Of course, Watch Dogs Legion’s E3 demo begins in a pub. It’s the form of upmarket boozer the place metropolis sorts in chino fits manspread throughout leather-based sofas, necking Riesling after a tough day transferring cash between accounts. It’s late within the night, so there’s the same old prick sporting shades regardless of being sat inside, boot up on the arm of a strandmon whereas quaffing Brewdog. Wandering out on the road, we’re solely a block away from Parliament, which seems beautiful regardless of the shitshow happening inside. Across the Thames, the London Eye towers over the near-future skyline, lit in crimson like a neon Sauron.
All of which is to say, Watch Dogs Legion has nailed the London look. Yes, it’s kind of too Dick van Dyke with its cockerney accents. Yes, its remedy of our present political binfire seems like fortuitous window-dressing. But this can be one of the best model of London ever put in a recreation, and its addition of issues like a protest camp in the course of a graffitied Trafalgar Square appear eerily prescient.
What does not work so properly within the demo, for me, is every thing else. Watch Dogs Legion’s daring declare of having the ability to play as anyone in London is just not an exaggeration, however I left my hands-on session nonetheless questioning why you’ll wish to accomplish that, and what advantages it will truly add to the general expertise. This system, going by what was on supply at E3, is designed to supply procedurally-generated busywork to churn by earlier than you will get to the sport itself. Oh, and being the granny? So gradual. So gradual.
As with earlier video games, each Watch Dogs NPC comes with a primary profile – a random mixture of a reputation and a snippet of backstory. In Legion, this profile has been expanded, so now you can see how a lot an NPC likes or dislikes hacktivist hero workforce DedSec. You can now learn the names of an NPC’s relations/associates and see their each day schedule. Lastly, every NPC now has a random online game stat perk, akin to “+10% harm restoration” or “+30% injury resistance whereas sprinting”, which is a bit odd to see slapped on an average-looking businessman – whose most notable talent IRL would probably be how lengthy he can burp after downing pints.
It’s doable one in every of these small stat buffs pertains to a selected playstyle you are after, although when recruiting an NPC you possibly can bestow any of Watch Dogs Legion’s three character courses upon them anyway. Out of every thing it is this which maybe surprises me essentially the most. The skill to recruit anybody from London is an astonishing technical feat – however in a recreation at pains to deal with its backdrop as precisely as doable, its solid of NPCs really feel like identikit motion heroes. Perhaps that is the fact of getting to show this difficult system into an precise online game – that everyone inspired over into DedSec’s ranks has to have the ability to wield a gun and leap over rooftops like Jason Statham, no matter their look or particular person skillset. Or, maybe, all UK residents get army coaching after Brexit.
Legion’s character courses felt like variations on the identical theme. The Infiltrator is geared in the direction of stealth, with perks for higher tagging enemies and talents to take them down silently. The Hacker, in the meantime, has a cool spider robotic which may stealth itself into locations for you and… additionally take down enemies silently. And then there’s the Infiltrator, essentially the most outright combat-focused of the three, however which additionally comes with a cool stealth perk: having the ability to hack an enemy’s sight (do not ask) so you’re cloaked from their view. You can use this to take down enemies silently as properly.
Ubisoft was solely displaying an abbreviated model of the NPC recruitment gameplay loop at E3, however the gist appears like will probably be comparable in the principle recreation. If you wish to play as somebody who likes DedSec, you will carry out a small procedurally-generated mission for them based mostly on their profile – hacking into a close-by laptop terminal to wash proof of petty theft, for instance – and so they’ll fortunately be a part of up. Within minutes, I had a close-by gran enlisted and sneaking round inside New Scotland Yard, all within the title of hacktivism.
Later, I enlisted another person – a girl who was being harassed. By her profile, I may see when and the place she was going to fulfill her harasser, prefer it was an appointment in her diary. I may then go there and beat up the harasser to get the woman on-side. Job performed! If solely life was so easy! Then, I used to be instructed, I may even go to the close by hospital the place the harasser was now recovering from the accidents I gave them, and use my DedSec affect to bump them to the entrance of the NHS ready record. An audio message popped up letting the harasser know the one that had put her within the hospital (AKA, me) was now serving to her out. And that was sufficient to get the harasser signed up as a fellow DedSec chum additionally. Two for the worth of 1!
Perhaps it is as a result of I’ve not spent hours with these characters, however when one does go down in a hail of gunfire, there is no motive to really feel significantly hooked up. It’s only a matter of switching to a unique avatar to select up the mission when it reloads. Within just a few seconds I am enjoying as a unique particular person, a Hacker as a substitute of Infiltrator, however my spiderbot does the identical issues I did beforehand – I am simply standing on the opposite facet of a wall. It all jogs my memory of one other London-set Ubisoft recreation – the equally grim Zombi U – which additionally had permadeath – however used the function much more successfully.
The unique Watch Dogs’ protagonist Aiden Pearce was as forgettable as they arrive, however I warmed to Watch Dogs 2’s Marcus Holloway. He was cheeky, nerdy. When he died, I cared. Maybe he is someplace to be present in Legion’s London. Maybe I can go hunt him down as a substitute.