While the first two "Watch Dogs" overpromised and underdelivered, but the third time around reverses that paradigm. Those expecting more of the same in the open-world hack-a-thon will be dazzled at the amount of freedom and invention at your disposal this time around.
After the series debut in 2014 and its follow-up two years later, "Watch Dogs: Legion" opens up a breathtaking cyberpunkscape to explore and manipulate. Taking the baton from Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Toronto used the extra time to reinvent the franchise while staying true to the original vision.
Set in near-future London, you play as a cog in a resistance group who's out to gather up recruits to break the back of Dedsec, the privacy-exploiting, propaganda-spewing dystopian overlords. Swiping pages from megalithic Ubisoft properties "Assassin's Creed" and "Far Cry," the free-form, side quest-pulsing realms is one of the most dense and intricately detailed open worlds yet crafted.
Every character walking the streets has a backstory, routine and exploitable tendency, and you can inhabit any one of them, adapting their abilities and access to ease or complicate the path to your next objective.
While the amount of choice at your disposal can be paralyzing, the map and menu system does a solid job of keeping your tasks in order. You can take down missions in any number of ways, either opting for stealth and hacking, guns blazing or gadget manipulation. The freedom, for instance, to hack a security camera in order to hijack a drone that you can use to set off an explosive distraction to clear your path is intoxicating.
Although it's possible to spurn the vast amounts of potential paths and creative potential in order to power through missions via shortcuts or formulaic routines is alluring, but you'll get more out of the game if you open yourself up to the array of tricks and customizations that await. If the goal is to get you feeling like a digital god who bends the Matrix to your will, Ubisoft Toronto has succeeded beyond any expectation. The freestanding online co-op and adversarial sandbox play will no doubt give the game legs that far outlasts the primary campaign.
"Watch Dogs: Legion" is one of the most welcome surprises of the year. Symbolic of the technological mastery of its fiction, the game is a powerful sendoff for the current generation, as well as a tantalizing beacon of what's to come as the PS5 and Xbox One begin their dawn.
Publisher provided review code.