Watch Dogs Legion – Review (PS5)

Oh boy, this is some type of game. It was the weirdest experience I’ve had while playing one of these large open-world style games. I have to just start with what made this game so odd, screw the rest.

So you don’t get a main protagonist to control, instead you have to go around London to recruit people into your group, called DedSec. These recruits can be any NPC you see walking the streets of London, does that sound interesting to you? Because it wasn’t for me. I’ll get back to that though because I still need to get to what’s so fucking odd about this game and the way it was designed. You can unlock, very easily mind you, a little robot that you can control to infiltrate any base in the game. This little spider-bot robot can be upgraded to go invisible for a short period of time and can stun enemies, while also being used for hacking and stuff like that. That’s the setup.

Clean up your streets London!

Another hacking skill you can do is to hack construction drones with the tap of a button. Their stations are littered across the city, so all you have to do is walk near one, scan it and call a drone to your location. You then hack that drone and bring it down to the street level so you can hop on. You jump onto those drones, control them, fly over whichever mission you have, and drop down your spider drone. Your human character is just floating 50 meters in the air while you’re controlling a robot as you complete your objective. Once that’s done, back out of the drone, leaving it since it doesn’t matter, and you’re immediately in control of your character. You then fly out of the danger zone of the mission and the mission is done.

That sounds like a great setup and a cool mechanic, and it really is the first few times you use it. You quickly discover that it’s an easy, quick, and effective way to complete 90% of the missions in the game. I would start a new mission, fast travel as close to it as I could, find a construction drone to hop onto, fly to my mission, use the spider bot and bounce. You start to just get the sense that you broke the game design and that you’re cheating. It ends up getting super boring to keep doing this. I get that you’re in control of how you experience the missions and you can just sneak in with your character, kill people left and right, but that’s just a huge fucking hassle.

I think that’s what it is with game design and me as a player. If I’m given the option to have this amount of power over the game, I’ll use it. This setup is just too powerful. The second the game gets a little boring or you don’t care about the mission, or you’re just rushed for time, you’ll resort back to what makes the game easy. There is nothing to then stop you or slow you down from abusing this system to complete the game. It’s a freedom, why restrict you? When you think about it this way you start to understand why games may limit your abilities, or only allow these at certain times or towards the late game. I had this ability just a few hours into the game mind you. That is a serious design issue in my mind. Have missions where the spider-bots can’t enter a building because they have some sort of security preventing it, forcing me to change up my tactics, but that’s not in this game.

Play dress up or down.

The Citizens of London

My main issue with the story is the use of NPCs as the main protagonist in this game. It sounds like a cool concept but it leaves a lot to be desired. You just don’t give a shit about any of them to be honest. You may prefer one for a skill they have, a vehicle they have easy access to, or something similar, but that’s about it. You don’t care about their story or background, why they joined DedSec or anything like that. And yes I skipped recapping the story or how it all works because this is the third game in the series and you should already be caught up and I don’t care.

Instead, they should of had a group of characters, like in an Oceans 11 movie or something, all of them unique and with their special abilities. Just have their designs all locked in with great voice acting for each character and a unique backstory and abilities. I would have been 100 times more invested in the story if I felt like the rest of the team were actual characters with depth! Not this bullshit of disposable agents that you don’t give a shit about. It’s a shockingly bad design decision. A cool concept to have in a meeting and when creating a design doc, but it should have stopped there, at least for this iteration of it.

A true moment of tension, a rarity.

That’s all okay in the end I suppose, care less about the story and try to enjoy more of the gameplay. Does that work out for you? It kind of worked out for me. I started this game up and played it for a day or two a couple months ago, got distracted by something shinny and only just got back to it on a lark. I even got the fucking platinum trophy in it I’m so insane (not bragging).

The one thing I liked about the story is this moment when I had to chase down this bad guy that fucked over my team. He took off in his car and wouldn’t you know, I was on my dumb construction drone. I stuck with it and pretty soon he was out of sight while I slowly floated after his engine exhaust. I figured the mission would fail, I would be sent back to a checkpoint and I’d try it over again in a car this time. Instead, to my surprise, he got away and the story kept going. I had to do a mission to resolve this new branching story arch, it felt surprisingly organic and kind of impressed me. Now, to be honest, I have no idea if this was an actual branching story path or I was going to fail that mission no matter what, I hope it was a branching path because that is pretty cool. And if that’s the case I want more of that, I want a harder game that accepts your failure and gives you alternate ways to achieve success.

Just flying my construction drone, as you do.

So yea, I plowed through the story, which is really just forgettable. A lot of video games, in my eyes, just fucking suck at telling a good story that grabs your attention. It’s like we’re still coming out of the silent film era and learning how to use voice and audio in our movies. After that I stuck around to get trophies, which I wasn’t sure I was going to do. Luckily I had some nice podcasts and long-form YouTube videos to listen to in the background. I checked out PowerPyx for their guide and just went in the order they recommended. Sometimes it’s just therapeutic to go around checking boxes and cleaning up a game like this.

So I played the game on PS5 and it offers you two different graphical options to select from. You get a performance and quality mode, only one of which is actually playable. You would have to be a complete psycho to choose the quality mode in this game. It runs at 30fps and it’s just not where it’s at, it gives me a headache to watch the camera sweep around at such a low framerate. It really makes me wonder how I used to feel good about 30fps games on last gen consoles, perhaps they better optimized the way the image was rendered to smooth out some of the stuttery look of 30fps by using motion blur and stuff like that. You do get some nice ray traced reflections and everything, which are impressive but not worth it in the least. I would love to see them go for a 40fps quality mode with raytracing like Ratchet and Clank did, now that could be something usable, especially with a 120hz TV.

Ray Tracing Comparisons – Quality vs Performance

Quality mode also pushes out the shadows on the right. Check out the ghosting of the building reflection on the top of the car.
The RT reflections extend past the screen-space ones typically used, while also reflecting the robot perfectly.
Reflections on the buildings windows are actually accurate with RT on.
RT really does ground the scene and make it feel more realistic.
While not the best looking water, RT on does add to the realism.

In the end, I guess I’m happy that I played this game and bought it at a discount instead of full price. Watch Dogs 2 still stands out in my head as the best game in the series. I remember having fun playing that game and actually liking some of the characters in it, which is something one should care about (hint hint.

Final Score – 6.2

It’s a game that filled up some time, I had some fun with it. It’s not great. It shows that the series needs a serious redesign to stay relevant and to captivate a whole new audience. They really need to start fresh and not be so bleak with the look. Invest in characters, story, mission design, weapons, all that open world good shit that other games do better. I would have loved if they took the way the story in GTA5 wrapped around the three main characters, where they were all unique and living in the world, but just added a few more. Steal from the best. Give me that style of character progress and backstory but in the world of DedSec and Watch Dogs.

You’re welcome Ubisoft, I’d love to work on a game with you.

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