Who’d ever of thought that a LEGO City could be so much fun? Everyone. Ever.
LEGO City: Undercover is the first large-scale LEGO game released in years not tied to a particular franchise, and it is also the best since LEGO Star Wars. Because the game is not tied to any franchise, the writers were given completely free reign to create a story about Chase McCain, a cop who goes undercover in order to stop the violent criminal Rex Fury. Let’s just say they had fun with it.
The story of LEGO City is full of twists and turns, taking many, many cues from old cop shows and films of any kind. The amount of references is insane, ranging from Titanic to Dirty Harry and absolutely everything in between. The narrative is brimming with colourful characters voiced in top-notch fashion, each as hilarious as the last, Frank Honey, Chase’s bumbling side-kick throughout portions of the game is seen riding horses sitting backwards and put in charge of any tree-related crimes at one point in the game. The writing is impeccable and TT Fusion has made what is perhaps the funniest game of all time. This is backed up by neat little touches like when in the Police Station, if you destroy a fellow police officer’s equipment; they stop what they’re doing and start to eat doughnuts. Genius.
Backing up the witty and stupidly hilarious script is the game’s soundtrack, which sounds exactly like it could have come from any cop show of the 1970s. If you like bass-fuelled songs, you will not be disappointed.
Behind the hilarious script is LEGO City, the fully open-world you get to explore. It’s not the largest map an open-world game has ever seen, but there is something to do pretty much everywhere, this really livens up the world (as well as the bright, colourful graphics) and compared to LEGO Batman 2’s world it’s on a whole other level. What’s particularly smart about this world however is the way it locks you out from doing everything at once – this is done through the game’s system of costumes. The game has several major costumes to choose from (which unlock as you progress through the game’s story), each one enables a different skill that can be used to access new areas and find unlockables. The game sees you playing as a policeman with the grapple gun, a robber who can break into safes and change the colour of things, an astronaut with a laser gun, a farmer who can glide with a chicken Zelda-style, a fireman who can put out fires and save cats, a construction worker who can ride around on a jackhammer and a miner who can smash boulders and use dynamite.
This is not even scratching the surface, far from it. This is the largest LEGO game ever released and should take the average player 40+ hours to 100%. There is so much to do in the game and so much variation beyond the standard ‘smash everything’ mantra the LEGO games have become known for. That simply provides the starting point for this game, and it takes the collect-a-thon aspect the franchise is known for to a whole new level, with 192 costumes to find, 400 Gold Bricks to collect, over 100 vehicles to drive and fly (cars, boats, helicopters and a wheelchair!) this is done in a variety of ways such as escaping the police while stealing a car, capturing aliens and criminals, shooting pigs back to a farm by way of cannon and so on.
The game doesn’t stop there either; it also introduces something completely new for the franchise – the Super Build. In LEGO City, destroying objects no longer gives you studs, it gives you bricks. There are many Super Builds to find throughout the City, each one taking a large amount of bricks. That’s not to say that studs are gone, they are placed around the place and still grant you a gold brick if you get enough in the game’s story levels.
The levels in the game are more of a standard LEGO affair, with various puzzles and dispatching of enemies in order to advance. However, it is in the levels where you learn to use each disguise to its fullest, acting somewhat as great tutorials. You need to play through the campaign, it’s hilarious, the levels are great and the cut-scenes are fantastic; not only that though, the campaign is where the game’s visuals really shine, each level is very pretty, perhaps the nicest-looking game in the franchise’s history. The open-world looks nice, but sometimes the visuals lack that ‘wow’ factor.
As the game plays largely like any other LEGO game, it comes with a host of the franchise’s gameplay hiccups. The LEGO games are the best platformers for example, and in LEGO City, there are many objects you presume you can jump on, finding you will only slowly slide down the object. Slopes also provide a hassle, sometimes slowly sending you to an endless demise by way of falling off a cliff. And if you swim, you’re in for a long ride.
In fact, a few aspects seem intent on ruining the experience. The chief villain however is the game’s loading screens, each one lasting far too long; no matter how good the song is in the loading screen, you will get fed up of hearing it for the umpteenth time. In fact, over the twenty-five or so hours I spent in the game, I’d wager at least three of those hours were spent waiting for the game to load. Another minor problem is the pop-up – this is only seen while in the city and for large part is barely noticeable, but it is there. But the game is more than good enough to see past these flaws, and the Wii U is the only console to get it on (other than the 3DS prequel).
As such, LEGO City utilises the Wii U’s gamepad spectacularly. You will be moving the gamepad around to see outside the TV’s display in order to listen in to conversations and to scan for hidden items, there is a comprehensive map displayed at all times and you receive video calls (often hilarious) from different members of the game’s cast. In fact, the gamepad plays a seminal role in the game, acting as Chase’s police communicator, an in-game device Chase uses. It really does make full use of the Wii U In the best ways but does miss out one tool that would prove incredibly useful. You cannot write or draw on the map, therefore, you have to remember where things are which can prove frustrating, as oftentimes you will drive past something that you need, say, a dynamite for, but you simply cannot remember where a dynamite dispenser is. Of course, this is a problem only the Wii U can create, as drawing or writing on a map is only possible to those things with a touch-screen; and as such, it is something the developer could and should have put into the game.
LEGO City: Undercover is by no means a perfect game, visual contrasts, infuriatingly long loading screens, the occasional off-putting pop-up and the usual LEGO gameplay goofs make sure of that. But it is a wonderful one full of hilarious dialogue, awesome references, a stellar soundtrack, occasional beauty, simple gameplay, gamepad functionality and a fantastic wealth of things to do. LEGO City: Undercover is the best LEGO game yet.
A witty, loveable game that anyone should enjoy – but you gotta hate those loading screens.