The latest Watch Dogs was probably one of the most ambitious AAA games I got to see at E3. Its promise of delivering a staggering amount of possible player protagonists to play as can be seen as both a gigantic promise that’s going to be one of its main plusses when it’s out next year, or its downfall. The demo I played at Ubisoft’s space showed great potential, and I’m cautiously optimistic as to whether or not it’ll succeed.
If you had a chance to watch the official announcement during the Ubisoft press conference a day before E3 opened, you got a pretty good glimpse at how Watch Dogs: Legion might work thanks to a hands-on demo that lasted about 40 minutes. I started out at the same point that presentation did, with my starting character walking around London. The demo presenter who was helping me with playing laid out what could be done (that is, anything I wanted), but the first order of business was a guided look at how the recruitment in the game worked.
Legion plays basically the same as previous Watch Dogs games, but the defining feature is being able to recruit practically anyone that populates its world, a post-Brexit bleak futuristic London where an authoritarian power is in control and asserts its will upon the population by monitoring their lives in any way they can, but mainly by having a ton of drones flying around all over the place, along with cameras and even automatic stop posts in the middle of the road. All bits of technology, you say? Why, this wouldn’t be a Watch Dogs game without a ton of hacking possibilities, and Legion goes hog wild with that as you look for possible candidates to join Deadsec, the resistance group you’re a part of.
Then again, it’s hard to talk about you being you since, well, you’re constantly changing bodies within the game, so let’s stick to “you” as the player, and the other “you” as the guy or gal you take control of. Too complicated? Don’t worry. I’m sure the devs handling all the permutations for character composition is probably dealing with something way more complicated than a videogame identity crisis that you’ll have when playing this game. But anyway, out of the many, many possible characters walking around, I chose to recruit the very Vampyr-looking dude, who just happened to be someone very good with beating people senseless. Not at all randomly chosen. Before he would in fact become part of my team, though, he had us take care of some incriminating material that was being held in a high security building somewhere in London.
Getting there was really easy because someone else who was previously called into my group was already near said location, so by tapping into my map and choosing that person, I quickly changed characters and started my approach to the base. The character I chose just happened to be pretty darn good at hacking, so infiltrating the base was a fairly straightforward hack-the-door-and-get-in affair, but that still brought some complications, such as having to knock out a few guards along the way while wearing a comically cheesy mask, but nothing that a bit of funny videogame logic stealth didn’t fix. Seriously, the cameras totally saw me do it and only raised a low alert. Eh, it’s a demo. I kept going, and that required me to hack into some indoor security cams that helped me zoom into the guard who had the encryption to unlock the way inside, and another item inside held the password for the computer that needed to be invaded.
Wam and bam, I got inside and hacked the computer and got the files. It was only a matter of breaking out and getting back to my soon-to-be teammate. Things started to turn sour at that point. I got spotted by a bunch of flying robots, who I managed to outrun, but not before I used one of them to try and shoot down his friends. I jumped into a car, and although the traffic checkpoints tried to keep finding me time and again, I was able to get out, almost dead, but breathing. It was quite a harrowing escape, and considering my skill in eluding cops in open world games — that is, zero — it was quite exhilarating. After that, I looked for my next recruit, but my demo time was about to run out, so I tried to switch to another character archetype.
Weirdly enough, the switch didn’t work. I was apparently still in mid-chase mode, even though no cops were around anymore. Since I was just about to get kicked off, with a handful of minutes left to spare, the dev helping me out did some hacking of his own and worked some dark magic into the demo in order to get me to a better spot. How funny is that? Hacking a game all about hacking? Eh, it was amusing to me at the time. I just drove around looking at how great London looked, which it did, and will probably keep looking in the final game.
Like I mentioned before, I’m cautiously optimistic about Watch Dogs: Legion. The ideas proposed sound fantastic on paper, but will this ambition really come to fruition? Few years ago, even, this proposition would be shot down merely due to the fact of technology not really being in line with it, but considering the huge processing possibilities today, will this promise really pay off?
The slice of gameplay shown at E3 proved to be quite impressive, but then again, a demo is a demo. How will the game behave once you are comfortably playing at home, trying all sorts of crazy combinations and attempt to recruit a palace guard or something? Safe to say, you can’t recruit the Queen — someone already asked that! — still, I’m really looking forward to finding out just how badly you can break this game open and still manage to finish it.
It’ll be a little while until we get to find out, Watch Dogs: Legion will be released next year, on March 6th, for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.