Watch Dogs: Legion has launched just moments before the next generation of consoles in what will also be a busy window for Ubisoft’s big franchises with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla launching alongside the Xbox Series X|S, then a handful of other AAA games over the next three months. For now though, we’re traveling to a near-future dystopian London where private security force Albion and their drones have taken over the city. You are DedSec – the resistance – and in Watch Dogs: Legion it’s up to you to recruit your very own unique team of Londoner operatives to take on and take out those that oppress.
Watch Dogs: Legion starts as any game set in London should: you’re a secret agent that must save the Palace of Westminster from being blown to kingdom come. After the (surprisingly brief for Ubisoft) prologue, your DedSec journey in London begins. This time, anyone can join your collective, but that doesn’t mean you’ll want everyone. Using your phone, you can check each Londoner’s name and bio as well as their perks to see if they’d be a useful member of your team. When you find someone you like the look of, you can add them to your list of potential recruits which begins a side mission to get them onboard. These missions are usually short and sweet, often leading you to another part of the city to hack a terminal or do another minor task. Once you welcome a new recruit to DedSec, they become a playable character which you can then make various changes to, including their outfit and the gadgets they can use. Something else worth mentioning is at the very start of the game you can choose whether to play in ‘perma-death’ mode, meaning once your operative dies they’re gone forever. While we didn’t choose that mode this time around, we probably will for our next-gen playthrough.
London is littered with collectables including data like audio recordings, text messages and relics that reveal more information for lore lovers, and collectors will also find hidden masks all over the city, as well as hackable cases that provide one of the two non-premium currencies. One of the currencies is tech points which we’ll get into later, while the other is used to purchase clothing and accessories from one of the many, many stores around London. Ubisoft has re-created London’s clothes shopping scene with a new contactless click-and-collect way to shop using a screen outside the front of each store. Areas like Regent street and Piccadilly Circus are absolutely crammed with shopping outlets for you to browse and buy to your heart’s content, but what really did it for us was the tourist kiosks throughout London that sell similar souvenir clothing to what you would find on the streets of London today.
Once you’re done shopping and sight-seeing, it’s time to start restoring the six boroughs (Camden, Islington & Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Nine Elms, Lambeth and Southwark) and two cities (Westminster and London) to their former glory by pushing out the Albion security and creating a new sense of self-defiance among the citizens. This is done by completing various open-world tasks like removing Albion propaganda and spray-painting large murals onto buildings. When you free one of London’s boroughs or cities you’ll be rewarded with a new recruit along with the locations of all tech points to hack which helps your overall gameplay by being able to unlock gadgets, upgrades, weapons and hacks.
Instead of a skill tree progression system, in Watch Dogs: Legion you can unlock and upgrade tech perks in whatever order you like, although some perks are locked behind how many areas of London you’ve liberated. We found all of the tech upgrades to be quite useful depending on the type of gameplay you’re involved in, but unlocking and upgrading the non-lethal weapons wasn’t overly important given your operatives are most likely already carrying a weapon of their choice, such as an AK47, a nail gun, or a weapon that releases a swarm of bees.
Interestingly, while drones are literally everywhere in Watch Dogs: Legion, you don’t have your standard drone like you did in Watch Dogs 2. Instead, the game encourages you to hack and utilise nearby drones (and trust us, there’s always one nearby) to scout out hard-to-reach or dangerous areas. Different operatives can summon different types of drones depending on their perks, but all drones found in the open-world are accessible to any operative, meaning you don’t have to be a construction worker to use the very handy cargo-lifting drone.
There are numerous ways to get around London, one of which is the slow-moving cargo drone. Ubisoft has used the London Underground rail system stations as fast-travel locations, and while we were disappointed that you can’t actually go down to the platform, it made sense to use these points for fast-travel because that’s what Londoners use it for too. There are also many different types of vehicles to be found such as motorbikes, cars, black cabs, trucks, and big red double-decker buses. This near-future London has self-driving cars which you can enter and then choose to auto-drive to your location, however we found this mode of transport to be almost as slow as running.
As with all Watch Dogs games, there’s plenty of hackable technology. Other than controlling drones, vehicles can also be sent in any direction with the touch of a button, while barriers on the road can be raised and lowered to evade police or Albion or just cause general havoc. London is also full of security cameras which is another way to surveil an area before going in, and you can also mess with enemies by opening and closing gates and doors. Watch Dogs: Legion is a hacker’s dream, but we were disappointed that we couldn’t raise and lower Tower Bridge, set off Big Ben, or send the London Eye into a free spin.
