Monday, May 06, 2024

Watch Dogs Legion

On the surface this is a GTA style game - driving around an open world city, completing missions and side quests, but there is enough here to give it a distinct flavour of its own. The premise is that the game is set in near future dystopian London where you play as part of a hacker collective, framed for a series of terrorist bombings and hunted by a paramilitary security force that now seems to be in charge of the city. There is not a main protagonist and the twist is that you can recruit anyone you see on the street to your cause - you can scan them to see their personality quirks and skills, and complete a mission to get them onside. Different operatives will help in various ways - a construction worker can walk through a building site without being challenged or a hacker can make short work of security systems.

The missions generally involve infiltrating a building to get access to information or release a hostage. There is always a choice of ways to achieve the objective - hijacking a construction drone to find a way in from the roof, taking over cctv cameras to disable alarms remotely, sending in a spider drone to scuttle through ventilation ducts, stealthing your way through knocking out guards one by one or if all else fails shooting everyone, although that tends to escalate quickly when the guards start calling in reinforcements. 

The environments range from swanky city offices, to government buildings, refugee camps, building sites, railway stations, gangster lockups, sewers and even good old Buckingham Palace. The sense of place is fabulous - it’s not exactly a one to one recreation of London, but all of the well known landmarks are present in sufficient detail that I was able to navigate my way through Kings Cross to Camden via the Euston Road by following my nose. Wandering around and listening to conversations is quite uncanny, and a pleasant change from the usual American settings for games like this.

The soundtrack is equally on point, with one of the highlights being an in game podcast featuring Andy Zaltzman and Alice Fraser reprising their Bugle podcast personas and commenting on the in game politics.

The storyline has you investigating shady government agencies, a brutal crime syndicate, and the neo-fascist Albion Security company, trying to find out who is pulling the strings and what their ultimate plans are. There are some fun side missions where you can liberate a district by stirring up dissent, sticking up posters on walls and freeing prisoners from police stations. This not only gives you in game currency to spend on customizing your team and tech points to upgrade your gear, but also some unique recruits including barristers to get any arrested operatives out of prison and paramedics to heal injuries faster. Other fun recruits included a stage magician who could hypnotize guards and a spy with a stealth car and a selection of gadgets. 

My number one recruit was a middle aged woman from Northern Ireland with a nice line in hacking skills and I really enjoyed the banter with the team AI called Bagley who is on hand to tell you what to do. There’s a nice coda mission involving Bagley at the end which was actually quite moving.

In conclusion, this is was one of the best games I’ve played recently and is especially recommended if you’ve ever been to London and wondered what it would be like to drive around it like a maniac.

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