Platform: Wii U
Developer: TT Fusion
There must be quite a few of us that were brought up on Lego. In a ruse our parents used to keep us preoccupied, they bought us brightly-coloured blocks that fitted neatly together. The only limits to what you could build were the limits of your own imagination. So naturally the majority of us built cars, houses and rocket ships, y’know cool kid things. So when developers TT Fusion built an entire city and its surroundings out of the stuff, complete with different cars, bikes and helicopters to get around, and you play as a cop looking to kick some ass and take some names by going undercover – that’s surely got to be a good game right? Well let’s see.
TT Fusion’s game in question is Lego City: Undercover, a sandbox-style adventure game for the Wii U that sees you take the role of Chase McCain and his adventures as he goes undercover to stop the villainous Rex Fury from a life of Lego-related crime.
Let’s start by discussing the inevitable comparison to the Grand Theft Auto series. With both these games being crime-related sandbox games across a large city, you can understand why people are calling this a “kiddie” version of the seminal GTA series. These arguments, however, are only partly true. Whilst the game has a large over world for you to explore and create havoc in, Lego City: Undercover is best described as a melting pot of the best bits of GTA, some Mario-style platform elements and the Lego games' dynamic, humour and charm. You’ll find that as well as reckless driving, undercover theft etc, you’ll also be indulging in a fair amount of platforming around Lego City – from wall-jumps and swinging on poles, to over-exaggerated spring pads which send Chase hurtling from one rooftop to the next. It’s a mix that means whilst playing, I rarely sat there and thought “I’m playing a watered-down GTA game”. The parts that feel like GTA are normally just filler sections to the meat and potatoes of the game which stay true to the Lego series – and that is in the official Side Missions of the game.
The 15 Side Missions in the game are what make up the majority of the game’s story (No that's not a typo, the Side Missions are the story missions - Ed.), but also are where Lego game veterans will feel most at home. Here you will traverse a specific area of the city and are expected to solve a series of the games puzzles to reach the end. Along the way there are plenty of collectibles and rewards to collect. Lego studs and blocks make a return, and as in previous Lego instalments, collecting a certain amount of studs in any one mission will net you a Gold Lego Block. Also completing various hidden objectives will get you a quarter of the Lego City Police Badge (Think Lego Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Shield) – collect all 4 in a mission and there’s another Gold Block to your name too. There may also be mission specific constructions that need to be made from the regular Lego bricks you collect. These constructions, known as Super Builds, cost a lot of Lego bricks to make and will require you to find the hidden Super Bricks which will add up to 10,000 bricks to your tally to help you foot the bill.
Another element to the game is that Chase will unlock 8 key disguises throughout his adventure which give him specific abilities. As a standard cop for example, he is given a grapple gun to latch on to grapple points. Robber Chase is given a crowbar which will allow him to pry open doors and other obstructions. And Farmer Chase can water plants. Rock on. The good thing about these different disguises is that they are all very diverse and serve very different purposes. They also will have more than one ability at their disposal – some of which become unlocked as the game progresses. For example, Robber Chase can also crack open safes, and Farmer Chase can fly with the aid of a very helpful chicken (and we don’t ask where he keeps it in the meantime). What all this means is that the Side Missions (and indeed the overworld) are made up of puzzles which will combine abilities from various disguises. This helps keep the gameplay and level design very fresh. And as more and more disguises are unlocked, the game gets better and better. You will find that some of the earlier Side Missions have collectables that are only accessible from disguises you don’t yet have yet to encourage replaying of older missions to unlock everything.
And before you start thinking collecting everything will be a walk in the park – let me just put some perspective on that for you. When I finished the main part of the game – a good 15 or so hours long – the game took great pleasure in telling me I had completed 22.2% of the game. Now bear in mind that that was with some free-roaming and collecting within it as well, but you see that I’ve still got a lot to do in Lego City before I’ve found absolutely everything. In short, the amount of collectibles in this game is massive, and adds to a game that already had a pretty substantial single player campaign. The sandbox nature works well because not only are the collectibles varied – you can unlock gold bricks, disguises or vehicles to drive around in – but the method for achieving them is varied too. It may be using a particular disguise’s ability, or completing a platforming section or finding enough bricks for that new Super Build which yields you a reward. And that makes such a daunting 100% completion task seem not only more accessible, but a heck of a lot more fun too.
