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Game Review: Lego City Undercover

May 13, 2013

This review is intended to be spoiler free. Any discussion about the game’s plot will not spoil major parts of game. Gameplay photos are from the official website.

Lego City: Undercover is the first game in the Lego Video Game franchise (At least since Lego Star Wars, and at the very least, the first one made by TT Games) which is not based on a pre-existing franchise (Star Wars, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, ect.) Although a parody of many police, spy, and action movies (and makes a lot of references to a lot of movies), this game has a unique story and cast of characters that the Lego Franchise and TT Games can call its own.

First revealed at Nintendo’s E3 2011 Press Conference under the name Lego City Stories, it was not until E3 2012 that (along with a change to its current name) the game became one of the big launch titles that Wii U owners wanted to get their hands on. Exclusive to the Nintendo Wii U, the game came out in March during a time when 1st party Nintendo titles were coveted for the system. It took the honor of being the first 1st party Nintendo title (following Day 1 launch titles) to arrive on the system.

With the hype surrounding the game, and the added pressure of being the first post-launch day 1st party title for a system needing exclusive titles, did Lego City: Undercover prove it was not only a fun title, but a reason to own a Wii U?

The Basics: Gameplay and Graphics.

Lego City: Undercover takes the gameplay style of TT Games’ other Lego video game releases and merges it in a (somewhat) open world map very similar to the Grand Theft Auto series. While it does incorporate missions, Lego stud/brick collecting, characters/alternative costumes to earn (the alternate costumes each have their own special abilities), and simple puzzles like other Lego games have, it also provides you with a giant city environment (based on many locations in the United States) with an assortment of vehicles to ride and collectables to find. While it may not be as rich in exploration as a game like GTA would be (you can’t go inside all buildings, and even fewer feel as “alive” as some of the main buildings you’ll go into for the main story, it is clear that a lot of time, effort, and creativity was put into the creation and feel of the city.

Although it is not the first time TT Games has released a Lego Title in HD, it is a beautiful game to look at, adding to the “wow” factor you’ll have when you first see the city (both in cutscene and gameplay form.) Don’t think that because it is a Lego Game automatically means it won’t look nice. The water and various buildings in the game are beautiful to look at when driving by. Although Xbox 360/PS3 owners have been used to playing games in HD for a while now, and the PS4/Next Xbox System are preparing to set a new standard for console video game graphics, Lego City: Undercover can still impress in looks. And if the transition from early Xbox 360 graphics to current 360 graphics are any indication, I look forward to seeing an eventual sequel to this game to see how TT Games can impress me even more with the look of this city.

Story: What are you trying to do?

You will be playing as Chase McCain, a former cop of Lego City who was forced to leave and continue his career on the other side of the world, due to a mistake he made during the arrest of the notorious Rex Fury. Unfortunately for Lego City, Rex escaped from jail and is at large. The mayor, one of the few people who trusts Chase and realizes it was his efforts that helped arrest Rex two years ago, asks Chase McCain to once again find and arrest Rex Fury. With a large cast of characters to interact with, and a huge city to explore, it’s up to you and Chase McCain to do whatever it takes to find and take down Rex Fury once again.

Please note that a prequel story Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins, covering the events of Rex Fury’s arrest and Chase McCain’s beginnings as a cop, is available on the 3DS. It will not be discussed further in this review though.

Issues: Does it have any major flaws worth noting?

Lego City Undercover does have an unfortunate problem, one that may get on the nerves of players at some point, but isn’t as bad as some have made it out to be. Lego City Undercover takes time loading some sections of the game. Specifically, when first starting the game, selecting a save file/entering the city, and starting/finishing missions. I first suspected this had to do with the situation with the Wii U’s operating system, but it seems that this is more of an issue with the game itself. This is probably an issue that should have been better addressed while still in development, or maybe patched as (unlike the Wii) Wii U titles can receive updates and patches. Alas, that isn’t happening, so my only hope is that if/when a sequel to this game is made, they prevent this issue from happening again.

Some may also may not be a fan of how Lego City Undercover is a single player only game, unlike other Lego Video games made by TT Games, which have featured co-op since the Lego Star Wars days. However, it should be noted that the Nintendo Wii (at the time this is being written) only allows for one Wii U Gamepad Controller to be used per system. Because the Gamepad Controller is important for certain gameplay elements, adding a second (or more) player would not have allowed everyone playing to enjoy the game to its fullest. That being said, considering this is part of the Lego franchise, the lack of (at minimum) co-op may be a drawback for families wanting to pick up the game so they can play together.

