LEGO City Undercover Review
Chances are if someone told you a new LEGO game was coming out, you’d ask which movie it was based on. TT Fusion is looking to break the mold of most recent LEGO titles by crafting their own universe, characters and story for LEGO City Undercover. The bold move away from established franchises and faces was an immediate reminder of the late 90’s/early 2000’s series LEGO Island, a game starring the skateboarding delivery boy Pepper Roni and the devious criminal The Brickster. This time around, the key players are police officer Chase McCain and escaped convict Rex Fury. The promise of an expansive, open-world LEGO title is definitely enticing, especially since the sandbox style worked well in LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes and LEGO Lord of the Rings. Have TT’s ambitions to craft a kid-friendly, GTA-styled game paid off?
Let’s find out what’s HOT and what’s NOT in our review of LEGO City Undercover.
Enhances an Already Great Formula
LEGO games have followed a basic formula for some time now. Traveller’s Tales is looking to boost their known formula with new additions. First, we’ll discuss the returning features. From the moment you step into LEGO City Undercover’s vast world, you’ll be met with the abundance of studs and breakable objects that you’ve become accustomed to. As usual, you can get sidetracked rather easily following trail of studs after trail of studs until you’ve found yourself far away from your current objective. It’s not a bad thing. It’s simply a testament to the addictive nature of the title. Red bricks, unlockable characters and new costumes are all here as well. The latter works much like the LEGO Batman games. Unlocking new costumes can give Chase McCain specific abilities to help him gain access to certain areas. For example, the first costume you find yourself sportintg is the police outfit. With this costume, you’ll be able to use the Wii U Gamepad to search for hidden clues. Not too long after, you’ll be able to don the garb of a criminal, granting access to the crowbar. With the crowbar in hand, Chase can pry open doors and, thanks his black and white-striped getup, he will be able to crack safes. Undercover’s rewarding puzzles rely heavily on costume switching. Knowing what to use and when is crucial in order to progress, although the answer is usually provided for the player through a small circular picture depicting the appropriate costume.
On to the new. Costumes aren’t the only source of new abilities. Simply progressing through the campaign results in the acquisition of skills. The first of which are free running and the grapple gun. By tapping a single button near blue and white colored bricks, Chase can vault, slide, climb and much more as he traverses the environment. The grapple gun can be used to pull Chase up to new heights or brings objects down to his level. I know at this point I’ve mentioned Batman far too much, so please excuse this next comparison. The unlock system is reminiscent of Arkham City where Batman would be given more tools as he trekked through the hostile environment. Each new tool allowed for easier traversal and made him a greater force to be reckoned with. The same can be said about Chase as he gains knowledge and devices, although the tone is (obviously) a lot less grim.
Combat has also seen some tweaks. Gone are the days when you simply needed to bash opponents until they break apart, and sometimes dropped hearts. Chase McCain is a more experienced fighter. Generic punches are used with one button while reversals are performed with another. Even once a criminal is down, the fight isn’t over. An additional button press is required in order to cuff the enemy before they get back up. It makes for a more engaging combat experience that feels slightly less like a button mash through enemies.
Breaking and building LEGO structures is a staple of the franchise. In order to shake things up, Superbuilds have been implemented. Breaking objects now disperses LEGO pieces in addition to the standard studs. These pieces are saved up for encounters with Superbuilds. Superbuilds are larger scale objects that would take far too long for Chase to build piece by piece. Instead, assuming you have the appropriate number of LEGO pieces, you can activate these Superbuilds. The result is a cascading shower of LEGO pieces that place themselves perfectly. The structures range from vehicle spawn points — these spawn points provide access to a list of over 100 vehicles — to ships to dragons. Given that you’ll spend plenty of time seeking out these LEGO pieces, the Superbuilds’ show is a worthy reward. In order to make the collection process less tedious, Super Bricks are hidden around the world. These multi-colored bricks give a sizable contribution to your LEGO piece count.
Entertaining Characters and Plot
LEGO games are filled to the brim with silly and comical characters. Since Undercover isn’t playing off any established licenses, Traveller’s Tales had to make their characters likable. Unlike past LEGO titles, the player doesn’t go into the game knowing full well that they are going to love the cast. If you picked up LEGO Harry Potter or LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, you already knew what you were in for. That changes here with Chase McCain being an original character. The undercover cop is, fortunately, likable and so is a majority of the cast surrounding him. Ranging from the mischievous Rex Fury to the always-angry Chief Bundy to the simple-minded Frank Honey (a man who pronounces “computer” as “compuper”), you’re sure to find a character that will make you smile and, at times, laugh out loud. The plot itself isn’t anything special, but the journey there is what makes it. One of the biggest draws are the constant pop culture references. Early on in the game, Chase will find himself inside of a prison. The area is rife with LEGO-ized dialogue and scenes from The Shawshank Redemption. The movie references rarely let up and most players are sure to see a handful of recognizable titles, such as Goodfellas and Titanic. Like I said, the plot isn’t all that engaging on the surface, but when you combine the fact that it includes so many movie connections and that the game is self-aware of its cliché nature, it only further adds to the game’s charm.