Watchdogs Legion - Game Infinite Review
Watchdogs Legion ranked very high on my 2020 Most Anticipated lists. It surprised especially myself how much I was excited for this game, as I previously had sworn off the franchise, being massively disappointed in the original Watchdogs. Prior to announcement, rumors of a third Watchdogs were circling and I could not have cared less. I never even tried the sequel, as many had the second installment to be just as bland and mediocre as the first one. I was a skeptical critic, not at all interested in a third title and the E3 reveal came and went for Watchdogs Legion, turning me excited for this release. I was sold on this game on a intriguing and revolutionary game mechanic.
In Watchdogs Legion, pretty much every NPC in the game world is a character that can be recruited to a team of operatives working for Deadsec. While there are a few narrative specific characters you can't play as, characters mostly relegated to cutscenes, every person on the street is playable. Some characters are harder to recruit than others, and some are more beneficial to recruit while others offer little to the team. This is an insane idea, that many of us wondered how you would actually pull this off in reality. It sounds cool on the drawing board and in an E3 reveal, but how do you actually make that possible? I will talk about how well this feature is implemented in the main part of the review.
I do think this concept is more revolutionary than people are giving it credit for, but Watchdogs Legion I think is suffering from technical flaws that is holding back an interesting concept.
Watchdogs Legion is the second game in 2020 to really cause me to struggle to score the game. Following in the footsteps of Anthem and Avengers, Watchdogs Legion is a technically flawed game, with obvious technical shortcomings, that is counter balanced with super fun gameplay and an intriguing story. I gave this game a 8 in a similar attempt to quantify the experience as Avengers. If I scored this game purely technically, in its over all quality of technical execution, I probably would have gone as low as 6, but I enjoyed the game too much. The game's fun factor is artificially inflating its score. I also believe this is one of those games where I feel the platform you play it on matters significantly. I played this on my PS4 Pro to which I only experienced one game breaking bug where a escort got stuck and I had to restart a mission. From what I hear from some PC friends and reviewers, the PC version is noticeably worse with rampant bugs and game save issues.
(REVIEWED ON PS4 PRO)
"Play as Anyone"
Watchdogs Legion has the potential to be an amazing game, I can see it. You can feel it when you play it. However, this game has shortcomings that are hard to ignore. They take away from what could have been an otherwise amazing experience.
Different game genres will always differ in the potential quality of various graphical capabilities, due to technical differences in how certain games work. Single-player games, with more linear environments, will always be easier to add detail and graphical quality than more open or online experiences. Titles from this year such as Last of Us Part 2 or Final Fantasy 7 Remake both really show the graphical potential of a meticulously crafted world and characters. Those are games that will spoil your idea of what good graphics should be in a AAA game. I kept telling myself that this is a open world, and the level of detail can't be as much as I have expected from other titles. I think the world was detailed, the cars are beautiful (in fact I spent so much time just taking pictures of cars, but I really think that the quality really breaks down when it comes to the characters.
One of the drawbacks to having NPC's being playable, is that every character in the game has the same level of detail as an NPC. Typically main protagonists in game get more detail and quality of design, and NPC's feel "mass produced". Eventually if you walk around you will see NPC's that look similar. The quality improves slightly when you unlock better clothes than their default skins, or when you work to unlock "skilled operatives". Essentially these characters are being randomly generated, with randomly generated bios, and voices. I wondered how they were going to voice all these characters, and they were using procedural generation to voice the countless NPC's. I think with some time and effort, you can make your crew look better, but the quality is really lost once the characters open their mouths. God, the voice "acting" is terrible in this game, and by far its worst aspect. It reminds me if you have ever played with text-to-voice software. It sounds like a robot, worse, it sounds like a robot trying to parody a thick British accent. I think asking Hal 9000 to try to be British is just to much for current technology.
I struggled with putting the "Play as Anyone" feature on the side of "cons" with this review because I think it is a innovative and cool idea, something I can see offering more exciting experiences in the future, but mostly, because I know that it is the only reason I even bought the game. Had this game included a pre-made protagonist, or even a character creator, I may have passed it. I can't say I wish they had used a more traditional system, because I never would have bought it otherwise, but I can say I wish they had spent more time implementing and testing the play as anyone system. The procedurally generated bios were so bare bones, like one sentace details that didn't allow us to care about our recruits. No effort was made to match the voice to the character. No effort was made to make the audio seem human. I see so much potential. I wish the actual recruiting was just less shallow. The dialogue for recruits seemed so bland with characters literally saying "you seem cool you should join us". If this game had more time, and more iterations I think this could have been revolutionary. I hope Ubisoft doesn't give up on it.
Next time, I want more options other than "do a favor, and then recruit" for all the NPC's in the world. I want to just be able to help people for rewards when I don't want them on my team. Next time, I want more of a morality system where our actions affect the opinions of the general public. This game screamed for that, between the option of nonlethal weapons and the whole misinformation/propaganda element. Here, everyone is just willing to help you after doing them one favor. In real life, people's minds are not that easy to change.
The quality of the game's innovative play as anyone feature, there were some game performance issues. I played this on a PS4 Pro, and I think that it maybe should have been delayed 3-6 months more for just quality of life improvements. Lead-times were annoying, with constant need for loading screens entering and exiting locations or switching characters. I did encounter a few bugs that hindered the game making me have to restart, such as a character disappearing or getting stuck. Overall, this build was better than the PC version by far from what I hear. If you are looking at my more positive review score as a PC player please beware.
I have to say so much weight of the positive aspect of this review swings in the direction of the x factor that is “fun” and gameplay. I realize that some might say that an 8 is too high, and this is definitely the console only score, but for me it was just too much fun. This game was just a blast to play for me, kept me engaged, made me want to do side and recruitment missions, and most importantly kept me coming back for more. I couldn’t wait to play more and finish the main story. I will say early on, only a few hours in I wrote down 5-6 out of 10 as an early impression. But as I progressed in a story, wanted to keep playing, it sucked me in and my final experience was much better than the first few hours.
It’s hard because I’ve already started on Cyberpunk 2077 while finishing writing this review and it only makes me love the “hacking” in this game so much more. Hacking is clean, easy to understand, and just perfectly simple. It’s not “hard to read tiny red text” or boring mini-puzzles; it just works. The photo-mode in this game is also much better than Cyberpunk 2077. After some time to craft my crew's look, and not to mention the beautiful cars, I really liked taking photos in Watchdogs.
I can’t express enough how much fun I had hacking drones, driving cars, and exploring London. The ability to build a team, customize them, and diversify their abilties really helped with making the game feel different. People who complained about repetitive gameplay I feel really missed the point. Unlike so many games, this game leaves the “repetitive” nature in players hands instead of dictating differences to you. What I mean is, better than probably any game I’ve seen yet, how a player approaches a situation feels trully in your control. The game rarely dictates strategy to you. I found most places have multiple entrances, and you can really get creative with how you approach missions. Sometimes I would just run and gun and blast my way through, all the way to sometimes I did entire sections purely with drones and stealth. Even if two missions are similar, you have complete freedom in going about it. If the game felt repetitive to you, maybe that means you need to experiment with making it feel different. I challenged myself to play each mission differently and with a wide line up of characters. I eventually found characters that I really liked and wanted to work hard to keep them alive. Watchdogs Legion is honestly what I felt a “modern day Assassin’s Creed” could be.
Is Legion a perfect game? Definitely no. It had some bugs on console where I played, it has some graphical limitations, but I honestly feel fun factor and wide variety of gameplay I could do far outweighed its flaws. On console, I recommend it as a fun and exciting game to play with an ultra wide array of options of gameplay.
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