Fun really is the right word too, and would be the one word I would use to describe Lego City: Undercover. The game comes packed with that well-known Lego game charm and likeability that you can’t help but play with a smile on your face. From the start of the intro sequence, when Katrina and the Waves blast out “Walking on Sunshine” you know you’re going to enjoy this experience because it’s all about having fun. This is further bolstered by a supporting cast that is very likeable – even if they are clichéd. Junior officer Frank Honey is beyond stupid, and Chase’s boss Chief Dunby is typecast as the arrogant superior. The dialogue is cheesetastic and camp, but not in a way that ever feels tiresome, and if anything this supports the game’s strive to be all about fun. And whilst the interaction is predictable, TT Fusion have added a load of “hidden” references to various popular culture, with references to The Shawshank Redemption and Arnold Schwarzenegger available for the eagle-eyed to name just a couple.
Being a Wii U exclusive, it’s important to note how TT Fusion have used the controller’s functionality in the game. The Wii U Gamepad is used for the most part as a map of either the Current Mission location or of Lego City if you are free-roaming. The latter proves more useful, as not only does it highlight many useful locations in your surroundings, but it also is clear at highlighting where you need to go for your next destination. Zooming in and out can be done easily without affecting the gameplay, and as such the map functionality works well. Where the pad is used more effectively though is by using it as either a scanner or camera. As a scanner you hold the gamepad up to the screen and you can search for collectibles or points of interest in free-roam, or in missions you can use it to listen in on various conversations to gather evidence. With the camera you use the gamepad in the same way but you can take photos of the gameplay and save them. This is used in part of the main story to gather evidence, but you can also capture your favourite moments of the game and save them – which is a very nice feature, should you be that way inclined.
I do have a few gripes with Lego City Undercover though. The first is that of loading times. Not only are they very, very frequent, but they are also very long. The large over world requires no loading times, which is a blessing, but to have significant loading times between sections of the story and side missions harms its flow and fun. Luckily for the game I am a big fan of the soundtrack music it plays during the load screen, otherwise I may have got really annoyed. But bitching soundtrack aside, this should have really been addressed. Another big missed opportunity for me from TT Fusion was making this a single-player only game. This game is great fun, but it loses some of the magic that other Lego games had by having a co-op mode. I have great memories of playing Lego Harry Potter with my fiancé – who is very strict with her like for games. When she chirps up with “Can we play this together?” whilst watching me, you know that there is a market there, and a very big missed opportunity. There’s no reason why Frank Honey couldn’t have joined Chase on his adventures throughout and this would have been a great co-op experience. Instead it loses some of that spark which has been praised in previous Lego games.
So to answer my initial question, then - is this a good game? The answer is an emphatic yes – the sheer size of the game, the solid single-player campaign, the variety of gameplay, the charm and the downright fun all make it a good game. But the loading times, and more specifically the lack of a co-op mode really stop this from being a great title that will be remembered for years to come. However, this game does represent a very good start for the Lego City franchise from TT Fusion. It gives them a great foundation from which to build upon in the future. A foundation made out of brightly coloured bricks and a big spoonful of fun.
- Massive, varied world of Lego City to roam in
- Solid single-player campaign
- Hoards of collectibles to find
- As fun as any Lego game yet
- Lack of co-op mode
- Loading times are excessive
The Short Version: Lego City: Undercover never once forgets that games are supposed to be about fun. Whether this is shown in comic one-liners, daft situations or just good game design, it keeps you smiling throughout. And whilst it’s lack of multiplayer options will put some people off, that shouldn’t hide the fact that it has a great single player campaign to offer instead. And with Dealspwn being all about value for money, with Lego City: Undercover providing so much gameplay in terms of its city, missions and collectibles, it’s hard not to give it a recommendation.