Watch Dogs: Legion Review (Spoiler Free)
Reviewed By Bradley O'Neill (Played on PlayStation 4 and 5)
I've been a Watch Dogs defender for a very long time. Watch Dogs 1 was a very rough game and when it was getting ripped apart by the media and the gaming community, i stood by it and tried to share how this game series could have huge potential in the future. The premise of Watch Dogs is pretty solid and with good execution, could be one of the best open world games out there. Watch Dogs 2 came along and I thought it was a brilliant game, it fixed many of the issues of the original and make some bold new steps. The general opinion of the game is pretty good compared to the original and to this day I think this is a super underrated game, the game world is stunning and the game is flat out fun. Now, with Watch Dogs: Legion... I can't quite defend this game in the same way.
So, this third entry of the series takes things in a more ambitious direction. The ability to play as ANYONE! A very interesting idea which I was very hyped for. Any NPC in the world can be hired and played as with each having their own different abilities. This game at times feels like a roguelike because of this structure. The game is also set in London! For ages now, I've wanted an open world game to explore London again! In theory, everything in this game if executed well could make this the best in the series. Unfortunately, this game trips over its own ambition, multiple times.
The gameplay is what you would expect from Watch Dogs, it plays more like Watch Dogs 2 than one which is definitely a positive. The gameplay loop here stays the same through out the game, you get your mission, you drive to a location, complete the mission then do it all over again. This time though you can also take time out of the action to hire new NPC's to your cause.
Playing as different NPC's feels the same across the board but each NPC has specific abilities which can change the tide of whatever mission you are playing. These can be abilities like having more hacking abilities or maybe they own a super fast car which is great for getaways. I'm sad to say that this just wasn't executed as well as it should have. There are no unique distinctions between different characters and their personalities are based on stereotypes. The gameplay between each characters feels the same and never really changes. I think the idea of this is incredible but it just doesn't work yet.
This needed more time to flesh out and I can't help but feel disappointed. What could have been a game changing idea just feels lacklustre and can get repetitive. The games gameplay itself just feels repetitive in general. The gameplay loop rarely changes and the mission structure fails to shake things up in the same way that it did in Watch Dogs 2. The missions are split up into different chapters, in a similar way to Assassin's Creed: Valhalla. I do like this as you can tackle missions in any order you want and thankfully there is no levelling system in this game so your restricted to what you can do.
I know I sound negative when discussing the main selling point of Watch Dogs: Legion but it is just underwhelming. The mission themselves also don't leave much to the imagination and are not as creative or inspired as the previous two games. With all this being said it was still an okay game to go through, i did enjoy my time going through the game, just not as much as I wanted too with a Watch Dogs title as even the hacking hasn't evolved much since the original game. I think I would have worked more on the hacking abilities which was always the main selling point of the series rather than taking this experiential route.
The NPC idea is a cool one, and if pulled off could have really made this game stand out among the bigger titles that have released this year and while the gameplay isn't bad, you just feel like the gameplay wasn't pushed enough and they just played it safe.
For the first time in the series, we are heading to London. I found this concept super exciting and for the most part they pulled it off. I live in London myself and seeing all the different London landmarks in a video game was an incredible experience. It's very accurate to what London is like. The only let down is that I was never fully immersed into the world because of the lack of interiors you could explore. Past Watch Dogs games are memorable for myself because they created lots of unique and different building interiors which really made the world feel alive. The only places you can explore by yourself in this game are different British pubs and some story interiors. It just made me fall out the immersion of the world and so many Open World games share this problem.
Another problem I saw the more I explored the world was the amount of copy and paste I saw. So many hideouts and areas are copy and pasted. I know all open world games are guilty of this but it was really noticeable here. This is a shame because what is here has the potential to be an incredible game world but the more of these things I saw, the less immersed I got. How incredible would it have been to fully explore all of these London landmarks. The world in general is really good, the immersion is just broken far to often.
So, to clarify I played most of this game on PlayStation 4 and then converted to the PlayStation 5 version. Graphically it doesn't look as good as Watch Dogs 2. If I'm honest I felt like they really downgraded this version as it sometimes looks like a late generation PS3 game. Current Generation consoles may be on the way out but it can do better than this. Textures just look muddy and character models look super dated. On PS4 there was also a constant screen tearing issue which wasn't present on the PS5 version of the game.
The art style though is pretty spot on with it looking just how I would expect a London based Open World to look. Moving onto the PlayStation 5 version, this is where it gets interesting. While there is a visual upgrade, its not the biggest leap you would expect. Cars and roads are shinier and textures are slightly higher quality and the lighting is significantly better because of Ray Tracing. My problem here is though is that games on current gen have looked better than this. While my experience on PS5 was much better in terms of visuals, I still feel like this could have been pushed much further.
The PS4 - PS5 issue
So, upgrading to PS5 was not easy as it should have been. While this is nothing to do with the games content, this is still something really bad on Ubisoft's part. The game is advertised so you can upgrade if you own the previous generations version of the game. This is not possible at all, if you put your PS4 version of Legion into your PS5, there is no option to upgrade. This is a simple problem which still hasn't been fixed by Ubisoft and it is unacceptable. In order to get my PS5 version I had to do this annoying work around which thankfully worked. Seriously Ubisoft, this issue needs to be fixed.
Finally, the last aspect I wanted to discuss was the story and oh boy, this was another let down. Not having a main character really impacted my immersion into the story. All the NPC characters you hire in the game act like stiffs, they don't feel "human" at all which makes the story feel so secondarily compared to the rest of the experience. While the plot itself is interesting, its just another spin on stories already told. I not going to spoil the story content here but don't go into this game expecting a story as interesting as the previous game.
If the characters felt more real and less like talking robots, it would improved things but even then, the story is predictable with you probably working out things pretty early on. There was a couple times near the end of the game where the story caught me of guard and actual surprised me. Bagley which is your robotic assistant in this game is by far the best thing about this game with his sarcastic British wit making me laugh on a good few occasions.
I feel like I have really torn into Watch Dogs: Legion in this review. Rightly so, this game has many issues but I still enjoyed the game for what it was. It's an average open world game in its own right but it was crushed by its own ambition and instead it became a game that was more safe than something that really pushed the boundaries of what a Watch Dogs game could be. I think this needed more time in the oven to cook and maybe if the series continues, they will continue to build on the foundation this game set out.
The idea of this game could create a killer game for Ubisoft but this all just feels like an Early Access to what could be, and while London itself is a cool open world, the structure of the world is lazy. The game just feels like a generic open world game at times because of the gameplay loop of go here, collect this and go back. It never changes and it makes the overall experience suffer because of it.
Overall, my feelings towards this game are harsh because the hype really didn't live up to the final product. I was super hyped for this and with how much time I spent in Watch Dogs 2, i was expecting to love this game. I hope in the future, the development team really take what works from this game and improves it ten fold, because if Watch Dogs carries on like this, there will be no future.
5/10 - An average open world title crushed by its own ambition.