Recruiting Londoners is a joy in Watch Dogs Legion

Watch Dogs Legion preview

In Watch Dogs Legion, every person you see in its grim future of London can be played as. That living statue on the corner of a Camden street? You can take control of that golden fool. The elegant socialite stepping into a black taxi? Yep, they’re playable as well. The suited up lawy… We’re sure you get the gist by now.

As cool as that idea sounds, it wasn’t until we got the chance to go hands-on with this revolutionary open world game that the sheer scope of this system hit us. When every person you see could be the next character you play as, how do you approach picking one? And how do you go from spotting a character to actually playing as them? Here’s what we learned from our hands-on recruiting Londoners in Watch Dogs Legion.

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In Watch Dogs Legion, every person you see in its grim future of London can be played as. That living statue on the corner of a Camden street? You can take control of that golden fool. The elegant socialite stepping into a black taxi? Yep, they’re playable as well. The suited up lawy… We’re sure you get the gist by now.

As cool as that idea sounds, it wasn’t until we got the chance to go hands-on with this revolutionary open world game that the sheer scope of this system hit us. When every person you see could be the next character you play as, how do you approach picking one? And how do you go from spotting a character to actually playing as them? Here’s what we learned from our hands-on recruiting Londoners in Watch Dogs Legion.

Rule Britannia

Our demo kicks off in Westminster, where we start as Britannia, an elderly hacker who’s wearing a worn-out jacket and shuffling through the streets in a bid to recruit a new member of the team for DedSec.

Like its predecessor, the sublime Watch Dogs 2, we can see a snippet of information about everybody we see wandering around. For instance, we spy a living statue (he’s called Martin Chandra) and discover he makes money selling photos of his biceps online. A peculiar way to make some cash, but he does have a handy ability that gives him a 10% increase to melee damage, so we save him to our contacts with a tap of the right bumper.

Watch Dogs Legion preview

This is the first step of recruiting London’s many citizens. Once they are in your contacts list, it’ll show you their opinion of DedSec, potential ways you can influence said opinion, and most importantly, their daily routine. We now know when Martin starts and finishes his living statue gig, when he heads home, and any stops he makes in-between. To take control of Martin, we’ll need to sway his opinion of DedSec and then complete a recruitment mission for him. The fact you can do this for every single character in the game makes the scope of this system staggering in its ambition.

However, we decide that Martin might not be an ideal recruit… Mainly because gold living statues aren’t known for being that inconspicuous, so we decide to explore London a little more to find a Londoner who might fit the bill more.

London Calling

England’s capital is still a novel setting to see in a game, which is why we’re keen to keep having a look around. Despite being set in the near-future, it’s still a recognisable London, from the hustle and bustle of the people you see, to notable landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. Not that we’re here to sightsee, as we spy another person who we want to recruit: Sarah Beck.

She’s a lawyer who currently opposes DedSec, which means we’ve got our work cut out to get her onside. Fortunately for us, she’s also got a cousin who’s being blackmailed, giving us a chance to change her opinion of our hacking gang. That’s because helping out family members of the people you want to recruit in Watch Dogs Legion means they’ll spread positive messages about DedSec, influencing people in their immediate family.

Watch Dogs Legion

With a way of changing Sarah’s opinion in place, we now shuffle to the nearest car and pinpoint where and when Sarah’s cousin is meeting their blackmailer, speeding off to their rendezvous. We arrive to see Sarah’s cousin anxiously remonstrating with his blackmailer, and knowing that he’s a wrong ‘un, we go up behind him and gleefully watch the eldery Britannia taser the villain until he’s unconscious.

This quickly turns out to be a poorly thought out plan.

Bobbies on the beat

The reason we say that is because two officers spot us and move in to arrest Britannia. Because our current character is slow (some would say experienced), we won’t be able to outrun them on foot. Instead, we decide to try and foolishly fight the police who approach us. One smack to an officer is enough for the pair to draw their pistols and start firing. While 50% of the game’s weapons aren’t lethal, we’ve escalated this encounter enough to ensure the police won’t be taking Britannia as a prisoner. And, because the game supports permadeath, we also run the risk of losing her for good. It adds a thick layer of tension to this suddenly deadly fight.

