The old adage says it’s grim up North, but I’m uncertain anything north of the M25 is really as grim as Ubisoft’s devastating vision of a broken, near-future London.
As a reasonably dark and twisty person myself, I figured I’d embrace DedSec London’s tale a bit more greedily compared to the sunshine and sea lions of Watch Dogs 2’s SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA, but Legion is too terrifyingly real, and simply a tad too grim. I doubt the real climate in the united kingdom is helping much – which evidently isn’t Ubisoft’s fault – but I play games to flee the ills of Westminster, never to be smacked over the top by them. I appreciate that terrorist attacks and food banks and way too many homeless persons put in a frosty layer of authenticity to the fictional vision of the administrative centre, and I understand this is not Ubisoft’s fault, either, but good grief, it’s depressing to discover so many signs of a fictional dystopia from your own local real-life news reports.
Anyway. A devastating terrorist attack rips the administrative centre apart, and DedSec – the hacktivist organisation we’ve known because the start of franchise – sets to right the wrongs and uncover who was simply in charge of the attacks and hold them to account. No, it isn’t a particularly new or engaging conceit, but it’s fit for purpose – nearly.
Droning on and on and on.
Unlike the games before it that boasted both a sullen facsimile of a individual – that’s Aiden Pierce, if you happen to forgot him (and almost all of us have, let’s face it) – and his very antithesis, Marcus Holloway, a guy filled with charm and good humour – there is absolutely no central character in Watch Dogs: Legion. Instead, you play as… well, anyone you fancy, really. Desire to be a full time income statue clad in a golden spacesuit? Fill your boots. Fancy living life as a football eff-wit who lives to smash things up? Off you pop. The world is packed with potential recruits, and you could play as any one of these. It’s an astonishing feat.
Trouble is, with out a central playable character, there’s little to tether you to DedSec’s cockney HQ. Although the supporting cast is suitably eccentric and delightfully sweary, they lack the larger-than-life personalities of Watch Dogs 2’s Marcus and his crew, making them curiously expendable. It’s equally well the game’s chief conceit is that people can play as anyone because Personally i think no emotional link with a single one of these. They’re procedurally-generated shells that never feel anything apart from procedurally-generated shells and for that reason foster no sense of camaraderie, regardless of how many group photographs you foist after them at the safe house.
Even though the permadeath feature undoubtedly adds a dash of peril to your encounters, ultimately, it only serves to help expand sever you from the cast. What’s the idea to getting attached when their lines are transferable to another operative on the rota and there are Riot Drones and permadeath to cope with?
Watch this space.
The problem’s further compounded by some truly dodgy voice acting that feels peculiarly at odds with the faces mounted on it. Stormzy’s voice work is among few performances that felt nuanced and sincere, but otherwise they only served to divorce me from the world, not immerse me in it, and I were left with three different ladies in my squad who all had the same voice and lines. I understand it isn’t practical to have individual voices for the literally infinite amounts of NPCs strutting about the area, but there’s substantially less variety than I’d been expecting (and if you’ll permit me a stroppy tangent: has Ubisoft never heard about Wales? Despite many Scottish and Irish accents flying the flag for the Celts, I didn’t face an individual Welsh accent on my travels).
The story, though passable, does not innovate on the wonderful Watch Dogs 2, and it felt quite definitely as if the abilities and gizmos – while admittedly expanded these times – don’t bring much added value to the party. I chiefly defaulted to camo or my spiderbot, particularly if I unlocked the opportunity to shroud fallen enemies. Few things are as pleasing than taking down an unsuspecting foe with a facehugger-esque squeeze to the facial skin and shrouding the corpse from view.
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Sadly, there’s hardly any variety in the mission types, too, with most revolving around infiltration, hacking – which is perfunctory if occasionally clumsy – and escaping a restricted area. Once you have upgraded your spiderbot and get adept at spotting convenient vents, you could complete missions without ever setting foot in the area, and while it’s primarily thrilling to creep around a secret base at the top of Tower Bridge whenever your operative is saved on the floor below, it is going to grow stale as missions rarely deviate out of this template.
I got so excellent at infiltration, actually, that my efficiency surprised the overall game around it shocked me. In a single particularly memorable sequence, I was directed to “survive” whilst my AI companion Bagley – who irritates a lot more than he assists – unlocked a secret elevator. But as I’d stealthily killed every goon in the area with my trusty spiderbot beforehand, there is nothing to endure except the boredom as I waited for Bagley to accomplish his thing. The gunplay remains just a little spotty, too, but there are definite improvements in hand-to-hand combat, and it feels as though our London foes are made from sturdier stuff compared to the insta-crumble population of Watch Dogs 2.
You’ll without doubt gauge by the lateness of the words that I was among the reviewers suffering from the console-crashing bug that almost bricked my Xbox One X. Sadly, I cannot say I’d been having an especially great time until that point anyway, however the bug did put a premature halt to my campaign progress and instead sent me out into London to explore within my leisure. Like many games forged in the Ubisoft mould, that’s where the world opens up and I began to enjoy myself.
Driving around mindlessly doesn’t do much for me personally – I still hate the driving in this series, not least for the reason that music selection is astonishingly meagre, and even though I had never heard about Boston Manor before, I am now a lot more informed of their work than I ever likely to be. Also, the AI of the persons roaming the streets of London is flawed to the idea of hilarity. Pedestrians frequently – inexplicably – jump in to the road instead of from it.
By enough time you start collating Tech Points and unlocking and upgrading your gizmos and gizmos, though, things get somewhat more enjoyable. I spent considerable time as a construction worker, not as a result of that snazzy hi-viz vest, but as a result of their super convenient cargo drone. Big enough to support both you and its own cargo, not only can you put it to use to get over the city, but also access the collectibles frequently secreted on or about rooftops, too. While it isn’t the speediest device, it’s certainly a soothing way to take the sights of London and maneuver around.
Unlocking the opportunity to hijack drones also had a positive effect on my enjoyment, too. Initially, the items are hideously overpowered and because of the floaty driving, you can’t even outpace the bloody things, but once you can have them and turrets on-side, it will certainly make encounters feel just a little less unbalanced, and a hell of far more more.
But it’s desperately underbaked. Dialogue cuts out in the middle of, either because you’ve inadvertently triggered just one more loading screen, or as the game simply crapped out. Sometimes operatives won’t get into cover, which is super fun if you are in the center of a gunfight. Although you’ll face several UK-flavoured tracks adorning the city’s airwaves as you start your business, the in-car radio – which mysterious follows you from vehicle to vehicle – supplies the same two . 5 songs again and again and – sad news – WD2’s earbuds have already been removed.
Accents and voice work are dodgy. Missions bug out and either don’t start or can not be completed. Enemy drones are desperately overpowered, particularly early-game, and there are always a plethora of other, less inconsequential issues and bugs including a funny half-hour where my DedSec recruit was stuck looping her melee animation. They’re not absolutely all hangable offences, no, but combined they talk about a casino game that – despite its delays – may still have benefited from just a little extra spitshine and polish.
Yes, it’s fun to pootle around London. Yes, it’s exciting to step at night roped-off areas and explore such iconic landmarks and yes, I did so appreciate it the more I played, particularly if I leapt off the predictable story path and made my very own entertainment. But with out a compelling story or any tangible improvements to the mighty standards set by Watch Dogs 2, Watch Dogs Legion is dark and unpleasant in more ways than one, and no matter how many protagonists a casino game boasts if you’re struggling to care about just a single one of them.