The third entry in the Watch Dogs series is here, and developer Ubisoft Toronto have decided to departure from a classic model and use a different formula than in the previous games. Does it work?
Right at the start of this review I have to let you know that I was one of those who liked the first Watch Dogs from 2014, and even Aiden Pearce, the main protagonist, who was characterized by many as one of the most boring characters ever.
I guess that liked that dark and serious tone that the game had.
When Watch Dogs 2 came out, we got a completely different experience. Aiden Pearce was replaced by the younger and more entertaining Marcus, the game replaced the rainy Chicago with the colorful San Francisco Bay Area.
Watch Dogs 3, sorry, Watch Dogs: Legion, is somewhere between those two titles. Ubisoft has bravely decided to give up the previous two characters, and this time try something very innovative, and that is the ability to play with any NPC from the game. Yes. Even the ex-spy granny.
The story in the WD Legion is nothing you haven’t already seen and heard on television or in theaters. The plot takes place in the near-future London, where people are being oppresed by an all-seeing surveillance state. The streets are controlled by a private military company (Albion), and a powerful crime syndicate is preying on the weak and vulnerable ones.
It's up to DedSec and your ability to recruit a resistance to fight back in the name of the people.
Gameplay in WD Legion is solid, but not without flaws. The decision that each NPC can become the main character in the game seems very interesting at first, but it is not perfectly implemented, although we take our hats off to Ubisoft because they've decided to try something new, something innovative.
Recruiting new members of your team usually looks like this: You scan an interesting NPC, if you like his background and skillset, you start the recruting dialogue:
"Hey, hello! Do you want to be a part of DedSec?"
"Oh, yes! Of course! But first you have to find my friend who disappeared a few days ago in suspicious circumstances."
Complete a short mission and when you're done, return to the NPC in question, which will thank you for your help and accept the offer to be a part of the resistance.
The idea is that each member of the team has special capabilities, such as summoning drones, has an automatic weapon, etc., but in essence it does not matter that much, because each of them can hack a drone, and with each you can solve the mission without any major variations.
The game also offers the Permadeath mode, which means when one of your team members dies in the game, it's gone and you have to keep playing with the other. The problem is that the game is not that challenging, and the gunplay, although fun, seems kind of OP, because with the cover system and hacking skills available, you can clear a room of enemies in an instant.
After a short time, I gave up wasting time on new recruits, so I decided to stick to one character. The character who has the most personality in the game is, arguably, an A.I. called Bagley, with whom I ended up being most emotionally connected with.
Gameplay is surprisingly fun, and once you get used to the controls and start using the environment as your weapon, you start to feel like a God to whom no one can do anything. If someone is chasing you with a car, you simply hack their vehicle and make it crash into a nearby building. Do you want to fly? Hack the cargo drone and climb it, you can cross the whole city without any problems and approach the mission from above.
What I didn't like so much were the vehicles. The feeling of driving is somehow... I don't know, as if the vehicles don't have weight. At first I felt like I was driving cardboard cars. But as the game progresses you kinda get used to it all. And you fast-travel a lot.
The map is another problem, because there are so many fast travel points, that it almost eliminates the need to drive around through the city of London. I wish they had set up a lot less fast travel points and so made us all drive more and feel the city. This way you can rush through the story in a very short time, because you can teleport from point A to point B, solve the mission and return to point A for a quick briefing all in a few minutes.
Hacking is what I love about the WD series, and mini-games with interestingly designed hacking puzzles remind you that you are playing the Watch Dogs game. It's just too much fun. I enjoyed each one, even though you do the same thing over and over again, but it is so rewarding to successfully hack the security system and pick up those 10 tech points, which serve to upgrade skills, which are shared among all team members.
For now, the only mode in the game is story, in which you have several mini-games (darts, football skills), but the Online multiplayer update is on its way, and it's coming on December 3.
Graphics and sound
Visually, I have to admit, I expected a lot more. The implementation of ray-tracing technology is interesting, but I think we lost more than we gained with it.
How? So here’s an example, without the ray-tracing on the reflections on the vehicles are disappointing. It was as if everyone had painted the cars matte. Only when you turn on the RTX do you get nice reflections on the car and windows. I think the reflections on cars had to look better with RTX set to OFF.
When it comes to ray-tracing, performance drops significantly when you turn it on. You have three options: Medium, High, Ultra.
The DLSS feature doesn’t bost performance significantly, as in other games, which is a big pity to me, as the FPS drops noticeably when driving around town, so I had to spend a lot of time initially tweaking the settings.
The game with all the effects on looks beautiful at night. Especially when it rains and you see reflections in the puddles. But I decided that higher FPS meant more to me than some additional details.
The sound in the game is ok. A couple of the songs in the soundtrack are a bit 2000-and-late, and the radio isn’t exactly GTA level, but that’s certainly not the point of an open-world game like WD Legion.
Some voice acting could have been much better. You will also notice unsynchronized lip-sync in several situations.
Watch Dogs Legion is a brave exit from the comfort zone to which we have been accustomed to in games so far. The new formula may not stick around, but we are grateful to have had the opportunity to try it out.
A game like Watch Dogs Legion is more than hacking drones and driving from one clothing store to another, it is a game in which the developer touches on some important problems in society today, with which we can very well identify.
We don’t know what tomorrow brings us, but games like this remind us that we’re all in the same boat, even though we’ve never met in our lives.
I'd like to give our thanks to Ubisoft UK, for providing us a review key for Watch Dogs: Legion (PC).