Watch Dogs: Legion Hands-On Preview – Seriously Impressive

I got to spend about 45 minutes with Watch Dogs: Legion earlier today and as a massive fan of the Watch Dogs franchise, I’m pretty damn excited by what I saw. I got to play through one main mission, go through the recruitment process of multiple characters within the world and also just mess around and fail miserably as you often do with Watch Dogs games.

The game has been in development for four years and it shows. Taking place in London, it’s absolutely gorgeous. Certain parts are dark and dingy as you’d expect whilst other parts are clearly more youthful, filled with colour and have a much more grungy feel.

London is exactly as you’d expect. Double-decker buses, the Tube, the cute little taxies. Much like how Watch Dogs 2 channeled San Francisco’s spirit so well, this is a damn good recreation of London, and if you’ve been there before, you’ll be noticing sights at every turn.

With no protagonist, the city and world are definitely the star, which is why Ubisoft has introduced the play as anyone mechanic. DedSec is much more of a resistant group now, rather than a hacking group and it’s your task to recruit people from the world.

This works as exactly how Ubisoft described it. You can target anyone in the world with your profiler. This will tell you how loyal they already are to DedSec, what they do in their everyday life, their specialties and any other people that they might know in the world. You’ll then need to use this information to perform some tasks (such as clearing their name or finding a person that has killed their relative) in order to build up their loyalty to you before you can recruit them into your squad.

You can have 20 operatives at any given time and you can fast travel between them providing you’re not in combat. If one operative dies, you can either let them get arrested (and then you’ll need to infiltrate a police facility to get them out) or bring them straight back to life. If they die a second time, they’ll be gone forever. You’ll never be able to get that character back again.

Whilst it’s unclear exactly how this character generation process is working, Ubisoft says that these characters are very much living and breathing. For instance, a character that has recently lost someone in the world might be able to be found grieving them at the cemetery at a certain time of the day. When you’re playing as them they also have their own physical attributes. For instance, as you probably saw in the demo, playing as an older woman/man, will mean that they’re less mobile than someone who has more physical ability.

You can also assign a class to each operator. There’s Enforcer, which is very much all guns blazing (complete with sticky mine), Infiltrator who is extremely stealthy (and can go invisible temporarily) and Hacker who plays similarly to the protagonist of previous games (complete with turrets/spiderbot). Once you’ve picked a class, you can also unlock abilities as you go through.

For the most part, the gunplay felt the same, except now there’s a lot of non-lethal weapons, which you can use stealthily to take down enemies. This is also improved by the new melee system, which feels a lot better than in previous games. It’s a lot more dynamic and allows you to pull off combos that can result in quickly executing your enemy with a gun or the like.

Something else that I got to experience is how your operators react in cut scenes. Obviously, it’s one thing to say that can play as anyone and have them feel like empty shells, but these characters have their own voices, mannerisms and react completely different in the same cutscene to that of another operator.

Watch Dogs has always been a fun game and it looks no different here. There’s a tonne of vehicles to hack, new rideable turrets that you can take control have and driverless cars that will take you around the world. You can also fast travel via the Tube which makes a lot of sense.

I’m extremely intrigued to see how the model of no protagonist works out, but I think that this is the type of game that it’d work perfectly for. The protagonists from the last two games weren’t all that memorable, so having a wealth of operators to take charge of, and being able to nurture your favourites through the story (without getting them permakilled) is something that will give a lot greater weight. The game will also have online once again, with four player co-op, but they wouldn’t talk too much about this at this point.

Watch Dogs Legion releases on March 4th, 2020.

Shannon traveled to E3 in LA as a guest of Ubisoft.