When Watch Dogs Legion was announced to the world in 2019 with its “play as anyone” I thought “what a load of BS!”  Set in a dystopian London filled with thousands of characters, surely you can’t actually play as every single one of them?  Well to my surprise you can and while the initial honeymoon period of this gimmick only lasts for a few hours of blind excitement it’s still a gimmick that has plenty of miles in tank and despite a real lack of immersion in its actual story, as cliché as it sounds, the city of London and the infamous hacker group known as DedSec is the real story and in-fact, are the main characters.

As I mentioned, Watch Dogs Legion lacks an immersive story at least in the traditional sense.  Instead the basis of the story consists of you being introduced once more to DedSec which fans of the previous two games will be customary too.  In London a private military group known as Albion has framed DedSec for terrorist actions in a day dubbed “Zero Day” and in their success, Albion have taken control of London.  So it’s up-to you, DedSec and any potential agents that you may recruit to uncover the truth and liberate London from its clutch of tyranny.

So, let’s get back to the “play as anyone” gimmick”, after all it is the main selling point of Watch Dogs Legion.  Quite literally you can recruit any “NPC” in the city and I use the term “NPC” very loosely, because they’re not really “None Playable Characters”.  If you see a character you can potentially recruit them.  To do so you will first bring up their profile that details their characteristics and any special skill-sets that they have.  Some characters you might be able to recruit with ease, but some might require you to perform a mission and you must grant their request before they join you.  In most cases the NPCs that require tasks are often the ones with an added skill-set.

Some characters might be pretty basic, but should you recruit a police officer or a disgruntled Albion security guard, they might not only have special combat skills, but they might also be able to grant you easier access to certain areas.  Likewise if you recruit a receptionist from a big corporate firm, they too might grant you special access too.  You can also recruit brawlers or taxi drivers that would naturally have enhanced brawling or driving skills.  Quite literally any character you recruit regardless of their skill levels, will have abilities that might better suit a certain type of mission.  For example if your mission required stealth, you might not want to use a construction worker or a brawler.  You might instead want to utilise a character that might have certain access, stealth skills and/or be a dab-hand with gadgets.

Don’t get me wrong, the recruit anyone and play as anyone gimmick will wear a little thin at some point, but this is a gimmick that works and a gimmick that truly makes Watch Dogs Legion a quite unique game in that respect.  However aside from being able to recruit any one of thousands of characters, what I was probably more impressed with is what goes on in the background.  For example if you hacked into a characters emails to essentially bribe them, they might very well be annoyed with you and rightly so, thus making them potentially more difficult to recruit.

If you beat up a random NPC or run one over, they might have a friend that is aware of DedSec and knowing what you did, they also might be annoyed with you before you’ve actually met them.  When I realised that this was going on behind the scenes of Watch Dogs Legion, I became even more impressed with this seemingly living and breathing eco-system in the virtual city of London.

Combat whether it’s hand-to-hand, gunfire or at a safe distance via the use of gadgets feels satisfying and certainly more fluid then the first two games in the series.  Likewise the hacking mini-games is still a lot of fun and despite having new gadgets such as the awesome Spider-Bot, the hacking may feel largely the same other than a few tweaks and adjustments, yet it’s still a blast when you’ve finally cracked a computer or gained access to a restricted area while under pressure.  The driving of Watch Dogs Legion while not perfect is also an upgrade on the two original games and after recently playing the original Watch Dogs; I can certainly noticed the improvement.

Visually London can look absolutely stunning at times and it’s even more impressive on the eye during the night when all the neon lights are resonating through the city streets both in the more upper-class and business distracts, as well as the more poverty-stricken suburbs.  Despite living in England my whole life other than a few occasions, I’ve only visited London to watch my favourite football team which is located a good 100+ miles away from my country’s capital city.  However whether it’s my brief time spent in London or what I may have seen on the TV, I can recognise landmark areas and on occasion even some unexpected streets.  This tells you the immense level of detail and dedication crafted by the developers over in Toronto, Canada.

However Watch Dogs Legion isn’t without its flaws and to be fair no game is perfect.  As you might expect with the insane amount of playable characters in this game you can expect a fair bit of randomness with some characteristics.  For example the first character I recruited was a male in his late 50’s, but the way in which his voice spoke and his mannerisms, replicated an individual perhaps half his age and that didn’t quite fit to what I was seeing on the screen.  So you can expect this to happen quite a lot during your time with the game.  The lip-sync can also be out on occasions and sometimes despite the world looking nothing short of stunning at times, characters can also look as odd as they sound.

The combat overall is largely fine, but the parkour elements of Watch Dogs Legion are not the smoothest and it can often feel a little clunky when trying to quickly maneuver your character on foot.  I often found myself pressing the wrong buttons between jumping over the wall or hiding behind cover during a gunfight.  This can be a particular issue if you are being chased during a gunfight on a rooftop and as a heads-up warning, try not to accidently vault over a wall which may leave you splatting on the footpath below, especially if you have the Permadeath feature activated.  In which case should you play with Permadeath, do not get attached to any of your recruits.  It’s also worth mentioning that the online co-op and PvP modes do not go live until at least December after release, which is a shame because I would have loved to have tried it out for this review.

Despite its big promises Watch Dogs Legion largely delivers minus a few discrepancies and when you consider the insane amount of promise this game carries, it still fulfils on the vast majority of its promises, which has surprised me somewhat.  After all it’s not unlike Ubisoft to promise the world and then to under-deliver.  Is Watch Dogs Legion perfect?  No.  Is it a game that is clearly trying its best and largely delivers on its promises?  For the most part.  It’s a shame that the co-op and PvP modes aren’t available at launch and in truth, I would have been happier if Watch Dogs Legion was delayed a little even to early next year so that it can release as the full package.  However Watch Dogs Legion is one of the most fun, unique and innovative games I’ve played this year.  I just hope that by the time the online co-op mode releases and when I am finally able to make the next-gen leap, Watch Dogs Legion still has my attention.