Review: Lego City Undercover. New Dog, Old Tricks

At last! a game Wii U owners can brag about to all their PS3 and Xbox 360 owning mates. Actually in fact, At Last! a game for the Wii U! Yup the game that has had Sony and Microsoft in a bit of a flap, Lego City Undercover has finally arrived on the Wii U and it’s arrived in some style too.

Lego City Undercover is for all intents and purposes Grand Theft Auto made of little bricks. And it works like a charm. You play Chase McCain, a cop who returns to Lego City after a self imposed exile. Upon his return he discovers that his arch nemesis and awesomely named Rex Fury has escaped from prison, and so your story begins.

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The first thing you will notice is how amazing Lego City looks. It’s a full blown open world sandbox extravaganza. You can go anywhere and everywhere from the main town to Albatross Prison to the red neck countryside. Beautifully rendered and just asking for you to explore. And exploring you will do, in part because the city is so intricately made you want to explore every nook and cranny. But mainly because those annoying as hell studs are back but you JUST HAVE TO COLLECT EVERY SINGLE LAST ONE OF THEM. In some ways this is a good thing. As you go collecting these studs you’ll discover lots of other fun things to do while on your journey. It’s perhaps better to clear the game first so all the abilities are unlocked then exploring the town becomes even better. There are free run missions, boxing, weight lifting, shooting pigs from cannons, golden bricks to find. It’s quite exhaustive and will take you some time to find and complete everything.

Another great thing about Lego City Undercover are the cast of characters, Chase is as bumbling as you would expect from a Lego game and the rapport between him and his partner Frank Honey is, at times laugh out loud funny, which for me is something I hardly ever do. This also says a lot about the writing and script. It is genuinely funny, and clever for that matter, and arguably some of the best in recent years. You just need to look past the kiddy veneer and soak up the pop culture references the game offers.

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It’s a shame then that the rest of the game doesn’t quite match up to the greatness of the City and the writing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad game to play at all, It is just another Lego game, and with it comes all the annoying failings that have plagued previous games. Like the leaps of faith and the dodgy 2.5D perspective (in some levels) which makes for some irksome lining up issues. The puzzles the game offers are simplistic, if you’ve ever played a Lego game before then you’ll know what to expect, press some buttons, destroy some items to create another item and carry something to somewhere to activate something. Or, and this seems like the bread and butter of the games missions, you have to collect a certain number of gold bricks in an area so you have enough to afford a Super Build, which will take you to a new area. A Super Build are designated areas that you can build all kinds of things from, like police car dispatch hubs to ferries. Again, it’s not bad, it’s just Lego.

There are also plenty of disguises that you can find, theoretically opening up a whole new set of skills for you to get to grips with. Some of these are fun and add a little something to the game, but most are just  window dressing and result in you walking over a context sensitive area to activate their power. So although it’s a nice idea, it’s underused and ultimately a wasted opportunity for some great gameplay elements

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There are however some great levels though, like the one at Albatross Prison. It’s a parody of the Shawshank Redemption, with someone sounding like, but definitely not Morgan Freeman. It’s levels like these that make the others seem like such a non event, and again like most ideas in this game are underused.

One thing that isn’t underused is the Camera, and it’s not great, I think Travellers Tales at some point forgot they were making an open world sandbox game and left in the camera mechanics from Lego Star Wars or something. It’s not the sweeping easy to manoeuvre camera you would expect, and have got used to in other open world games, this one is either semi fixed or, if you can control it, it’s very slow to move around that you end up not bothering. Which is a shame really as you do sometimes want to stop and look around the City and soak up the atmosphere.

And driving also isn’t that good either. Although you can jump in and out of any vehicle you see on your travels, the steering is awkward and twitchy meaning you’ll be destroying them more than you will be riding them.

Despite all that, it’s just really hard not to enjoy Lego City Undercover. Sure it’s aimed mostly at kids and you may cringe in parts. The gameplay hasn’t changed much since the first Lego game but its so charming and funny and with such a great world to explore, it’s hard not to fall a little bit in love with it. The best way to play this game is to speed through the missions to get all the power ups and then just explore and have fun in the city.

I Just hoped that this non license open world behemoth, would have been the perfect time for Travellers Tales to change things up a bit, offer something fresh, or at least fix the things that were wrong in previous installments. But alas despite the prospect of an awesome open world game, it does boil down to being another Lego game. which is a shame.


Author: Paul Collett Founder of HeyUGuys Gaming. I love gaming and have been gaming since 1982 when my dad bought home the ZX Spectrum. I'm also a graphic designer and now it seems a writer. always best to keep your mind busy right?