Watch Dogs: Legion review for Xbox One, PS4, PC

Platform: Xbox One
Also on: PC, PS4
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Toronto
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1-8
Online: Yes

Let me just say this up front: Watch Dogs: Legion is a monumentally stupid game. Almost every thing about it is dumb enough that it will make your brain hurt if you think about it too hard, from its techno-thriller plot, to its characters, to its promise of letting players enlist everyone in London behind their cause. While I?ve certainly played dumber games — and here I?m thinking of Earth Defense Force or latter-day Saints Row — they generally were trying to be stupid, whereas I don?t think it?s intentional in Watch Dogs: Legion. It?s just a brain-dead game that aspires to be much, much more than it is.

In this respect, I guess, it?s kind of like the previous two Watch Dogs games. Like those two games, Watch Dogs: Legion is fuelled by lots of big ideas and allegedly deep thoughts about technology, except none of them quite land, and the end result feels more mediocre than anything else.

And yet: I loved it. I found myself playing it for hours and hours, and completely losing track of time. I regularly called my wife in to show her whatever I was doing in the game, because I was having such a blast with it.

This may seem contradictory, but it?s really not. See, I loved Watch Dogs: Legion not despite its stupidity, but because of it. I embraced the game?s idiotic ideas, mostly ignored what its developers intended for me to do, and just had fun with all the stupid ideas.

My favourite by far was the fact that the game gives you full control over every vehicle on the road. And I don?t mean you can get into every vehicle and drive, I mean that right off the bat, the game allows you to control cars with your in-game smartphone. So if you want to, say, drive cars into a blockade across a street (taking out tonnes of pedestrians in the process), then drive more and more cars into the blockade until they all go off in a massive chain reaction explosion, you can do that here. While you don?t seem to be able to control the traffic lights (which was a huge source of joy for me in Watch Dogs 2), everything else is fair game, and it wasn?t long until I had tears streaming down my face from laughing so hard at the mayhem the game allowed me to cause.

Oh, and when I discovered that when you crashed motorcycles, the riders would catapult into the air and suddenly vanish as if they?d spontaneously ascended into a higher plane of being…well, after that every time I saw a motorcycle, I?d stop what I was doing to see how far I could launch a rider before they?d pop out of existence. Immature? Absolutely, but I have no regrets.

Similarly, the game allows you to shock people with your smartphone. I vaguely remember that being in the first two games, but it seems much easier to do here — and, what?s more, Watch Dogs: Legion allows you to make a shock chain reaction when people are standing near each other, so if you time it right, you can make small crowds topple over. Like the flying motorcycle riders and the dismayed ?Oof? sound pedestrians make when you run them over, the old shock groups gag is something that should have worn out its welcome, but never did.

With all of this, you may be asking where the police were. And I?m pleased to say that the cops in Watch Dogs: Legion continue in the series? tradition of being mind-bogglingly braindead. Admittedly, they?re not quite as bad as they were in the first Watch Dogs — by which I mean I wasn?t able to recreate one of my all-time favourite dumb AI moments, when I led dozens of police cars in the slowest chase ever as Aiden Pearce swam down the Chicago River and dozens of vehicles piled up along the shoreline, eventually turning into the cop car equivalent of a rat king, only with more explosions. However, Watch Dogs: Legion tried its best to match that, since every time I?d cause one of those aforementioned blockades a couple of cop cars would come streaming into the rescue, and I?d hear their commander shouting to find who was hacking all the cars — except, naturally, I was able to avoid them by simply driving their cars into the blockades and adding to the explosions. Somehow, not a single cop noticed the person slowly walking down the street, cars veering off in all directions in her wake.

With all this, it should come as no surprise that Watch Dogs: Legion?s big innovation — of allowing you to recruit anyone in London — falls apart immediately. The game sets the stage for you with a failed mini-heist, as a James Bond-type character tries to stop a group of terrorists, only for him to fail and the terrorists to succeed in framing Dedsec. This leads to a country-wide crackdown on the hacker collective, and through a series of news clips the game establishes that Dedsec are Public Enemy Number 1 in London.

So, naturally, you can recruit almost literally anyone on the street by walking up to them and asking what it will take to get them to join Dedsec. Now, I?m no terrorist mastermind, but I?d think that an underground hacktivist collective trying to take out the security establishment might — just might — not have the most success if they were running up to every random person they meet on the street, asking if they want to join.

Mind you, given that every single person you talk to speaks as if they?ve just learned English for the first time, maybe one of the unspoken elements of this dystopian future is that everyone in London suffered severe brain damage, and had to re-learn how to speak? Or, alternatively, the game just grabbed random people off the street, gave them one take to do all their lines, and called it a day. Either of these explanations seem more plausible than the idea that someone, somewhere, thought this constituted good voice acting. Like everything else in Watch Dogs: Legion, it?s hilarious, but there?s no way the hilarity is intentional.

None of this is to say you should buy Watch Dogs: Legion, mind you. If I?d paid full price for it on release day, I?d be wondering why I paid so much money for a game that feels closer to EDF or Goat Simulator than anything else. Obviously, I had fun with it, so I wouldn?t say never buy it or never play it — but you may be better off waiting it bit for it to come down in price. Then you hop in, and start crashing cars and causing mayhem to your heart?s content.

Ubisoft provided us with a Watch Dogs: Legion Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: C+