London looks amazing in this open world, futuristic hacking action game.
The third Watch Dogs outing is a winner and will be everything fans of the series expect and want from a UK based sequel.
Gritty streets, gangster grannies, drones, spider robots, lashings of gunfights, boozing in pubs and a bloody good time all mixed into one slinky looking blockbuster game.
If you can picture GTA in a near-future London where a shady corporation polices the city, you are basically there.
The game is set in post-Brexit Britain where the capital is facing its downfall.
In the aftermath of several terrorist bombing attacks, authoritarians and opportunists have filled the void left by an ineffective government and exploit the situation for their own gain.
Albion is the big bad in this title, a gun-toting private security firm that has entrenched itself in the city and now runs the streets, beating and intimidating anyone who gets in its way as scared politicians use them to deter further terror attacks.
They’ve got total control as our first character, one you can choose yourself from a wide array of citizens from different backgrounds, takes to the game for the first time in the wake of the terror attacks.
You are the sole remaining free member of DedSec, the anarchistic hacking group that players of the first two games will know well.
Your job is simple: to retake London borough by borough, build a revolution against Albion’s might and prove once and for all that DedSec aren’t the baddies but the heroes who will save the city.
Watch Dogs: Legion is a game where ordinary people find the courage to put aside their differences and come together to stand up to take back their freedom.
In the game you can recruit and play as any character you find in the open world, and there are seemingly endless numbers of them in this busy city.
Each one of them has a back story, personality and skillset that will help you create your own unique team ideal for a variety of missions.
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And as you recruit and build up the new DedSec, you’ll soon be taking on all comers, from East End gangsters to people traffickers, Albion to corrupt leaders in the Government itself.
That’s this game’s greatest achievement, to be able to truly meet anyone, work on recruiting them and eventually become them as a playable character with unique abilities.
It’s what the first Watch Dogs showed promise of all those years ago with a hyper-inflated E3 demo.
And thanks to the upcoming new consoles in PS5 and XB SX/S it feels like the start of a new era of incredibly in-depth video gaming.
However Watch Dogs Legion isn’t perfect.
The story mission feels cliched at many points, retreading previous ground with very similar gameplay mechanics to the last title in the series and often familiar mission styles too.
It’s great, it was great too back in the previous setting of San Francisco, but at worst it can get a bit samey – break into this heavily fortified base, seek out a particular object, get it, hack it, then flee.
But London feels alive in this game, it’s amazingly detailed and packed full of life, people going about their lives, talking, meeting at pubs all very close and pre-covid.
That alone puts Legion above Watch Dogs 2 for me.
I spent a lot of time sightseeing around the city I know so well between story missions, checking out my old work building – it’s there but slightly smaller in height than the real thing – and also famous landmarks like Buckingham Palace, the Shard, evening Camden Town.
It all feels incredibly accurate, as if they took a Google Street View car and fed mot of the city perfectly into the computer.
That makes the game, for me at least, play more realistically too.
There’s a gritty, Eastenders style sheen to this eight-borough version of London though, a darkness as the rain pelts down in a city under siege.
The oppression of Albion is everywhere to be seen, military motors are dotted all over the place with flak jacketed guards arresting passers by they don’t like the look of, dishing out beatings in public for us to see.
You can take them on, but be ready for a fight to the death and countless reinforcements that’ll push your gaming abilities to the limits.
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Every car, every bike you see is there for the stealing. And that’s the best way to traverse a huge game map between missions. That or the Tube.
There’s also a ton of side quests at hand, every time you want to recruit a new member it’ll mean doing something for them first, like repaying a debt to a loan shark or doling out justice to their rival.
You can get lost in this London for days never playing the actual main story missions.
Gameplay is well thought out and continues on from previous games.
So expect plenty of button bashing fist-fights, third-person shootouts against rivals with a myriad of weapons in an ever-growing arsenal and the ability to pretty much hack any technology around.
That means puzzle-based missions of effectively ‘get item A to area B’ involving the clever use of hacked CCTV cameras, re-routing power grids to unlock doors, drones with cameras and hijacked construction gear to get you on top of buildings.
There’s a lot going on and with every mission multiple ways of completing them.
So you can go in all guns blazing, hoping for the best, or try a far more tactful stealth approach, snaking up behind guards to take them out silently and then using tiny robots to gather the intel you need without the physical version of you ever being in real danger.
That means major replayability even when you’ve completed the lengthy story campaign.
It’s a huge game. One that’s well realised and with character stamped over every part of it.
It’s not quite GTA in it’s ability to really charm and capture the gamer, the story tropes tread well-worn ground even if some of the subject matter feels quite edgy.
Some of the voice acting is more Mary Poppins than real London.
And I understand there have been some glitches for some players of the game, although Ubisoft have promised to sort that out within the next few days.
I’d have like to have seen a little more gameplay innovation in the minute-by-minute mission challenges alongside the huge step forward in playable character development.
This does play quite similar to Watch Dogs 2.
But overall, we have a fantastic new open world title to enjoy here.
One that is very English, packed full of wild and interesting characters, each with their own story to tell.
It’s a huge step forward in that regard and one that should be celebrated as it shows a way forward for video game development.
And while many elements in gameplay and story may feel familiar, they work really well and the amount of things to do, see and experience are truly amazing.
You’ll spend months on this game and get nowhere near exhausting everything it has to offer.
** The online mode of Watch Dogs: Legion will be accessible for all Watch Dogs: Legion players from Thursday 3rd December. It was not included in this review. This review was done on Playstation 4.
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