At first blush, I hated the concept of "Watch Dogs: Legion." Everything about an open-world hacking game where players could recruit anyone seemed wrong. It would be devoid of a main character. All the operatives would be disposable. Ubisoft's vision of London seemed like a predictable dystopian mess.
I assumed the developers just ran out of ideas, threw their hands in the air and decided to burn the franchise to the ground with cockamamie ideas. "Watch Dogs" went full on Poochie the Rocking Dog. Fortunately, a funny thing happens when rules are thrown out the window: A game becomes unpredictable and it breaks new ground.
That's what I discovered when I previewed "Watch Dogs: Legion" at a Ubisoft Forward event held virtually last week. The three-hour session showed a title that was more fun than what I was expecting.
The campaign starts off putting players in the shoes of Dalton, a former MI-5 agent who now helps out DedSec, the loosely knit hacking collective from the previous entries. With Bagley, an AI construct, and Sabine, the techie behind the desk, giving instructions, Dalton foils a bombing of Parliament.
This introduction is a tutorial that reaffirms many of the polished mechanics in "Watch Dogs 2" remain in the sequel. Hacking is still as simple as pressing left bumper and focused on context-sensitive spots. Players deploy a diverse array of gadgets that include stun grenades and drones. The third-person shooting mechanics requires players to hide behind cover before popping up and shooting enemies in the face.
The DedSec crew foils the bombing but it turns out they can't stop everything and the collective is framed for the Zero Day terrorist attacks that kill thousands in London. In response, the British government brings in Albion, a private military company run by Nigel Cass, to take over security. His army of mercenaries and drones create capitalist police state.
It's up to the underground members of DedSec to clear the group's name and delve into the conspiracy behind the bombings.
DRESSED FOR THE JOB
That took me to construction worker Douglas Ferreira. He was my first character in "Watch Dogs: Legion." The game uses him to show off other mechanics in the campaign. The first few missions had my character stealthily sneaking into areas and hacking the ctOS servers for information.
One of the wrinkles about the tasks is that many of them happen at construction sites, and because Ferreira is dressed for the job, he has an easy time blending in with other workers. It's a "Hitman"-esque way of doing stealth. Players have to act normal - meaning no crouch or running - while searching for their objective.