After an entire generation of Ubisoft open-world titles, Watch Dogs Legion looks and feels bland. That descriptor is the word we kept coming back to following 10 hours with the PlayStation 4 experience launching on 29th October 2020, and we could never truly shake it off. There are high points here and there where you forget for a second about the dull gameplay loop the French publisher has managed to recycle for a second time. But then it all comes flooding back as the chosen protagonist is forced into hacking a mainframe with a quick series of button presses that feel like they've lost all meaning. We've been there, we've done that. While Watch Dogs 2 took a much-needed step in the right direction, the follow up appears to have rested on its laurels slightly too much.
This may be a confusing opinion to read following a marketing campaign centred entirely around what is being pitched as a game-changing mechanic, so let's not get too ahead of ourselves. The reason we're not publishing a full review as the embargo lifts is that PS4 review code came in quite late and so our playtime has only just hit the double digits — we haven't rolled credits yet. However, we don't need to do that in order to tell you the "play as anyone" gimmick of Watch Dogs Legion feels overhyped. Sure, it adds an extra layer to gameplay that wasn't there before, but the title quickly reaches a point where it can be almost entirely forgotten about.
That's because the abilities and skills which make each character unique simply don't matter very much in the grand scheme of things. The ability to spawn a delivery drone at will and hop onboard is nice and so too are improved hacking skills. Is that enough of a reason to be constantly switching between characters though? Maybe, if you're happy to sit through a load screen, but when all the tools you need to complete a mission can be procured on site just as fast, the feature starts to be called into question. The perks separating one citizen from another offer very little in the way of intriguing reasons to actually switch your protagonist and playstyle. And since the game's entire concept hinges on this very mechanic, we can't help but worry for the missions we're yet to complete.
Costumes are the feature's saving grace then — the one compelling justification for changing protagonists. Every so often, you'll be able to recruit a character who comes with a unique outfit that allows them to operate in certain areas much more easily. An Albion guard can remain largely undetected in hostile territory and a construction worker doesn't look out of place on a building site. As of right now, it's the only reason to make us second guess who we're taking on our next mission.
One of the biggest fears attached to the mechanic was that the narrative and dialogue would suffer, and those causes for concern have absolutely been realised. The story of Watch Dogs Legion is nonsensical rubbish that wants to both say so much while pulling all of its punches at the very same time. Combined with a cringeworthy script which will have you laughing at it rather than with it, anything and everything the plot encompasses is absolutely dreadful. We don't expect that to change as we push towards the game's conclusion.
What does that leave us with then? Well, besides the novelty of seeing London's landmarks dressed in neon, there's the same hacking-themed gameplay loop on its third iteration. And it's getting seriously long in the tooth. Besides a couple of new ways to interact with the world, DedSec continues to play about with hacking security cameras to gain a new perspective on things and activating roadside barricades when the police are on their tail. It's all rather dull by this point as little in the way of innovation gives those who have been here since the start something new to shout about. As Watch Dogs Legion's defining feature fails to deliver, the gameplay could have at least ensured an entertaining experience. It may still do that if this is your first foray into the series. Franchise fanatics, however, will be disappointed.
It is also blatantly obvious that the game has been designed with PlayStation 5 in mind. PS4 players will be subject to long load times before entering the world of futuristic London, with further load screens needed to fast travel and switch between each of your Operatives. Fade to blacks a few seconds long are another very common occurrence, odd lighting glitches are widespread throughout England's capital, and the game has hard crashed on us three times at the time of writing. You'll be able to grab a free PS5 upgrade with a purchase, but Watch Dogs Legion's performance on the current-gen console leaves a lot to be desired.
While we're not ready to deliver a final verdict right now, we doubt our thoughts will change as the credits roll. Ubisoft talked a big game in the lead up to launch and its "play as anyone" gimmick simply hasn't lived up to the chatter. Maybe we took the wrong approach, maybe we've been playing the game incorrectly. We doubt it, but given the procedural nature of the title's most important feature, we could have just been dealt a poor hand. The game can be a fairly enjoyable affair, especially so if you've already got the hots for the series' basic gameplay loop, but don't expect too much more than that. And that's why Watch Dogs Legion feels like a misfire. Our full review will follow soon.
Have you been looking forward to playing Watch Dogs Legion? Will be you checking it out on PS4 or are you hanging back for the improved PS5 version? Hack your way into the comments below.