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Lego City Undercover Review: More Than Just GTA Light
Lego City Undercover is a new experience for Traveller’s Tales. It’s the first time that they’ve had to tell their own story. The first time they haven’t had a well known franchise to fall back on. Lego City Undercover is also the first big release that the Wii U has had in months. This is the game that needs to help sell the console. Lego City Undercover has so much potential to be great. While it stumbles in most cases, it mostly succeeds as a debut outing, and shines a bright light on Traveller’s Tales future.
Lego City Undercover doesn’t hesitate to let you know what you’re in for: A romp in movie and TV cliché past. Chase McCain aka every cop from the late 80’s is coming back to Lego City after having been banished. His mission to recapture his nemesis the evil Rex Fury. There’s a lot of story progression here, and Chase’s journey feels naturals. You understand how you come to be at certain points. There’s new costumes and missions for Chase, and each one reveals new abilities and back-story for Chase. My favorite costume of course is the Criminal, if only for the havoc Chase wreaks when he wears it to go undercover.
The heart of what makes Lego City Undercover fun however is the characters and the dialogue. The game borrows a lot from pop culture so most of the references should be easy to pick up for us older people. There’s a scene early on that has all the cops in Lego City sitting in on a police briefing. All I did was try to see if I could pick out who they were spoofing (so far include Dirty Harry, Starsky and Hutch and of course Colombo). The whole game is a fun loving and respectful parody, that lets you in on the joke. Chase McCain is basically every loveable detective who went rogue for the right reasons. Rex Fury is every major villain ever: loud, muscular, and a lover of classical music. And of course the sidekick who you desperately want to do physical harm to in Frank Honey. I’m corny at heart, so even as I groaned at some of the bad jokes, I loved every minute of it.
If you’ve ever played one of the Lego games before than the format should be pretty familiar to you. Lego City Undercover has an open world that allows you to plow through individual missions that are spread out to different locations on the map. While you’re in these areas you’ll have to break things, build things, go through puzzles, find things, the list goes on. Your goal is simple, find a person or object. But there are other things that you can spend your time doing as well. Lego City Undercover has a lot of secrets and different areas that are only accessible if you wear certain costumes or have certain abilities. I often found myself replaying an area just to see if could get through something I had discovered earlier. There are a lot of items to collect to if the mood strikes you. Combat isn’t necessarily difficult, it’s basically pushing the same button, and I do regret the fact that building special objects isn’t a mini game. As sometimes things seemed a bit too easy, but these are minor complaints.
Of course being an open world, what you’re really looking forward to after playing through the admittedly fun campaign is the exploration. And it is great. Exploring and uncovering every little secret that the world has to offer is addicting. If you’ve traveled the US then you should recognize what inspired what, Lego City is an intriguing mix of San Francisco, DC, New York and more. There’s over 20 districts to room around each having their own charm and just getting around can take you a while. Sometimes just using all the different vehicles is enough; there are cars, helicopters, boats, wheelchairs. Just get out and explore.
Of course the real question is how does Lego City Undercover work as a Wii U exclusive. Well the Gamepad controls are unique to the game. Traveller’s Tales did a great job, using scanning abilities, and the map to integrate the GamePad and make it feel like a part of the game. It’s a pretty creative use, but at the same time it doesn’t really seem like a necessary detail, more like a fun add-on.
There are other small problems with Lego City Undercover. Initial loading times are way too long, but I didn’t find them as frequent as some did. It’s also unfortunate that there’s no co-op in Lego City Undercover since past Lego games did include that feature. As this is an initial outing, hopefully future games in this series will include this detail. Also the hallmark of the Wii U is the ability to have off-TV play something that the game lacks.
Lego City Undercover has great promise. And Traveller’s Tales has done a great job in providing players with a fun open world experience. With about 10 hours of story and untold hours of exploration, it’s easy to get lost in. Hopefully this isn’t the last, but the first in a long line of original Lego games.
(Note: Lego City Undercover was reviewed after 16 hours of gameplay on the Wii U. This copy was purchased by the reviewer.)