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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

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When the first teaser for Watch Dogs: Legion dropped many months ago, I was so excited to see Ubisoft take a different approach for the next Watch Dogs title. The trailer showcasing an elderly woman forming a part of the resistance and hacking her way through enemies. A setup like this was something the open-world genre needed since Grand Theft Auto 5 came years ago. For the most part, Watch Dogs: Legion delivers what it promises, although not quite the way I expected. Also Read – Mafia Definitive Edition review: A breathtaking remake of the cult gangster classic

Before I get into a lengthy description of my gameplay experience, you should know that Watch Dogs: Legion is already out on PC, Xbox One and PS4. The bases Resistance Edition will set you back by Rs 3,999 while the Gold Edition, as well as Ultimate Edition, cost Rs 6,299 and Rs 6,999 respectively. For my review, Ubisoft sent me a code for Watch Dogs: Legion on Ubisoft Connect. Also Read – Marvel’s Avengers Review: One for the Marvel fans

I played the game on a Lenovo Legion 5i equipped with a 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10750H CPU, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GTX 1650 GPU, and 512GB SSD. Hence, I could not see the ray tracing performance as well as the Ultra graphics. Also Read – Watch Dogs 2 to be give out for free during Ubisoft Forward

Enough with the formalities, let’s get into the gameplay.

Watch Dogs: Legion Plot

By now, most gamers are not alien to what Watch Dogs: Legion is all about. For those who don’t, Watch Dogs: Legion tells a story about a dystopian London in the near future.

“Today, things are worse. Data-mining and machine-learning are being used to amplify our disagreements. Our social networks are being used to compromise our democracies. Public institutions are collapsing, the wealth gap is growing, and authoritarians are seizing power. Watch Dogs: Legion is not a cautionary tale; the things it warns of are already here. Watch Dogs: Legion is an invitation to hope.”

That’s how Clint Hocking, Creative Director for Watch Dogs: Legion describes the story. The game takes off with DeadSec, the popular hacking outfit, trying to save London from a doomsday event undertaken by another hacker group, called Zero Day. DeadSec is unable to save it and all of its core members are either eliminated or forced into hiding. The government gives away London’s security to a private security group, called Albion, and uses it to promote its own fascist propaganda. Albion itself has ties with the underground to terrorize the people of London and own the streets. The bombings are blamed on DeadSec, classifying them as terrorists.

Since it is set in the future, almost all of London is patrolled by surveillance as well as weaponized drones, automated Albion trucks and so many others. Our hero group, DeadSec, starts hiring new recruits from the streets and acts as the resistance to the new power. Using technology, DeadSec aims to give London back to its people, fighting the criminals and eventually bringing out the truth in front of the people. Bagley is the AI assisting you in your pursuit.

Watch Dogs Legion

Watch Dogs: Legion uses this story to portray the ongoing situation in the society, all circling around nationalism, fascism, a bough-out media, capitalism, racism, and more. While playing, it is easy to identify the similarities most of us are currently facing today. I won’t dive into the political situation but Watch Dogs: Legion does make you think about what’s happening in reality and how much power do citizens yield to make things right.

Watch Dogs: Legion gameplay

Watch Dogs: Legion plays out like any other open-world games in the recent past. It takes a lot of cues from Watch Dogs 2 for the core gameplay while borrowing some concepts from Grand Theft Auto 5. Yes, the idea of having multiple protagonists has been done way back in 2013 in GTA 5. Watch Dogs: Legion takes it up a notch further by letting you play as any of the citizens you see on the streets of its futuristic London.

Watch Dogs Legion

Although you can start off with a few strong male characters as your first protagonist, I chose to go with a few female characters. Watch Dogs: Legion treats every character differently and hence, all of them have different abilities. For example, the old and young ladies will prefer to have non-lethal tasers for firing while the male characters will actually use machine guns. Of course, you can equip them with weapons from the in-game shop using in-game currency. I found the in-game weapon catalog to be confusing and at most, found myself simply equipping them with drones and spiderbots.

Speaking of the drones and spider bots, Watch Dogs: Legion relies on these two elements a lot in order to progress through its missions. Some missions (correction, most) require you to be good at controlling drones in tight spaces. I found a majority of the missions needing me to use the spiderbots (crawling bots resembling spiders) figuring out ways into tricky spaces and solve puzzles. I have to say that you do need to have an active mind to pass these missions as the puzzles are tricky at times. You have to scan the world around you to look for CCTV cameras, drones, bots, film cameras, computers and more to solve the closed-circuit puzzles. Do note that the enemies also use armed drones in certain missions to make the gameplay tad tougher.

Similar to Watch Dogs 2, playing with all the fancy technology to play the missions is exciting at first. After a point of time, it becomes repetitive and I often found myself choosing the violent way to get through missions instead of intelligently sneaking into dangerous places.

I do warn that this approach does backfire and I often found my favorite DeadSec operatives getting injured or arrested, after which I had to bring someone else to complete the mission. What I appreciate is the fact that the work done by your previous operative isn’t undone or reset with the new one. Good thinking Ubisoft.

