Consoles are made by exclusive games that offer something different. ZombiU was a brilliant launch title for the Wii U and now, Nintendo four months on, need a third party game to convince people to put money down for their latest console. With the sudden and unfortunate delay of Rayman Legends (to Nintendo and Wii U owners at least), here’s hoping that LEGO City Undercover brings what’s needed.
For their first LEGO game not based on a movie, TT Fusion have done a brilliant job. You star as Chase McCaine, an American 70s TV cop show parody who’s returned to LEGO City to find it in the middle of a crimewave thanks to McCaine’s arch nemesis, Rex Fury. What follows is a silly, outlandish and funny tale that gets crazier with each passing mission. It’s nothing original at all, but with a fun and wacky mix of characters you’re going to find yourself laughing at every cutscene as the story develops.
The city is not the biggest open world by far, but it is unique, thanks to the attention to detail and LEGO design. It’s a nice world to be in, navigation and performing actions around town are where the game runs into difficulty. Being the first full, open world game from TT Games, it was important to get the basics right, but driving around the city is horrendous bore. It’s simply devoid of fun and to top it off the main noise you hear when driving is the annoying sound of the car engine. All open world games suffer the same problem of endless driving across the map, including Grand Theft Auto but the difference with Rockstar’s games is that you have brilliant radio commentary and cracking soundtrack so it didn’t matter so much.
When you’re in the city, you’re going to be using the GamePad a fair bit. It’s use is similar to ZombiU and perfectly good but it’s fair to say it’s not quite as well utilised. It does many of the same things like scanning the world and map display but the fact you can’t tag several things at once on the device which makes searching for those elusive items far more difficult than it should be. Other tools include audio scans where you tune into a distant conversation, plus taking photos. These actions all work perfectly fine, but in terms of innovation, there is little on offer here and nothing than can’t be done using a traditional controller. You also get characters phone in onto the device like The Prepper does in ZombiU which works well, but the way Ubisoft pulled it off was much more immersive as it added to the atmosphere.
While the open world aspects disappoint, I’m happy to report that the more traditional, self enclosed mission structure of past LEGO games are still fun to play. It does hold your hand far more than most games as the route is very clearly marked and each task is colour coded to the type of outfit you need, for example purple equals robber and red equals fireman. This takes out any level of thought and analysis required to proceed through the game’s puzzles, but despite this I enjoyed this level of guidance as it meant I could just kick back, sit down, play and enjoy the game in a relaxing way. It will annoy some some but I’m happy with it in this game. It also makes it more accessible for the younger audience too. You’ll also notice during missions (and in the open world) that there will be tasks marked with colours for costumes that you’ve yet to unlock. You have to ignore it at the time, but upon completing a mission, you’re granted the option to play through it again. Once you’ve got all the different costume abilities, you’re free to go back and get to these prevously inaccessible areas to get hidden items like new disguises and super bricks. And there are a lot! You’ll be spending many, many hours finding everything if you can bare some of the aforementioned issues.
And that’s why LEGO Batman 2 DC Super Heroes got the balance perfectly right (which we gave 8/10 in our review and is coming soon to Wii U). It was a fun story with lots to do and find, but the technical issues from the open world didn’t present themselves like they do now.
The very best thing about LEGO City Undercover is that it’s chocked full of the hilarity that we’ve come to expect from the series. From the first few seconds and throughout the rest of the game, you’re constantly amused with jokes, slapstick comedy and popular culture references. The fact the game isn’t based on a movie has allowed the developers to constantly throw a wide variety of film and game references to you at every angle. One minute it’s Dirty Harry, the next it’s The Matrix. The success of these jokes don’t hinge on you being aware of the original as they’re still funny in their own right, but you do get more out of it. And it’s much better done than some of those mash-up movies like Epic Movie too, as TT Fusion understand, love and respect the original material rather than simply stealing the best jokes.
What isn’t funny though is poor pop-in and excessive loading times. The pop-in is especially bad when it cuts to gameplay after a cutcene and objects two meters ahead of you materialise like they’ve beamed down from the Starship Enterprise. Moving onto the loading times, to give you an idea of how bad it is the last game that annoyed me with the same issue was Duke Nukem Forever. Everything from booting up the game, going in and out of buildings and cutscene transitions can be around 30 seconds to a minute. I’m putting these issues down to unfamiliarity with new hardware more than anything else so although it’s not an excuse for TT Fusion, it’s hopefully something that can be improved on in future titles. Though that doesn’t help players much in the meantime.
Sadly there is none to speak of.
To sum up
LEGO City Undercover is a very ambitious, funny and a unique title for the Wii U but I feel TT Fusion have over-stretched themselves here and need a little more time and practice to do open world successfully. It’s only due to the constantly amusing nature of this game that it doesn’t get a lower score, making a fairly average open world game enjoyable through excellent comedy.
Version reviewed: Wii U