LEGO City Undercover started life as a Nintendo Wii U exclusive (and a very well received exclusive might I add), so it wouldn’t be unfair to suggest that it might not have reached as widespread an audience as other LEGO video games. Sure, it might be a little harsh to say, but given the popularity of the franchise as a whole and the fact that the Wii U isn’t really considered a success, it’s not such an unreasonable statement. It’s a shame too; LEGO City Undercover offers a really fun open world adventure that gamers of all ages can enjoy. Thankfully it’s been given a new lease of life with a re-released edition of the game launching on current gen consoles as well as on the PC.
Unlike almost every other LEGO video game release, LEGO City Undercover has its own uniquely zany universe with its own original story. There’s no pre-established world inhabited with characters you already know and love, but instead a fresh tale that utilises the popular LEGO City toy sets as its inspiration.
You take on the role of Chase McCain, a heroic go-getter of a cop who has returned to LEGO City to take down the villainous Rex Fury who has escaped from prison. There’s a fair bit of history between the pair, with Chase actually being the one who put Rex behind bars to begin with (even if the Police Chief is the one who received all the credit). It won’t be as easy to take down Rex Fury this time though, with Chase having to go ‘undercover’ in order to outsmart his nemesis and save LEGO City from his wicked ways.
In many ways the game plays out as the kind of ‘cop story’ you might’ve seen a million times before in the movies, though it does it in a way that really embraces the charming LEGO style. It’s full of cheesy one liners, plenty of absurd situations, a ton of pop-culture references, and the kind of tacky jokes that you’d expect to hear from your ‘trying to be cool’ Dad. It all comes together nicely and adds to the experience though; these are the kind of things we’ve come to expect from the family friendly LEGO video games, with an absolute abundance of charm found from start to finish.
Whilst other LEGO games have traditionally put you across a series of levels with a small hub that acts a passageway between them, LEGO City Undercover instead has all the action take place in a huge open world city a la ‘Grand Theft Auto’ (or any other open world sandbox game for that matter). It’d actually be easy to label LEGO City Undercover as a more family-friendly ‘Grand Theft Auto’ with its mission style, story progression, and plethora of side-missions to complete, albeit from the other side of the law.
Having a huge open world is great though, with plenty of neat areas to uncover and explore. You’ve got the huge skylines, golden beaches, rural green lands, and even some tourist attractions including a theme park and LEGO City’s very own ‘Statue of Liberty’ – you’d be a fool to think you’ll just be exploring a boring concrete jungle because LEGO City is absolutely oozing with life and character, with surprises seemingly hidden around each and every corner. You’ll be doing all of this with a wide range of land, sea, and air vehicles too, meaning you’ve got an array of enjoyable ways to explore the surroundings. Admittedly, vehicular controls could actually be a little clunky, though they’re not bad enough to really deter from the overall experience – just don’t expect to be drifting across the streets with ease…
Having the majority of the game take place in an open world that rewards exploration gives the game a fresh feel, with the new approach a far cry from what players are used to in other LEGO video games. Don’t get me wrong, some missions will still see you working through traditional linear levels, but the sandbox world is well utilised for most missions and side quests. It gives LEGO City Undercover a unique identity that makes it stand out amongst the plethora of LEGO video games already available.
That being said, the main gameplay plays out the same as it has across all of the other LEGO video games you’ve played, regardless of the new open world setting. You’ll still be bashing enemies to pieces, hunting down collectible golden LEGO bricks (there are 450 to find in total so it’ll take you some time), as well as trying to collect as many studs as possible to hit those maximum completion stats. It’s the area in which the game falters the most; whilst gameplay is certainly enjoyable, it’s just more of the same all over again.
It’s something most gamers can overlook in established and much-loved universes such as ‘Marvel’, ‘DC’, or ‘Harry Potter’, but when you’re playing with unique characters in a setting that isn’t familiar to you it’s not quite the same. You still get cool powers thanks to Chase’s focus on going undercover (you’ll get to use a pig cannon as a farmer, shoot laser guns as an astronaut, and even rescue cats as a fireman), but it’s still more of the same you’ve done before as the likes of more popular characters such as Iron Man, Batman, or even Lord Voldermort… well… except maybe the ‘pig cannon’ part…
The new release of LEGO City Undercover sees a local co-op mode introduced – something that was criminally omitted from the Wii U version of the game. Whilst it’s fun to play with someone else, nothing new has been added to cater for the additional player. You’re simply doing the exact same things as in the single player mode, but with a palette swap of Chase that acts as a companion. It’s certainly a lot more bare-boned than the co-operative experience offered by other LEGO video games, but it’s a neat addition regardless.
There is a perk that comes with the fact that multiplayer has been moulded around single player though, with it making the game a lot more accessible for younger players. Co-op in older LEGO video games had an emphasis on teamwork with both players utilising their character’s abilities to work together, but the fact that one player can do everything means that an inexperienced younger player can just join in for fun with no pressure. It’s a nice touch that will let older gamers play with youngsters who just want to tag along with ease for their first video game experience.
Besides the addition of multiplayer, the game also sees a boost with a 1080p resolution. There’s also an increase to the frame rate, which improves vastly on the Wii U edition of the game. Loading times have seen a minor improvement, though they’re still pretty noticeable. I’ve actually heard that they’re slower on the Nintendo Switch too, so multiplatform owners might want to bear that in mind when picking up the game.
Despite the sense of familiarity returning gamers will feel, LEGO City Undercover is still a lot of fun to play. LEGO City is a joy to explore, the story and characters are great, whilst the gameplay still remains a lot of fun. You can always count on LEGO video games to offer a lot of fun and it’s a trend that has continued here; just don’t expect to see anything fresh outside of the open world experience.
Developer: TT Games
Publisher: Warner Bros.Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: 07/04/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii U, PC