s jolly in here, but I also find myself being yelled at by two people. I scan them, and already know everything about the pair. They are siblings, they came out for a drink before they continue the rest of their day and… they also want to fight me.
I don’t know what I did wrong, but if there’s a fight – I’ll have it. So, naturally, I punch the sister in the face and she falls down in one hit, then finish off the brother. Classic pub shenanigans, right? Either way, I run out of there before the whole establishment turns on me.
For the next hour or so, I’m roaming around the open world of London – trying out different cars, scanning as many people as I can, experimenting with unique abilities. And then, while walking down a random busy street, I spot someone walking out of the hospital. It’s the guy I just knocked out in the pub.
Watch Dogs Legion releases this year on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
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