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Watch Dogs: Legion Online expands open-world London, but only a little

Chaotic multiplayer has little use for the hacker’s toolkit

A large drone hovers with machine guns blazing as characters in strange masks and clothing return fire.
Watch Dogs: Legion Online’s Tactical Op, “Leader of the Pack,” is tough, and taking on drones in a stand-up firefight is a one-way ticket to revive-town.
Image: Ubisoft Toronto/Ubisoft
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Watch Dogs: Legion’s multiplayer mode, originally due in December and pushed back on a near-monthly basis since, is delayed again. Watch Dogs: Legion Online will now launch March 9, a delay of two weeks.

For impatient fans, what I played in a closed preview event one month ago didn’t exactly look like something worth the extended wait. For those looking to Watch Dogs: Legion Online as the game’s first narrative expansion, there isn’t much of that. There is a story-extending series of five cooperative missions, but nearly all of them break down to a guns-blazing shootout, with little of Watch Dogs’ blend of stealth and technological trickery.

There is plenty to do on your own in a reset open-world London, where the player is now recruiting and building their own DedSec cell (somewhat pursuant to the concluding events of the main story). But a lot of it feels like progression for the sake of progression, with collection challenges and repeatable “assignment” missions carrying you through yet another season-based schedule of tiered loot.

Let’s start with the cooperative multiplayer. Even with headsets on, microphones open, all players friendly and committed to working together, it didn’t take long for someone’s impatience to get the better of them and put all the AI guards on alert. Watch Dogs: Legion Online reuses a lot of the mission locations from the main story, which is great: I know exactly how to sneak into the excavation site. And maybe the three other players in my team did, too.

But just as I was about to electro-punch a nearby patrol and slip over the railing, someone went Leeroy Jenkins on us, and now the drones were in the air. I hacked one and flew it around lobbing tear gas grenades until it was destroyed, by which time someone else on the team had completed the objective. It worked, but it felt like we blundered into our team victory.

And I really don’t mean this to sound boastful, but Watch Dogs: Legion is one of the few, current AAA games I feel I’m very good at. Patience, using the spiderbot, casing the area by jumping from security camera to security camera, none of these skills really had much application in the co-op missions, so none of those missions really paid off with that unique Watch Dogs feeling of invincibility and satisfaction.

Then there was the Tactical Op, which is basically Watch Dogs: Legion Online’s raid. It is raid-scale in difficulty, too, at five chapters, and my team and I couldn’t make it past the first one. “Leader of the Pack,” as the first Tactical Op is called, began with us in a locked-down part of London away from the main game. Our job was to hack, disable, and bring down three combat drones, the toughest of the airborne enemies.

We simply could not do it, as carrying out a hack required all of us to be within a certain proximity to the target drone, which was tough to do while evading both its detection and the others in the air. My team had some great communicators taking charge, improvising solutions (using a riot truck for mobile cover, or summoning a construction drone with all four of us posted aboard).

But with the combat drones at nearly one-hit kill status, it wouldn’t be long before one of us was down and the rest were dead trying to revive them. If Ubisoft Toronto is adjusting or balancing any part of the game, I suspect it’s the Tactical Op. I respect the developers’ intention of delivering a stout multiplayer challenge, distinct from the rock-’em, sock-’em action of the standard co-op missions, but this was a little too strong.

Other diversions in Watch Dogs: Legion online include the spiderbot arena, which is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s a more straightforward multiplayer game type, spiderbots skittering all over a map littered with boosts and health regenerators, in a standard free-for-all format. I was not much good at this (using a gamepad against mouse-and-keyboarders) but others will be, and it’s a nice chaser after taking on the raid.

When it launches March 9, I doubt I’ll use Watch Dogs: Legion Online as much more than an adjunct to the main single-player experience. There is a new world of NPCs to snoop on and recruit, and hell, I love the darts game in Watch Dogs: Legion, so playing that against other humans hanging around in-world should be a fun diversion.

What will really bring me back, however, is a new game-plus mode, or a bona fide story expansion, both of which have been promised. It’s been four months since the main game launched, and with major content due after this, Watch Dogs: Legion Online feels a bit like appetizers arriving too close to the entrée.

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