This Grandma Assassin from ‘Watch Dogs: Legion’ Is the Breakout Hero of E3
The Watch Dog series hasn’t had a good run with nailing down its heroes. Aiden Pearce was a gruff, hi-octane hypocrite (we’re stopping crimes by doing… more crimes?). Likewise, Marcus Holloway was a little too in-your-face – the gaming equivalent of Poochie from The Simpsons. Watch Dogs: Legion solves this problem by opening the floodgates to your choice from a cast of thousands: you can recruit any character in the game to your team. We think the pick of this litter is Helen Dashwood, a 78-year-old ex-spec ops pensioner. We don’t just want to play the entire game as her, we want her as our IRL nana.
Before we introduce you to Helen and her life of blood, bullets, and boiled lollies, let’s catch you up with what Legion is all about. This time around the action is set in the capital of ol’ Blighty. You know: fish, chips, cup o’ tea, bad food, worse weather, Mary friggin’ Poppins – London. All that said, this is a near-future, post-Brexit version of the city, so you can add a few more things to the tourism list. Expect lethal drones, fascist overlords, widespread unemployment, and a desperate need for the 99% to rise up.
CAST A FOUSANDS, INNIT?
This is where you and your action skills come in, plus an exciting new gameplay wrinkle (or “wrinkles” as the case is with Helen). You can scan virtually any NPC in the world and recruit/inhabit them as an impromptu DeadSec resistance fighter. Every AI Londoner has a life, a schedule, appropriate animations, special traits and their own distinct voice (thanks to some impressive audio modulation tech). The downside to this variety: When you die, it’s permadeath. You might want to consider the on-screen option to “Surrender” instead, which only temporarily removes them from your roster, but you’ll have to restart the mission again.
Legion may sound like an amazing rainbow of unique player characters, but every NPC is constricted to one of three different archetypes: enforcer, infiltrator, or hacker. Enforcers are your blunt instruments, adept at gung-ho solutions and absorbing more rounds than Bullet-Tooth Tony . Infiltrators are Sam Fishers in training who can go invisible by thwarting the neural implants that everybody has installed as default. Lastly, the hacker is adept at messing with commandeering drones or deploying their own, and this is the modus operandi of Ms. Dashwood.
While her peers are at home sitting on their plastic-covered lounges watching Murder She Wrote, Helen is out doing murder she wirelessly routered (thanks to a series of weaponised phone apps). Playing as her scratches an itch we didn’t even know we had – the need to spray breadcrumbs to hungry pigeons in one instant and bullets at fascists in the next.
RETIRING FOOLS AS A RETIREE
Let’s get the pros of Helen out of the way first. She’s unassuming and her doddering facade lets her get away with a bit more with enemy guards. She’s also perked to the wazoo with Spider Army (an arachnid drone that loves ingress via vents), Direct Control (lets you manually aim the turret of said creepy crawly) and her hack cool-down refreshes 35% faster than usual. Basically, you can get her way closer than usual to any target, zip in to complete the objective with her “little robotic dears” and be home in time to mail a £5 cheque to somebody for their birthday.
Helen’s cons are obvious. In terms of mobility, think: an animation system meeting the grim realities of arthritis. Should you get into the sort of gunfight that illuminates the grey skies of London, you’ll not be sprinting to safety. You’ll be shambling, my lovely. Mantling over bits of cover isn’t much of an option, either. You could make a cuppa in the time it takes for old person parkour to execute.
All that being said, there’s something deliciously satisfying about playing as a potty-mouthed pensioner who has no qualms about murder. It’s also amusing to have her shudder her way into some of the dodgiest parts of the city, like the neon-soaked, graffitied Stabton that is the Camden Black Market. In stealth mode her takedown moves are hilarious here – replacing MMA moves with slapstick shin kicks followed by a good ol’ face-tasering. Also, when you get hassled by junkies, thugs, or more fascist pigs, you have a .50 Desert Eagle solution waiting for them. It’s like playing an interactive version of Harry Brown.
NEW FEATURE: OLD!
Even better, Helen is just one of hundreds of old-timers. You can literally choose to stock your 20-character roster with a bunch of fossils who were union busters in the ’40s. Yes, your strike force won’t be able to bust heads like they used to, but you’ll still have your ways. Hacking is one. We imagine another trick could be to tell the in-game enemies stories that don’t go anywhere, like the time you caught the ferry over to Shelbyville with an onion tied to your belt, which was the style at the time.
Bottom line: We like the look of where Watch Dogs: Legion is headed right now. In an industry that provides few chances to cut loose as a crusty old coot, we think this is a shining beacon of originality that’s worth laying down preorder money for. Heck, you could get into the spirit early with a bit of LARPing. Pay for that game deposit in nickels. Nickels with pictures of bumblebees on ’em. “Give me five bees for a quarter,” you’ll say…
I’ve seen and played it all – from Pong on a black-and-white CRT to the 4K visuals and VR gloriousness of today. My only regret after a decade of writing and 30+ years of gaming: hitchhiking’s no longer an option. My thumbs are nubs now.