Watch Dogs Legion

The missions, however, do become repetitive after a time and I was bored enough eventually to let go of the main storyline. The cutscenes are monotonous and weird. They fail to create a connection that you seek in modern-day narrative games. At times, it feels as if the game is forcefully putting in people of various castes and races to push forward its messages. There’s no good enough reward or a feeling of satisfaction upon completing the missions. The Permadeath mode tries to spice up the gameplay but when I have so many people to hire, it hardly makes me take it seriously.

You can dress up your operatives from the clothing store. Watch Dogs: Legion offers the traditional hacker wear you see in the current world, along with some futuristic accessories. Having your character wear holographic bunny ears or rings looks funky, especially while roaming around the neon-drenched London. However, I did not see other pedestrians wear those clothes and it does make you stand out. While I expected this to be an issue while hacking in the open spaces, it turns out that Albion (the police) cannot figure out hackers from pedestrians. Get this – I was hacking with the phone and all the sci-fi accessories in front of the police guards, causing mayhem on the streets with crashing vehicles and drones. Yet, I managed to walk away unharmed from the scene. Dumb cops? Or corrupt? Ubisoft can answer that.

Watch Dogs Legion

All the missions make clever use of the entire London setup and that means I had to travel a lot from point A to Point B. Watch Dogs: Legion has a variety of vehicles to do so but I did not enjoy driving around. The cars feel weightless and feel like prop boxes made of thermocol. Bikes are slightly better to drive but I found myself often crashing into people. You can also drive boats and even hack them. Thankfully, Watch Dogs: Legion offers AutoDrive (autopilot) that lets you sit and enjoy London while the car does the driving.

Some of the vehicles are not available to ride but you can hack them to have some fun with the cops. If you are tired of the dystopian London, you can just take the London Underground to reach certain points of the map – sort of like fast travel.

Watch Dogs: Legion Graphics and design

Watch Dogs: Legion is one of the few games this year to feature ray-tracing. Sadly, it only works with PCs equipped with NVIDIA’s RTX cards – something that I did not have at my disposal. That said, if you are getting an Xbox Series X or Series S, you are assured of great graphics on these consoles.

Watch Dogs Legion

Without ray tracing, Watch Dogs: Legion’s London loses out some of the wonderful appeal you saw in the trailer. However, you will love exploring the city, given there’s so much to explore. Ubisoft has retained most of the charm of present-day London with iconic landmarks and popular localities. However, most of these areas are draped with both futuristic as well as dystopian themed elements that keep suggesting that something isn’t right with the world around you.

For example, Thames has dirty “brown” water throughout its length. The low-life districts have streets full of people affected by the Albion takeover and terrorism. Of course, those interested in sightseeing can look at Big Ben and all the castles you see on TV shows.

On my system, I had to limit the graphics to Medium in order to to get a consistent 60 fps at 1080p. That said, all of the artificial holographic stuff does not mess with the gameplay as well as performance. Since this is a Watch Dogs game, you get easy options to hack with interactive objects around you. Everything feels natural and never does it feel that this is artificial. I do have questions about the Arm Traps – which city would have lethal traps laid out throughout the city to let hackers cause mayhem with the law enforcers?

Watch Dogs Legion

Without the ray-tracing, Watch Dogs: Legion does appear bland at times and I wish Ubisoft had worked to make it look better for those gaming on a budget. I still haven’t completed the main mission and I am waiting to get my hands on an RTX-powered laptop or an Xbox console to see Watch Dogs: Legion’s London in all of its reflective and radiant glory as seen in the trailers.

Do note that Watch Dogs: Legion is ridden with several bugs and it is up to Ubisoft to squash them at the earliest. I faced several stability issues as well as weird bugs during my review period.

Watch Dogs: Legion: Should you buy it?

Watch Dogs Legion

Do you love the idea of taking over an entire city and its adversaries using cutting-edge technology? Do you love a plot set in a dystopian future where you get to save the world? Do you love an open-world title in the best of graphics? If the answer is yes, Watch Dogs: Legion is a great experience you should not be missing. There’s lots to do and lots to explore in this game. The idea of playing as anyone you see in the world is cool and decorating them with the cutting-edge drones or bots at disposal to take on the city’s crime is epic. In a world that has restricted us in our homes, Watch Dogs: Legion is one fun way to entertain yourself.

I was letdown with the implementation of the plot. Watch Dogs: Legion tries to open our eyes and warn us into going towards a world but it needs better storytelling and more compelling missions. After playing Mafia: The Definitive Edition, Watch Dogs: Legion does not pull me back into game. It may be different for you but for people like me seeking a movie-like narrative experience, Watch Dogs: Legion isn’t it.

However, similar to Rockstar’s GTA 5, Watch Dogs: Legion has something for everyone to keep trying, even if the story ends. Kids or serious gamers, Watch Dogs: Legion will keep you happy. Just try getting a good system to experience the game in its ray-tracing goodness.

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