LEGO City Undercover is an open-world action-adventure game for the Wii U. TT Fusion developed the game. Nintendo handled the publishing for this Wii U exclusive title. While prior LEGO based video games have taken popular film franchises and LEGO-ized them, LEGO City Undercover’s only has ties the LEGO City branch of toys, but features no strict source material to curb from to create a LEGO-ized story. Will this ability to create an original story be a benefit to the game? Or does the lack of a blueprint mean disaster for this city made of plastic bricks?
Chase McCain is back in LEGO City after a long absence following the botched end to a big case several years ago. The Mayor of LEGO City has asked Chase to return because Rex Fury has escaped from Albatross Prison. Now McCain is tasked with capturing the dangerous criminal he helped put away years ago. In order to track down Rex, Chase has to return to the LEGO City PD and work with some new and old friends. However, it will not be easy because the new Police Chief Dunby is the one who got all the credit for the original Rex Fury case. Dunby is less than happy to see McCain again. Worse is that he has little to no motivation to track down Rex Fury. Chase has things to put right though, which include reconciling with Natalia, the witness responsible for locking Fury away and whom Chase hurt by leaking her identity to the public. Now she is in Witness Protection and with Fury free, she is not safe. With no leads and a Police Chief working against him, Chase is going to have to do some things off the books and undercover in order to capture Rex Fury again.
TT Fusion has thrown a good mix of fun gameplay mechanics into LEGO City Undercover. Combat in the game is simple even after learning some extra moves, it is all streamlined. McCain can perform a basic action against enemies that will incapacitate weaker enemies in one hit. Once downed, McCain needs to cuff the enemies so they cannot continue the fight. Later, he learns to counter moves by following the prompts above attacking enemies’ heads. In addition, he can grapple enemies and throw them at other enemies. For stronger enemies, McCain needs to work a little harder and mix these various attacks to arrest them. When only one enemy is left on screen, performing any one of these actions will lead McCain to do a fun super move with a special animation. The more elaborate and fun elements of gameplay are free running, which McCain can perform when near special white and blue bricks. When performing free run moves, Chase does some smooth acrobatic moves to get across gaps or run up walls.
What makes up the bulk of gameplay is the various disguises that McCain finds throughout the game’s story. These disguises are not cosmetic, they give Chase special abilities when equipped like when donning the Robber disguise, he can pry open doors with a crowbar or crack safes. Eventually progressing through story missions becomes about using these disguises effectively to move past road blocks and solve whatever puzzle the player might encounter. At various spots in the game, Chase will be prompted to use the GamePad to uncover secret bricks or listen in on conversations, to accomplish this the player must hold the GamePad up to the TV and scan around to look through LEGO City for special prompts. In addition, the GamePad is used smartly to display the map and play communications without interrupting gameplay.
Graphics and Sound
LEGO City Undercover is a pretty game. The graphics are strong with the plastic Lego people having good character models and making them seem real. Environments in the game look great bringing this Lego version of San Francisco to a sharp reality. TT Fusion has created a big city that has plenty of secrets for players to explore. However, in certain pre-rendered cut scenes, there tends to be a fussiness around the character models and the backgrounds seem soft. They seem almost out of sync giving them a plastic-y feel. They are not used hugely often, but they distract, especially in the late game. The voice acting in the game in great and plenty of care was given to making these characters (caricatures in a sense) feel real. Music in the game is wonderful and great to listen to, specifically the Issac Hayes-y main theme with its rollicking baseline.
When the game was revealed in 2011 at E3 it showed off its open-world gameplay causing people to dub the game LEGO Grand Theft Auto. That is inaccurate, while it does have a tendency for humor and filmic references like GTA, it is more parody than the satire featured in GTA. With its cop-centric story, combat and free run elements, it is closer to LEGO Sleeping Dogs. The game is fun and features plenty of things that will have players of all ages enjoying it with a sense of wonder like when they first built their first LEGO set. There are issues with the graphics in cut scenes and a tendency for missions to feature a bit too many fetch quests, but they are not enough to damper the extremely delightful experience.