Cyber-crime, dubious artificial intelligence, and overbearing surveillance is the name of the game with Ubisoft’s third-person shooter franchise, Watch Dogs. But the latest instalment, Watch Dogs: Legion, goes a step further, allowing you as the player to recruit any civilian in the beautifully-detailed cyberpunk-esque London to fight alongside the hacktivist group, DedSec; but does it work?
The promise of ‘play as anyone’ may have seemed overly ambitious (and to some degree, it is), but generally, it works, sort of. Thanks to the ability to recruit anyone, gameplay is extremely dynamic. Whether you enrol an enemy guard, accountant, or old lady, each usually requiring a quick mission or favour to get them on-board, their abilities and perks are different. For example, getting a hacker on the team will speed up your hacking time, whereas a police officer will help reduce your team’s jail-time if they get nicked!
Seeing how these different characters manage combat is intriguing too. While a middle-aged marketing executive might fumble through a takedown, a hitman will wrangle a neck with John Wick-style furosity, and it’s fun to experiment and find the style that works for you — whether goofy or effective.
While the ‘play-as-anyone’ gameplay delivers diversity, it sadly does dilute the emotional weight of the narrative, because there is no central hero to relate to. Because the faces of who you’re playing as keep changing (and with the voice-acting not always coming off how it should), it begins feeling more like an MMO of random NPCs than a story with a relatable hero and a punchy narrative. It’s unfortunate, because some of the game’s moments are genuienly haunting, but when you’re in the cutscene as the janitor you recruited 5 minutes prior, it all seems a little out of place.
While the novelty of the ‘play-as-anyone’ mechanic does wear off about half way through the game, thankfully, most missions do give you an option to approach it as you’d like, which does keep it fresh. You can hack your way into an enemy base and never actually set foot in the building, or you can go in guns-blazing, and this choice is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the Watch Dogs franchise as a whole.
Sometimes too much of something isn’t a good thing, and Watch Dogs: Legion proves this. The option to play as anyone, while impressive from a technical standpoint, takes away any central protagonist to get invested in, which causes the story to fall short. To the game’s credit, though, Legion is incredibly dense and layered, and not only in the world design, but how all the characters operate within it, and that has to be appreciated.
Watch Dogs: Legion is available on Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X.
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