In the world of Watch Dogs: Legion hacking is less a hobby and more of a way of life, and while Ubisoft’s third entry in the series comes with plenty of moments to channel your inner computer geek, it’s apparent pretty quickly that the game’s themes and tone disrupt any fun to be had. The core concept of hacking elicits a rebellious feeling that’s undeniable. Although the majority of us only have enough skill to guess grandma’s iPhone password, the idea of “cracking the code” on a device is exciting.
Watch Dogs: Legion takes place in a bleak, near-future version of London riddled with technology. Drones, self-driving cars, and surveillance cameras are scattered throughout the city, making it a hacker’s playground. Thanks to the game’s dark and oppressive plotline, combined with its dreary color palette, made me struggle to even launch this game. Maybe it’s the current state of the world, and maybe it’s the jarring turn from Watch Dogs 2’s approach to storytelling, but this open-world was not one I wanted to live in.
On the gameplay side of things, Watch Dogs: Legion operates pretty seamlessly. Taking control of a device is a must to complete most missions, and the structure of the open-world makes for some well-designed scenarios. Whether it be using a camera to see if an enemy is on the other side of the door, or buzzing someone’s phone to distract them while you sneak past them into a restricted area, using technology to your advantage is key. It’s all very James Bond-like.
While some of the game’s stealth-focused sequences are truly fun, the idea of living out a hacker’s fantasy quickly wore off in the mid-game hours. Hacking in this game does not involve hours of sweat-inducing typing, or memorization like the movies suggest, but instead, it’s just done with the click of a button. Sure, it’d be difficult to keep players’ attention if it were that complicated, but some sort of middle ground or additional mechanic might make for a better way to feel like a true hacker. Instead, Watch Dogs: Legion ends up feeling like a lesser Grand Theft Auto with a dash of technology and British accents.
What sets this game apart from the previous two entries is the virtually unlimited selection of protagonists to play as- a contribution to the story. As a member of the hacker group “DedSec,” your gameplay loop involves recruiting new members to your squad while trying to clear your organization’s name after being framed for a series of bombings in the city. If you get bored of playing as a character, simply switch to someone else to mix things up. My favorite moments were playing as an old man with an impressive mustache who seemed innocent, but was so sneaky that Solid Snake himself would be proud. While motion capture during dialogue needs some adjustments, this was the big “hook” of Watch Dogs: Legion leading up to its release, and Ubisoft overall delivered on the concept.
As I continue to check off side missions in Watch Dogs: Legion, I can’t help but think what this game could have been with a better storyline. Getting to play as this many characters is a really novel idea and exploring a city in a video game that isn’t New York City or L.A. is a refreshing change, I just hope Ubisoft gets the chance to use these ideas in a game that’s more fun to live in. At this point, it’s trite to say technology will doom us all, and trying to get players to have fun by causing mayhem in destruction while a semi-realistic version of what our future could bring is the backbone of the story is just an odd approach to video game storytelling.
Review code provided by publisher