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.
"Bland" and "Ubisoft", it's like peas in a pod.
Still don't think the first one has been bettered to be honest. The city, storyline and protagonist fitted the game's themes way better. The second one felt like the Scooby gang taking down Google with guns.
Also Chicago felt more run down and oppressive which made an always connected city more plausible compared to the sunny, happy go lucky vibe of San Francisco.
how unfortunate, I'll probably opt then for the more hack n slashey Vikings Simulator instead, I bought both previous watchdogs and liked neither
Already preordered ! Need to try it hefore drawing conclusions.
Everyone does it "Rinse & Repeat" EA does it with sports titles, Ubisoft does it with Farcry games to name a few.
I will get this but at a cheaper price earlier next year.
@liamcroft will pushsquare be following up reviews with impressions of how/if the ps5 version improves matters with regards to performance once you get your hands on the upgraded versions? It will be interesting to see how this and AC Valhalla improve on the newer hardware
Probably going to give this a miss, first was ok, 2nd didn't even finish think I put like 5hrs in tried twice but the characters are so cringe I had to put it off. Shame as this did get my interest in start, and nice to have London as a setting for a change, might wait till it's free on now or plus or sub 10 to give a try no rush and not too bothered.
@Rob_230 Yes, we definitely will be in the case of Watch Dogs Legion. Not sure on AC Valhalla because we may just be given PS5 review code straight away.
I expected as much, and that's why I've paid no attention to the marketing of the game. Watch Dogs 1 was too bland, Watch Dogs 2 was full of irritating characters and a dull story, so I didn't have any hopes that Ubisoft would be able to pull off something brilliant with this one.
I'm more interested in reception to Valhalla, as I'm slowly becoming interested in Assassin's Creed again.
@God_of_Nowt Lol your welcome mate.
This is what you get from making a game in London, which is a TERRIBLE city (JOKING)
Seriously now, I'm still hyped for the game and ny copy arrives today and tomorrow I don't work buuuut I'm not home RIP ME. This will hold me easily with Squadrons until PS5 comes out.
@LiamCroft how many really unique characters are there? How is the variety? Like John Wick and the old lady
From what I've seen from reviews, the biggest problem this game has is there isn't a central character in the game. Which is an absolutely baffling decision to make for an ambitious game like this. I hopped on the hype train with the idea that a central protagonist would be kick off the recruiting and they would be who the story revolves around. But as is, it's not surprising that a bunch of people say the narrative seems like a mess (Coming from someone who hasn't actually played the game haha).
@LiamCroft Awesome, tha ks for the update. That makes a lot of sense re Assassins Creed too. Ubi are bound tp want the beat version in the hands of reviewers. Cant help thinking it will feel archaic after Ghost of Tsushima
As a UK gamer I love the fact we've actually got London as a setting instead of the usual US Cities, and an open-world hacking game built around that should be right up my street....but I can't get excited to play this, even on PS5. Looks bland and boring.
Worth £20 max at some point down the line imo, wouldn't pay any more than that.
There should be main protagonist in this game but the main protagonist can only play the main mission while all of the sidequest is all played by side characters that can be killed.
First was one was OK, Second one was surprisingly great, but the moment I saw all the over the top Cockernee Lhandannn stuff, I was out. I like the sound of the new mechanic but nothing that cant wait till its dramatically reduced in price.
Can't say I'm surprised, wasn't too interested in the game to begin with. I'm sure fans will be pleased but it came out the gates looking bland and trying to sell itself on a gimmick that seems to remove a lot of character from the franchise. Hopefully the PS5 upgrade makes the game more bareable with shorter loading times between characters. Really interested to see how opinions develop over time as well as what the general audience thinks.
I feel the same way after watching some gameplay videos a few weeks back. Nothing really JUMPS out at me.
@Total_Weirdo Whoa, my man. Don't be dragging Far Cry out of hand like that. Haha. I enjoy Far Cry but its the same for people who enjoy games like COD. So, I get it and I concede. Haha.
@NickTheGeek where did it say that?
I get the impression that Ubisoft could be heading in a similar direction as Bethesda were before the Microsoft buy out. Poor games, negative perceptions amongst the gaming community, sales failing to meet expectations, costs increasing etc.
There's nothing from that company i find exciting. If they do show something, be it an open world game, you know exactly what you're going to end up with.
Dog sh*t Ubisoft. Must try harder next gen.
I alway a wait to for the the sales with ubisoft that come pretty fast. Hence why watchdogs 2 gold edition for 16 bucks is a scoop. So buy the time I've finished that legionary will be cheaper. But I'm waiting for cyberpunk, gutted about the delay again as its already pre orderd but I'll get through some oldies before it arrives.
Back in the PS2/360 days Ubisoft were legitimately one of my favorite companies and I always looked forward to their games with the Tom Clancy branding, fast forward to the PS4 era and I really couldn't care less about anything they do, it's quite a fall from grace.
@PeterN80 Maybe but although I have played 3 games in the AC franchise I dont really have any interest in them anymore, I dont want to send ubisoft the message that I will be happy to keep paying for the same recycled content. Yeah Splinter Cell was basically a good chunk of my childhood and I am gutted that it hasn't returned since Blacklist, which was quite good despite Michael Ironside not reprising his role as Sam Fisher. I just dont think Ubisoft caters to gamers like me anymore.
The last Ubisoft games I had enjoyed were AC Black Flag (more for the pirate theme rather than being an AC game),& more so Rayman Legends following on from the lovely Origins. Otherwise truly preferred their ps2 era with the Splinter Cell series & Beyond Good & Evil HD despite its horrid camera/controls but great story.
Their games have just become a stale open world cookie cutter generic character choice with grindfest mechanics, let alone their live service shooters.
Its a shame but like Rockstar I don't see the situation changing.
Problem with Watch Dogs is it will always be the same game but in another city. Since what else could you implement without it going way over the top.
At least with Assassin's Creed & somewhat Far Cry. You can make each setting vastly different (e.g time period, weapons, climate/enviroment, Story etc)
Are we missing the trenchcoat-wearing sad boy Aiden Pearce now? Not sure why the reason he wanted revenge was for his niece considering revenge is already cliche and a niece instead of a daughter just waters it down.
A mediocre Ubisoft game... shocking
Ubisoft is a mediocre development studio. They sell to people that just want the same gameplay mechanics attached to the same names. Their stories are horrible. The whole animus thing is too complicated and annoying to have to go through.
I just want to drive around London really I always wanted SONY to do a next-gen The Getaway(well for the PS3/4) but they wasted their time on silly VR and other stuff which was a shame :-/
@GamingFiend right, because London has never been done before How about Paris, or Stockholm, Prague, Bangkok, Johannesburg, anything other than LA, SF, NY, or London for the umpteenth time.
I always hated the sound of the character switching thing, and now it sounds like it has panned out how I expected.
Most Ubisoft games lately have been good to buy if they're on sale. I can't get into this series despite trying with both of the previous ones, Gods & monsters may have a chance to be the only one I buy at full price, but we'll see how it's received first.
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