Fortunately, we can even the odds with a machine gun that shoots non-lethal shock rounds, buying ourselves enough time to hightail to a nearby car and flee the scene. While outright violence is never as ingeniously satisfying as turning the game’s electronic devices against their owners in Watch Dogs, we would be lying if we said we didn’t find immobilising the two guards who had almost killed Britannia to be cathartic.

Anyway, we’re not quite safe yet, as riot drones chase the car we’re in and pelt it with bullets. We continue to fling it through Westminster, managing to escape by skidding through side roads and staying out of sight long enough for the police to give up hunt. It’s only at the end of this thrilling escapade that we realise we’ve ended up at New Scotland Yard, the police station where Sarah Beck is currently working.

Watch Dogs Legion

The good news for us? After taking out her cousin’s blackmailer, we’ve improved her opinion of DedSec enough to be able to recruit her to our cause. The bad news? We’re going to have to make face-to-face contact to convince her. And that means we need to find a way to sneak into a police station.

Like in Watch Dogs 2, you can find items to hack in your immediate vicinity by pushing in the right stick. We do this to hack into the building via a CCTV camera inside, and explore it through the various cameras we can jump between. We quickly discover Sarah working in a locked room, which puts a pause on our plan of strolling in for a chinwag. A guard carries the digital key nearby though, so it’s time to use Britannia’s special gadget, the Spider Bot, which can get in close and hack it for us to use.

Spider-Bot Surprise

Taking remote control of the Spider-Bot, we scuttle through the front door and hop over the airport security style bag scanner that sits in the waiting room of New Scotland Yard, giving us access to normally off-limit areas. We then use the bot to get close to the guard who has the key to Sarah’s door and download it from them. And then, just as we’re about to find a way to sneak into New Scotland Yard as Britannia, Sarah gets up, and walks out of the building, as it’s her lunch break. Because every character has a schedule, you can plan when’s the best time to approach them. It turns out our planned attempt to meet her in her work place is just as valid as waiting for her schedule to move forward.

We don’t waste any time by making contact with her, and Sarah tells us we can help her by deleting incriminating footage that Albion (the private military company who are the dystopian overlords you’re fighting against in Watch Dogs Legion) are using against her. She asks us to erase the footage of this that’s incredibly located in the building we just spent five minutes trying to get into: New Scotland Yard. We love it when a plan comes together.

Now we know the layout of the building, and have the key to the server room, we use our friendly spider bot to head back into New Scotland Yard. It crawls through a few vents before sneaking up to the room where the video is on. With our robo-crawler in position to erase the data, we need to get Britannia in-range to initiate the process as well. Fortunately, the radius we need to be in is large enough that we can hang outside the front of New Scotland Yard without alerting any suspicions.

Watch Dogs Legion

With the footage deleted, Sarah is now officially part of DedSec and that means we can now play as her. At this point, we get the chance to assign her to one of the three classes any character can be. Sarah has a +10 turret damage buff, which would work well with the Hacker class’s Spider-Bots turret. Not that we have to assign her as a Hacker. We could choose to turn her into an infiltrator, which gives her an AR cloak that would make Sarah practically invisible for a few seconds. We can already tell the intricacies of finding the right people for your crew is going to be part of Watch Dogs Legion’s open-ended fun.

And with that, our demo comes to a close. It’s a brief but electrifying glimpse at the potential Watch Dogs Legion’s ambitious premise possess. From the freedom of picking anyone off the street to draft into your hacking supergroup, to the emergent potential we see in how the recruitment process takes place, it feels like several steps ahead of what we could have conceivably expected a Watch Dogs sequel to look like. With a 6 March release date, it’s not too long a wait before we’re recruiting even more Londoners into Dedsec.

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