Ubisoft's Watch Dogs series follows a world where private security companies have all but monopolized public safety, leading to increased surveillance by private companies and zero expectations of privacy. The first two games, set in Chicago and San Francisco, respectively, feature hackers who seek to undermine the evil corporations and their totalitarian aspirations while simultaneously following their own, more personal, quests. In Watch Dogs: Legion, the centralized protagonist has been replaced by the game's main hook: a veritable army of freedom fighters who make up an ensemble cast of leading characters.
In the not too distant future, London is every conspiracy theorist's worst nightmare come to life. Spy drones litter the sky, surveillance cameras dot every street corner, and a single corporate conglomerate oversees the entirety of the city's existence. Ubisoft's E3 presentation opened with the player character, a bald Brit named Ian Robshaw, communicating with a formless, but charming, Artificial Intelligence named Bagley. The entire demo looks like a real-time play session, and As Ian walks down the street, it's clear this isn't the London we all know and love. In the world of Watch Dogs, the city has become something of a cyberpunk dystopia; bright neon lights and holographic projections offer a heightened technological aesthetic which pairs nicely with the oppressive surveillance state the city has become.
Ian and Bagley are searching for an expert on the city's high-tech drones, and they find one in the form of a Jimmy Shaw, a young man who winds up getting into a fight with London's heavily militarized private police force. Ian puts on a creepy skull mask and rescues the hacker, making himself the target. An exciting chase ensues, in which an armed drone wounds Ian to the point where a choice appears on screen: surrender, or keep fighting. Ian opts to keep fighting, activating optical camouflage to buy enough time to hijack a taxi and speed off. Unfortunately, the private army follows, and Ian is ultimately shot to death after crashing his stolen vehicle.
Instead of a game over screen, however, the game goes to a menu where the player can choose from another DedSec agent. From here, the demo features Helen, a senior citizen and retired assassin with an infectiously devil-may-care demeanor, and Naomi Brooke, a no-nonsense operative who completes the mission, recruiting Jimmy to DedSec and lamenting Ian's death with the grateful young revolutionary.
There are no continues in Watch Dogs: Legion; when a character dies, they don't come back. This roguelike element is almost entirely unheard of in the AAA open-world space. It's hard to imagine the game will have unique dialogue for all of the potential player characters in every single cutscene, but this provocative early look certainly earned our attention. If Ubisoft can follow through on the ideas brought forth in this first look, then Watch Dogs: Legion could be one of the most exciting and ambitious games of the generation.
Watch Dogs: Legion releases March 5, 2020 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Google Stadia.
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Edited by Zak Wojnar