PC Gamer

Watch Dogs Legion is the most impressive E3 demo I've played in years

Samuel Roberts
 

Let me tell you about Abe Welch. He's a hired goon who is now in a hospital. I put him there, after performing a melee takedown on him in Camden Market during a mission in Watch Dogs Legion. It was at this point I decided to save him to my collection of tracked people in the game. A menu screen tells me he hates Dedsec, no surprise after I knocked him out. But, having hacked into the hospital, I can now prioritise his care, which will begin to change his mind on Dedsec.

From there, I can help him with the other troubles in his life, like his sister who's being harassed. Eventually, I will have the chance to win Abe Welch to my cause. If all goes well, he'll have gone from being a random enemy goon to my new playable character. Watch Dogs Legion has no default protagonist. Those rumours about being able to play as any 'NPC' in the game were true—while it takes a little work to recruit each individual to Dedsec, you build up a pool of swappable playable characters. As the Ubisoft E3 conference demo showed, the story will play out with whichever character you chose, voice acted cutscenes and all.

There is a major, brave twist to this, however: if that character dies in combat, they are gone forever. Permadeath is now a major part of the Watch Dogs experience. You'll have a chance to surrender to your enemies so that doesn't always happen, but it did happen in my 45-minute demo. I recruited a person, watched her liberate Camden Market from goons (and put Abe Welch in the hospital), then saw her get double crossed and shot dead in front of a massive security force. I was a little bit attached. The game's big idea is working.

It sounds novel, but this system has enormous story-creating potential, and in my first hands-on demo, it's made a dazzling impression. Legion is set in near future London, after Brexit, and in a reality where blue and white collar jobs have been swept away by automation. The city is in a difficult state following riots and bombings. It's a surprisingly bold choice of setting by Ubisoft—and as a Brit familiar with both London and living through the predictable chaos of Brexit, it's weird that something so close to my reality is now the basis of a dystopian setting in a computer game. Your antagonist is a private security company called Albion, though, rather than politicians. London here is a kind of broken neon wonderland, full of brightly-lit futuristic streets, but rife with food banks and protestors.

There are eight boroughs of London in the game, and I see Camden and Westminster in this demo.

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