Game Review: Lego City Undercover
OverviewGenre: Action, Platform, Puzzle, Racing
Pros:Huge city to explore, great swathes of content, and humour that doesn't quit. Stylish, funky and fun from start to finish.
Cons:Cars are a bit slow and this is not a game for someone with obsessive compulsion. Not overly challenging.
Chase McCain and the rest of the Lego City PD attempt to take down an evil crimelord in a huge adventure. There’s lots of driving, fighting, and detective-ing to be done as we get our hands on the Wii U exclusive.
One can no longer be forgiven for assuming that Lego games are just for children. Lego City Undercover is an immensely fun game, packed with the kind of humour and references modern animated films wouldn’t put in for fear of being considered too risqué for the youth of today. The game could well have warranted a higher certificate and no one would have complained, bar the kids who would them be deemed too young to jump into elite undercover cop Chase McCain’s ’70s-ish world of intrigue, organised crime, romance and billions of Lego bricks, as our straighter-than-straight-up hero tries to track down notorious uber-felon, Rex Fury.
Lego City Undercover is a hugely derivative game, although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Rather than being a direct translation of a Grand Theft Auto game with Lego figures, LCU builds on its foundations and executes them in all the right ways. Truth be told, the game has a lot more in common with Saints Row than Rockstar’s more famous series. The humour, variety of activities and level of customisation available are hugely welcome elements, and Lego City itself is, as you’d expect, more colourful and memorable than any other sandbox game in recent memory.
Driving is notably slower than other free-roaming, car-apprehending games, though not so much as to be annoying. Vehicles at the higher end of the quality spectrum also come with a gratuitous speed boost function, meaning that even in the large game world nowhere is too far away. If you get bored with roads, there are also flying vehicles to accommodate you, as well as various speedboats with which to explore the city’s vast waterways, or take a trip out to one of its islands. If you decide to spurn motorised transport in all its forms, you can also ride a horse. Or a pig. Or a chicken.
McCain uses a variety of costumes with different abilities to go undercover in Lego City’s fraternity, and each one has its own special abilities, ranging from teleportation to firing eggs at enemies by squeezing a chicken. When the situation calls for it, Chase isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty either, and fighting is played out in an Arkham Asylum-lite manner, sometimes taking on up to six bad guys at once. All the action is soundtracked with an arsenal of Parliament-style funk tunes that never grate and complement what’s happening on screen perfectly, as well as contributing to an apt ’70s atmosphere.
The game references almost every legendary crime movie or TV series since time began. Dirty Harry, The Shawshank Redemption, Casino, The Dark Knight, My Cousin Vinnie, Starsky and Hutch, Kung Fu, The Matrix, Bullitt, Moonraker, Deliverance, and so many more little storylines, or quotes, or characters pop their heads up at almost every moment of play. Our little hearts were melted when Beethoven’s 9th symphony played whilst we were raiding a bank vault, and we could feel our inner Hans Grubers smiling gleefully.
With challenges on offer including racing, time trials, free-running, finding all the bonuses dotted around the city and unlocking all the vehicles and disguises, there is easily upwards of 50 hours of entertainment in LCU, including completing the considerably long story campaign. The narrative is compulsive, making you play a little bit more each time, and the characters are so enjoyable that it never becomes a chore to watch cutscenes or listen to dialogue.
LCU must be applauded for its excellent use of the Wii U gamepad. As well as sustaining a real-time map, the controller also acts as a scanner that you have to aim manually to listen in on conversations, a camera, and a videophone whereby any one of Lego City’s citizens can contact you at any time. There is an unending charm, as well as no little excitement, in receiving a cutscene-quality animated call from your clueless, redheaded assistant, Frank Honey (‘Yes, Honey?’).
If Lego City Undercover deserves any criticisms at all, it’s that it’s not overly challenging. The player will never feel tested by the material on offer and the only time you’ll feel a gripe is when you fall off a tall building and need to retrace your steps to the start of a section and go through it again, though that’s a rare occurrence. Otherwise, this is as polished, diverse and big as any triple-A release should be. The developers have eschewed expectation in favour of fun and, as you ride your robotic T-Rex skeleton off into the sunset majestically, you’ll realise the game is all the better for it.