Posted on 01 Dec 2020 by Jay Shaw

Watch Dogs Legion

The Defence

Developer: Ubisoft Toronto
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Action, Adventure
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: No
Release date: 29 Oct 2020

The Prosecution

OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i5 3.2 GHz
AMD Ryzen 5 3.2 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970
AMD equivalent
HDD: 45 GB
DirectX: 12
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: Yes
FPS Lock: 120+
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i7 3.6 GHz
AMD Ryzen 5 3.2 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060
AMD equivalent
HDD: 45 GB
DirectX: 12
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: Yes
FPS Lock: 120+

The Case

It’s November once more, that time of year when Ubisoft dumps several flavours of open world on us and populates them with a stupid amount of tiny little dots on the map to lead to near meaningless little distractions. First out of the gate this year is Watch Dogs Legion, taking the US-centric hacking series to the United Kingdom because a ham-fisted story about fascists would’ve been too on the nose across the pond. But is it any good?

The Trial

Watch Dogs Legion opens with you playing an agent called Dalton, a spy, as he infiltrates the area under the houses of parliament in a modern re-telling of the Gunpowder Plot. Feel free to look that up. Long story short, some very bad people have planted a bunch of very large bombs and you’re on a mission to disarm them. The intro serves as a gentle introduction to Legion‘s controls, stealth, and hacking but does such a good job that you’ve basically experienced most of what the game has to offer in the first 20 minutes.

The tutorial ends with a giant holographic projection of the mysterious evildoer Zero Day, a hacker that organized the whole plot. We’ll avoid any actual spoilers going forwards but we will say you’ll not find any surprise twists or shocking story beats. The story pits you against several factions as you seek to investigate the plot, uncover Zero Day’s identity, and free London from the tyrannical grip of private military corporation Albion. This plays out in typical open world sandbox fashion – a series of missions and side missions that pit you against enemy factions one at a time until you’ve felled them all and fixed the problem.

But the credits roll and the game launches into the post-game where nothing has changed except for a couple of extra side missions appearing. The game falls flat like this repeatedly; Clan Kelley is a people smuggling group of slave traders using technology to control their victims but are lead by such a comically evil Eastenders character that you can’t take them seriously while the rest of their goons on the street are mostly pickpockets and low-level thugs. Albion is likewise completely incompetent as a police force, you can literally run over people right in front of them and they’ll ignore it. Their leader could have been a good character if he’d been given a bit more screen time but as it is he lacks any depth or interesting moments. Zero Day is a non-threat the whole campaign. Non-enemy factions like protestors and police barely even get mentioned and definitely don’t get any worthwhile screen time.

Spiderbot! Spiderbot! Does whatever a spiderbot does!

As the campaign progresses mission locations tend to start repeating quite frequently too. It’s a lot less impactful to be sneaking into SIRS (fictional GCHQ) headquarters for the third time in a handful of missions when you’ve already cleared the place out just minutes earlier. Not that infiltrating is difficult or rewarding either: You unlock a spiderbot very early in the campaign and it can do anything you can do except shoot stuff so you can lob it over a wall or security checkpoint and subdue guards or subvert security with zero challenge. If the spiderbot is spotted it can turn invisible or hide in small places. If it’s killed you can just wait a minute and throw another one. This little bot ruins the entire balance of the game with how useful it is.

You will have to sneak in yourself quite frequently however, the spiderbot can’t ride an elevator to a new area or pull a lever for example so it isn’t the last word in infiltration. Your other gadgets can be useful too; shock traps can be hacked to lure enemies towards them, your AR cloak literally turns you invisible even if sprinting, and a drone that explodes can often be sent ahead to suicide-bomb every guard with a little patience. You can hack environmental items like transformers and valves to create explosive traps or hack objects that raise or lower cover. You can even hack enemies directly – both drones and people – with the basic distraction ability causing their phone to ring and immediately grabbing their attention. Yes, even if they’re half a second away from spotting you and setting off the alarm.

So we’ve established you’re a badass, nigh unstoppable invisible ninja with the ability to go wherever you want almost unopposed. Half the issue though is wanting to go there, typically you’ll only infiltrate most places because it either has a tech point cache (to buy more hacks/gadgets) or a mission objective. The problem with this approach is that so many tech caches are hidden in places that need a cargo drone to get to and they’re slow and boring to ride. You can only equip two guns and one gadget at a time too so buying more than the bare essential of upgrades feels pointless – “why bother with anything after you get the spiderbot?” was a recurring thought when looking at the tech screen.

I must go, my people need me!

