The reception to Ubisoft‘s reveal of Watch Dogs Legion has been pretty positive so far, and after getting my hands on the game at E3 today, I can confirm that it’s absolutely worth the hype.
Set in a near future interpretation of London, the city is now run by extremists, with “deportation squads” ripping people from their families and segregating the population. It all feels very post-Brexit, which is actually something creative director, Clint Hocking mentioned during the Ubisoft briefing.
“Today, with Brexit, London’s at a turning point,” he said. “It’s hard to predict what the future holds for London, for the UK, or for the world.”
Rather than playing as a single character or even a small team, you play as an entire resistance group called DedSec, which has the power to recruit any person in the game. That’s not an exaggeration, you can literally profile and recruit any NPC you see, even little old ladies. Especially little old ladies.
While I went into the demo with the intention of creating my own squad of badass geriatrics, my pre-selected team was pretty varied in terms of age, but I did manage to recruit Colin, a 68-year-old man who wears a fedora. Using Colin, one of my tasks was to infiltrate and neutralise three targets at an enemy hangout in Camden, and you better believe the old codger laid some beatdown on their asses.
When you first try to recruit someone, they’ll already have an impression of DedSec, and that standing might have to be changed in order to successfully get them on board. Colin, for example, was completely neutral to DedSec, so he only needed a little persuading to recruit. In the interest of time, this process was skipped for the demo, but I was told that you can change NPC impressions in various ways.
When profiling Colin, I could see that he had two friends who were injured. If I wanted to get him in the good books, I could go to the hospital, track down his mates’ medical records and prioritise their treatment with some hacking magic. This is just one example, with tons of other ways available to you over the course of the game.
Once Colin was a fully-fledged member of DedSec, I picked a class for him. Enforcers are all guns blazing types, Hackers have that sweet tech prowess and can deploy a spider drone to fuck with people, and Infiltrators are masters of stealth with a pretty rad cloaking ability. Colin seemed like a slippery character so I went with the Infiltrator class and set him to work.
Without firing a single shot, I was able to get Colin into the compound and sneak up to each of the three targets, taking them down silently one by one. Every character you play as will have their own traits, animations, and voice acting, so it truly feels like they’re unique individuals. When doing a sneaky takedown, for example, Colin would sometimes jump on the enemy’s back and do a series of old man punches, which is not only hilarious but also adds depth to the gameplay.
There’s a big emphasis on non-lethal force in Legion, which plays a big role in recruitment. As I found out, even enemies who have a bad impression of DedSec can be persuaded into joining the cause, so why waste potential manpower if you don’t have to? That being said, if you wanna spill some blood, you totally can.
When my demo was almost up, I took Colin on a bit of a joyride, hijacking cars GTA style and rampaging through the streets. Sadly, he didn’t survive the carnage and when a recruit dies, you can never get them back, so continuously strengthening your numbers is essential when playing.
All-in-all, Watch Dogs Legion is shaping up to be a unique experience and one that will set a new standard for open world games moving forward, assuming it’s as good at launch as it was at E3. The game will drop on the 6th of March, 2020.
While Colin the fedora-wearing geriatric stealth specialist may be dead (RIP), his legacy as my first ever recruit will live in my heart forever.Image: Ubisoft