Special to USA TODAY
Published 6:00 AM EDT Jun 29, 2019
If youre a fan of Ubisofts popular Watch Dogs video game series – a 5-year-old action-adventure franchise played out in real-world cities like Chicago and San Francisco – youll no doubt want to get your hands on the next installment, slated for March 5, 2020, for PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Google Stadia.
"Watch Dogs: Legion," which earned several “Best of Show” awards at the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo, the video game confab known as E3, looks to be the most ambitious title in the series to date.
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The following is what you need to know about the game – based on what I saw (and played) at E3, along with some details provided by Joel Burgess, world director at Ubisoft Toronto, which is taking the reins on this title with portions of the game being developed simultaneously at Ubisoft studios in Montreal, Paris, Newcastle, England; Bucharest, Romania; and Kiev, Ukraine.
Facing off with Big Brother
The game takes place in a near-future London, at a time when people are being oppressed by Big Brother-esque surveillance and a corrupt private military corporation, Albion, patrolling the streets. To make matters worse, a deep-rooted crime syndicate yields tremendous power in this post-Brexit society.
Ubisoft's developers have been purposely vague about what year the game takes place in. But Burgess, whom I caught up with by phone after E3, said, “you have a London where social divisions are extraordinarily deep, theres an emergence of a really sophisticated surveillance state, and opportunists who step into this world to take advantage of the situation.”
There are five main storylines that play out in this massive open-world city dotted by iconic real-world landmarks including Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, and Piccadilly Circus
You foment the Resistance
You are part of the Resistance, determined to push back against the authoritarian regime. By recruiting help from fellow Londoners, youll hack, drive, and fight your way to liberate the city.
The non-linear mission structure allows for flexible play styles, so you can experience "Watch Dogs: Legion" however you like – but be aware there are consequences to your actions. If you prefer non-lethal force, the enemy could attempt to arrest you, but killing them may spark a manhunt. You can also engage in side-missions, like courier contracts, street art, or bareknuckle boxing.
Who can you play as? Everyone. The most unique part of "Watch Dogs: Legion" is a never-before-seen gameplay mechanic that lets you recruit anyone you come across in London.
Rather than highlight one main protagonist, instead "Watch Dogs: Legion" makes every character playable – and each has their own backstory, personality and skillset. From petty thieves to computer hackers, MI5 agents to store owners, street racers to musicians – you can recruit and play as them all. An E3 demo even showed an inconspicuous grandma tapped for a mission.
“Its safe to say we have millions of unique characters … with different voices, accents, backstories, scripts, animation sets, and so on," ” Burgess said. "We put a whole lot of effort into this.”
You can recruit up to 20 people at one time. “Every character has fully modeled-out schedules you can follow, a 24-hour routine, and you can even see the people they care about, such as a spouse, and see their routine and backstory,” explains Burgess. “Theres this whole ripple effect youll unravel.”
Three classes of agents to deploy
One you have someone join your DedSec resistance group, you can choose their class, level the