More interesting is the ability to recruit anyone off the street into DedSec. Everyone comes with at least one perk and sometimes several. Perks range from simple such as having a pistol, or randomly farting, yes, it’s hilarious and our gassy gastroenterologist was our main character for the first few hours. Occasionally perks can be more useful such as having uniformed access to enemy facilities or a spy watch that jams all enemy weapons in a small range. Some perks that look useful just aren’t; Gunkata users can insta-kill enemies in melee range so long as their gun is drawn but enemies will resort to their guns straight away if you’re spotted with yours drawn and anyone can insta-kill in melee range if you’re sneaky anyway. Some characters come with their own vehicles but, in a setting with ubiquitous self-driving vehicles, they just spawn nearby and don’t come to you and the spawning system often puts them in terrible places.

The game will throw money at you too, but apart from to test the clothing menu we never spent any of it. You don’t have to buy guns or ammo, you can’t buy vehicles, and upgrades solely use tech points. Money can be spent on buying new clothes for your motley band of crypto-anarchists but cosmetics tend to range from cheap Union Jack covered souvenir shirts to hipster trash. Even the punk style clothes has a heavy hipster influence and playing a granny or top-secret super spy decked out head to toe in various neon lights and a gaudy pig mask can be funny at first but quickly looses its appeal when you realise that not even the Ubisoft crafted main characters manage to look passable in a modern game.

Some main characters, Kaitlyn Lau in particular, even share faces with random pedestrians. It’s entirely possible to walk into the DedSec hideout and find three or four clones only differentiated by their varying levels of love for bad accents and undercut hair styles. Much like the real world, some slang terms are massively overused too, we lost count of the number of times we heard someone saying “fam” in their best “I’ve never heard a South Londoner” accent. It’s not just the English accents that suffer either, the Eastern European accent is so bad everyone who uses it may as well be a racist caricature. The South African accent fares a little better to our untrained ears but we suspect someone who hears the real thing regularly would find it just as off-putting as the others.

The great London passtime: Deciding which graffiti to stick all over the side of a block of flats.

Out of the main cast the standout performance comes in the form of your snarky AI companion Bagley. This chipper little chap drops dry British wit like he’s recreating Operation Millennium (the bombing of Cologne in 1942) and doesn’t shy away from taking shots at pretty much anything that comes up in conversation. “Welcome to Westminster Abbey. Resting place of noted cousin fucker, Edward I.” Don’t worry, there’s plenty more like that, and thanks to not having a face, Bagley also manages to be the least off-putting of your crew when he speaks.

The general feeling of London is pretty well done though. Recognisable voices fill the radio and news broadcasts, advertisements are close enough to their real counterparts that we swear we’ve seen the Shakespeare ones plastered all over any major city south of Sheffield, and random pedestrians are just waiting for you to fall off a bike so they can call you a cunt. The city manages to be a pretty decent setting when game systems collide – say a protestor drop-kicks an Albion goon and sets off a brawl that escalates into shooting, or criminals lurk around dingy alleys just waiting to mug a hapless wanderer. They’re no real threat to you, but we stumbled into emerging situations and stopped to just observe plenty of times.

Events that are inconsequential to the player can return with ramifications later too. At one point we were walking out of a pub and ran into a woman whose sister we had hit with a car several in-game days ago, this woman began harassing our agent and escalated to pushing and eventually attacking. We knocked her out and then blew up her corpse along with a couple of cars to make our point. At another point, we booted up the game and were informed that one of our agents had been kidnapped by Clan Kelley, upon further investigation it turned out that the kidnapping had been orchestrated by not one but half a dozen people that agent had put in the hospital in an earlier infiltration. If you’re driving around a lot or using the fast travel system it’s entirely possible to miss these low-key interactions too and that’s a big shame because consequences for your actions are something open world games tend to shy away from beyond a wanted bar and some angry police.

The face of a man caught pooping on Hampstead Heath.

Graphically the game is also a mixed bag. With everything set to max the game is passable and even manages to look good from time to time but ugly aspects rear their head far too often. Bland character models, low-poly building models, and muddy textures that look like they belong in the original Watch Dogs are a common occurrence. Most egregiously the ray-traced reflections that don’t take into account distance fog so every puddle and reflective surface is a portal into an infinitely sunnier alternate reality. All ruin the immersion regularly. Supposedly tense conversations are often made laughable by a low detail building across the Thames drawing your eye and facial animations look like a dog trying to navigate an oversized toffee. Thanks to a lot of this and the low difficulty the game never manages to build any tension and emotional moments in the story come off like Tommy Wiseau trying to read Little Women out loud.