The main campaign takes about 15-20 hours and involves defeating the five ‘Villains of London’, the leaders of different organisations that are working with or against each other vying for control of the city. There are also literally as many side missions as you want, given you get one for each new operative you recruit. You’ll find other side missions around London, rescue missions when your operatives are kidnapped, and also the story-linked operatives will provide some as you progress through the game. There are also mini-games including soccer skills, fight clubs, package deliveries, and darts, and you can also drink yourself silly at one of the many pubs, though that might make your darts game a bit more challenging.
There’s plenty to do in Watch Dogs: Legion, but we found enjoyment in browsing Londoners to see if they had a famous name or interesting perks. While we found names like Phil Collins and Janet Jackson, their perks didn’t necessarily match up with the real-world celebrity. If you have a common name like Scott Smith or Sean Anderson then you may just find yourself strutting down Oxford Street in-game, but don’t be surprised if they walk with a limp and are on their way to Trafalgar Square to stomp on pigeons. There are rarer operatives that have better perks that appear every hour, though we didn’t find any overpowered operatives despite checking hundreds while looking for names of friends and family. It’s an interesting side-game, and we’re confident that there will be some hilarious moments on Twitch and YouTube when players come across a familiar name.
Watch Dogs: Legion has a surprising amount of similarities to the stellar Ghost of Tsushima we played earlier in the year in that you can choose to stealth around, using drones, spider bots and cameras to plan your every move, or you can just go in guns blazing. A lot of the time it can be much easier to do the latter in Legion, but this of course depends on your current operative’s skillset. Combining this with the fact that there are collectable masks hidden throughout London, you can see why we’ve drawn this albeit unintentional correlation between the two games.
The most frustrating part of Watch Dogs: Legion is its load times. Switching to another operative and fast travel can take anywhere up to 30 seconds, and a lot of the missions involved doing just that which meant more waiting on either side. We know that the next-gen consoles have extremely fast load times so we’re looking forward to seeing how Legion benefits, but for now we can’t help but get annoyed at how long we spent waiting for the game to load. One big positive however is that the game stays loaded in standby mode and simply reconnects you to the Ubisoft server while you’re playing which is something that should be a priority for developers but has become frustratingly less common in newer release games. We also came across some minor bugs like cut-scenes not loading properly and awkward NPC movement in cut-scenes, but overall Legion feels more polished than a typical Ubisoft game at launch, and there’s also a day 1 patch which we assume will fix a few things.
Watch Dogs: Legion looks and feels like London. The Thames is as dirty and choppy as you’d expect, The Shard lights up Southwark, and the ancient buildings of Westminster haunt and daunt the west. The map itself is compressed but still features almost every tourist attraction we could think of. Where it lacks though is in its draw distance of drones and vehicles which jolt along and then disappear in front of your eyes. There’s also a severe lack of reflections which leaves us to wonder if Ubisoft has held back on the current generation versions of Watch Dogs: Legion to ensure that it looks and plays better with ray-tracing enabled when the next-gen consoles launch.
Probably the most impressive part of Watch Dogs: Legion is its voice acting throughout the campaign and side missions. We’re honestly not sure how they managed to have voice acting for every single Londoner, though you’ll notice that everybody calls you ‘DedSec’ instead of your current operative’s name. Ubisoft has somehow managed to have full voice acting for every ethnicity and gender in the game, which not only brings your personalised operatives to life but also helps make the atmosphere of London seem even more realistic. Combining that with the radio and tv stations which have news updates that change depending on what drama you just caused in London, and Watch Dogs: Legion becomes one of the noisiest open-world games we’ve played.
When we think of Ubisoft’s big franchises, Watch Dogs has earnt its place among them despite the fact that it has only been around for a single generation. Watch Dogs: Legion brings new ideas to the franchise while keeping within the world of Blume Corp’s ctOS. As DedSec and the Watch Dogs franchise moves across the globe, Ubisoft continues to develop this franchise into an ultimate hacker-friendly dystopian open-world platform where you can be whoever you want to be. Ubisoft’s latest take at London is its most memorable, though we can’t wait to see what it will look like on the XSX and PS5, and hopefully we’ll see the franchise come down under!
Rocket Chainsaw reviewed Watch Dogs: Legion on an Xbox One X with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC and PlayStation 4, and will launch on Xbox Series X|S on November 10 and on PlayStation 5 digitally on November 12 and physically on November 24. Stay tuned to Rocket Chainsaw for our comprehensive look at the next-gen version of the game later this year, and for more information head to the official website.
- Great implementation of innovative ‘Play as Anyone’ system - London’s atmosphere is authentic - Interesting story and unlimited side content - Multiplayer is coming soon!
- Draw distance on moving objects is poor - Slow load times on Xbox One X - Ubisoft forgot to give Big Ben its real-world makeover - Already feels like it’s ready for next-gen update.