LEGO CITY Undercover initially arrived on the scene in 2013 as an exclusive title for the Nintendo Wii U and many gamers like myself missed out on the experience due to not owning that console. Skip ahead four years and TT Fusion have decided to branch out, porting it onto various latest gen consoles, including the Xbox One. But given the fact we’ve seen a great selection of LEGO games released since LEGO CITY Undercover launched – such as LEGO Batman 3, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens and LEGO Marvel’s Avengers etc. – will it not seem like a step backwards? Should it have been left in the past to bask in all its original glory?
Absolutely not, on both counts!
LEGO CITY Undercover follows the life of one of the greatest cops ever to grace Lego City, and despite being sent away from the place after his finest arrest, Chase McCain is recalled to duty for the biggest case of his life – to recapture the now escaped, Rex Fury, whilst undercover. With an always angry Chief of Police on your back, a rather dopey rookie looking to impress, a love interest and, of course, a variety of stereotypical criminals along the way, you’ll feel like you’ve been dropped into the average cop TV show from yesteryear.
That’s not a bad thing though, as it has immense charm and is completely aware of how silly it all is throughout. The story itself is one which draws from a multitude of crime based tales; as seen in an early chapter where clowns are robbing a bank, similar to that of The Dark Knight. So don’t expect any groundbreaking narrative, but be prepared to laugh and snigger, or at least show a hint of a smile, at the parodied references to great movies and TV shows – does Studski and Clutch ring a bell at all, anyone?
With 15 story oriented chapters, there’s a whole load of content to plough through, with it generally seeing you smashing everything and anything to smithereens, in order to find a key construct or a specific item to further your progression. But that’s not to say there isn’t a decent amount of variety to the missions at hand; whether it’s free-running across the city to catch a criminal, or driving an important character to safety, not everything involves problem solving via destruction. And that’s how LEGO CITY Undercover thrives, because each mission is different from the next.
Even the levels which require initiating combat with a few thugs don’t feel as samey as they do in other LEGO games, mainly due to the fact that it doesn’t often throw you into a fight and when it does, the moves in Chase’s locker are pretty nifty – moves learned in a neat dojo level setting.
The missions literally take Chase everywhere within the wide range that Lego City spans; from the depths of the sewers, to a space station, to the local mines. Being undercover, criminal activity such as robbing banks is a must to convince the head honchos that you’re one of the gang, so don’t always expect to be saving the day. All the level designs are really well thought out, ensuring a certain freshness is instilled level after level, with plenty of activities to do whilst achieving the main objective, and the inclusion of restricted areas to allow for replayability when more abilities are unlocked.
So, given the non-superhero/inhuman nature of the main protagonist, what can Chase McCain actually do? Early on he’s a bit of a basic entity, with limited combat and some minor clue following skills, but through progression and finding new disguises, he’s able to crack safes, teleport, handle dynamite, and glide in mid-air with the help of a chicken. Having something new in your arsenal every so often is great to break up any monotony. Once a new disguise is unlocked, the solutions during missions will tend to incorporate that ability, as well as those previously unlocked. The ease in which you can cycle through the main disguises at the press of a button is vital, if only to avoid changing for different abilities ever becoming a chore.
After all the story missions, and even in between them if you wish, the vast open-world environment of Lego City plays home to a whole load of Gold Bricks to find by completing various challenges and tasks. These can be as simple as taking down a gang, to stealing a vehicle – nothing is overly taxing and it can all be done at your merry leisure. Obviously they aren’t the only collectibles to search for, with Red Bricks included once more and loads of character disguises to unlock.
In truth though, the roster of unlockable disguises/characters disappoints me no end, despite being massive. Being bereft of a hugely popular franchise license, the roster is bolstered by a large amount of generic characters that I have no urgency or desire to unlock. In other LEGO games, I’d spend hours searching for characters I love, but aside from the main cast of this story, I care very little about random citizens in basic attires.
As the world is rather big, featuring a fair few different districts, vehicle usage is commonplace to get to the destination of choice. Sadly, the driving mechanic feels bloody awful and this is only accentuated during the missions where you have to drive without taking too much damage. Fast travel locations are present, just rather sparse and obviously not available mid-mission, hence there’s a fair bit of driving to be done and that took its toll on the enjoyment. The cars are the absolute worst, but if you stick to riding horseback then you may find it slightly more bearable.
Nearly everything purchasable in LEGO CITY Undercover is bought using the now standard Stud currency, but there’s another balance you’ll need to top up in order to buy Super Builds. These can be anything from a vehicle call-in point, to a means of transport to ferry you to the game’s very own version of the infamous Alcatraz. The currency is Super Bricks and you’ll become just as addicted to breaking stuff to earn those as you would for gaining Studs.
One major addition to this port of LEGO CITY Undercover is the inclusion of local co-operative play, which makes it easier by allowing for a second player to give you a hand in split-screen, dropping in and out at will. It’s a great way to share the fun with a friend or relative of any kind, but you aren’t tied down to co-op for any longer than you wish to be.
Overall, LEGO CITY Undercover manages to create a charming and humorous experience for all the family, with a definite old school cop show vibe in style, writing and soundtrack. It provides childish jokes and slapstick style to bring on the laughter, as well as cheeky parodies which are easily recognisable. Lacking a popular license only becomes noticeable when looking to expand your disguise wardrobe, making it a less than desirable post-story activity. The large open-world is chock full of collectibles to draw you in for hours and the story never drags in the slightest; thanks mainly to the frequent changes in setting and the influx of abilities. It’s just a shame how poor the driving is and how much it’s relied upon.
Come smash some bricks, have a laugh and embrace the silliness of LEGO CITY Undercover.