Sound-wise the game is passable, nothing is particularly outstanding one way or the other; all the cars still sound like electric lawnmowers, unsuppressed guns have a nice snap to them (so do the suppressed ones thanks to a glitch) but lack oomph or any environmental sound effects, and the music presumably gets a passing grade from anyone under the age of 20. Likeable tracks are few and far between, even if you have eclectic music tastes, with notable inclusions mostly being limited to the indie category thanks to artists like Lily Allen, Muse, and Gorrilaz. Ubisoft felt the need to include Busted’s nasally droning for some godforsaken reason but given the state of the hip hop genre they’re the musical equivalent of a mercy killing. Hip hop perhaps suffers the worst with only 12 songs and two by Isaiah Dreads whose rhymes are somehow surpassed by that time Vanilla Ice thought it was a good idea to rap about ninjas. Some band we’ve never heard of called HitRecord pops up in almost every genre too and is usually a good prompt to give up and switch back to the classical music station for the rest of your drive.

Controls work well whether you use a keyboard or controller and despite a sizeable number of bindings that looks like you’ll need five hands to play the game actually works incredibly well with just a handful of commands clustered around WASD. It sometimes trips over itself however; certain bits of waist high detritus just won’t let you take cover if there are any nobbly bits on there and the dodge roll some characters get as a perk can sometimes take a slight change in floor height as a cue to ignore gravity for the rest of the animation. Stealth takedowns are context sensitive inputs bound to your “punch a dude in the head” button too so if you’re in a hurry or hit the key a fraction of a second before the prompt is on screen you can blow your whole infiltration easily. The inclusion of hold/toggle options for aiming, crouching, and sprinting removes a lot of frustration for players who prefer one or the other and helps with accessibility too.

The Verdict

Over all, Watch Dogs Legion was quite a bit of fun to play when we were just playing and not thinking too hard about it. Being a farty man whose arse betrayed him at every possible opportunity provided literal hours of laughs. When you begin to think about what the game’s message is, the quality of the writing and acting, preponderance of glitches, and lack of new gameplay, it becomes a decidedly C-tier game. Watch Dogs has never delved into the actual technical side of hacking but it’d be nice to see them expand this part of the gameplay more because just adding drones does not make a “make all the lines blue” puzzle fun for the third game in a row. Similarly, the Ubisoft brand collect-a-thon style of populating the map is wearing very thin. Legion does some things well, but feels like a budget title being sold for way more than it’s worth.

Case Review

  • Consequences: A random NPC harassing you because you punched their boyfriend hours ago can make for an interesting distraction.

  • Spiderbot: It’s so OP it breaks half the game.

  • Faces: There simply aren’t enough, clones are rampant.

  • Rehashing: Going back to the same locations to infiltrate a slightly different bit of the same building is lazy and boring.

  • Tunes: Just find your own playlist on YouTube. The in-game tracks range from tolerable to terrible.

  • Themes: A 1984 calibre cautionary tale this isn’t. The script plays more like a 14 year old anarchist’s wank journal.

2.5 Score: 2.5/5
It's another Ubisoft sandbox and not one of their better ones.


  • Gameplay: Difficulty and permadeath selection. Camera centering. Toggle/press or hold selections for aiming, climbing, melee, sprinting, hacking, walking, and the weapon and emote wheels. Tobii eye tracking and MSI lighting support.
  • Controls: Fully re-bindable keyboard keys. Look and aim sensitivity selection. Toggles for mouse acceleration, X and Y axis inversion. Hacking aim assist sensitivity. Steering response, driving camera centering, driving camera sensitivity, steering curve, acceleration sensitivity, deceleration sensitivity, car heading auto-centering, and rear-axle auto-centering. Gamepad controls also include multiple layouts, southpaw support, aim snapping and aim magnetism.
  • HUD: Reticle toggle, style, colour selection, and size options. Toggle-able HUD elements include the entire HUD, auto-targeting line, GPS, blood, hostile direction, in-world icons, minimap, gadgets and weapons, profiler, quick hack, pursuit, enemy health, enemy detection, scanning highlights, and connected players. Hint modules can be disabled individually for control reminders, update log, borough info, comms, warnings, and mission objectives.
  • Video: Display adapter selection, window mode, display selection, resolution, refresh rate, vsync, FPS limit, field of view, menu position, and multi-monitor HUD. Direct X 11/12 toggle, graphics quality presets, geometry, environment, texture resolution, texture filtering, shadows, headlight shadows, reflections, motion blur toggle, bloom toggle, ambient occlusion toggle, anti-aliasing, subsurface scattering, ray traced reflections, DLSS, and temporal upscaling. Brightness, gamma, contrast, sharpness, and HDR toggle/tuning are also available.
  • Audio: Spoken and written language selection. Volume sliders for master, music, dialogue, sound effects, and chat. Subtitles and closed captions, subtitles background colour, font size, subtitles width, subtitles text colour, speaker names, auto-play music in car and music toggle.
  • Accessibility: Menu narration, colour blindness modes, aim lock-on, simplified puzzles, camera effects, text chat-to-speech, text-to-voice chat and volume slider, male/female voice toggle, and speech rate.

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