The Recommendation: Is this the right game for you?

There’s a lot of people and a lot of reasons why people enjoy playing video games. From those looking for a solo experience, to those looking to entertain. Let’s see whether or not Lego City: Undercover can appeal to you.

For Solo Players: Depending on what you’re looking for in a game, Lego City will either be the perfect new title for you, or one that you may consider passing on.  Personally (focusing on just the main story mode) I clocked in about eighteen and a half hours. Granted, I am not the most skilled player. I can guarantee very skilled players will beat Lego City much faster than I have. Still, I thought the story mode was a good length for this kind of game. This isn’t Xenoblade Chronicles or The Legend of Zelda. For the kind of game it is, it feels like just the right game length. But that’s just my opinion.

Those looking for a challenge will be disappointed. Tasks and puzzles in this game are not very difficult (although there were one or two times where I did question why the game’s developers chose to make players find certain items in certain areas), and there are some times where the game feels like it is either holding your hand or didn’t really need to point out what to do next. So not as skilled players or those new to gaming may find this game a little more enjoyable. That said, those who have played TT Lego Games before will still find the gameplay to be just as enjoyable as previous games. It is simplistic gameplay, granted (although the “Grand Theft Auto” like elements does spruce up the formula a bit). However, for those willing to give it a chance, it can be a very enjoyable experience that (along with special gamepad elements) will charm many players.

Those who like collecting will find an entire city to explore filled with Lego Studs, Bricks and more. You can use these (besides building certain items required by the game to advance the story) to build extra vehicles and other items throughout the city. It’s also fun to search for different cars on the road to drive around and crash into different objects. As story missions are beaten, freeplay modes will allow you to (similar to older TT Lego games) play as either other main characters in the game or additional characters/looks while replaying a mission. There’s also additional little bonus missions to find as well. That being said, this may not satisfy everyone. Collecting items here is not as rewarding as other titles that have come before Lego City. That being said though, there are some that will enjoy this part of Lego City, and will find the amount of time they play with the game to be significantly more than others would put into it. Also keep in mind that you are free at any time (with some exceptions) to explore the city during the game and collect to your hearts desires. The game will give you little reminders here and there (and point you to the next objective) whenever you want to jump back into the story mode. Just remember, some parts of the city will require you to advance in the story mode and obtain new costumes/abilities.

For those with more than one player: As stated above, Lego City Undercover doesn’t have a co-op/multiplayer. Gameplay wise, this is not recommended for those looking for a game to play with a friend/sibling. Parents who played previous TT Lego games with their kids will not be able to do the same with this game. Again, this may be a deal breaker for some families/players.

For those looking for a good story: Let’s get this out of the way now. If you were expecting an Uncharted/Assassin’s Creed/Halo/Legend of Zelda story in a Lego video game will (deserving) be disappointed. That being said, the story isn’t bad at all. Sure, it is a little cliché (it’s a parody of many cop/spy/action movies intended for a younger audience.) It does make quite a few references (some that may be a little forced at times). Some jokes may fall flat (and again, be forced at times). But it is a world/story that was made with love. The characters are very enjoyable to watch, and while it can be cheesy, the game has a wonderful sense of humor. It certainly isn’t for everyone though, as again, it is very cheesy humor. Whether or not you like the humor and the cast of characters will be what makes or breaks the game for you though, I guarantee this.

Overall: I won’t say this game is a system seller. As much as I enjoyed it, this game isn’t the game to run out and buy a Wii U for. However, if you currently own a Wii U, or if you eventually get your hands on a Wii U, I suggest you check out this game. It may not be the game that will get a bunch of your friends to come together, or be one of the games that defined the system. But it will entertain (most) players. It will be a fun experience for Wii U owners. And even if you’re not playing the game, but hanging out and watching a friend/family member play it, you’ll love watching the characters and seeing this incredibly satisfying story play out. It is a great title to whet your appetite as you wait for the next big Wii U exclusive title, and one that I believed lived up (mostly) to the hype and the praise it is getting. I hope to see you again in the future, Officer McCain. Lego City (and the Wii U’s software library in general) is a much better place because of you.

For more Video Game news and reviews, check back here at Save Us From Obscurity regularly. And for additional/breaking news, as well as my own mindless rambling, follow @TSilentWatcher.

Thanks for reading my review! Feel free to comment/critique below, as your feedback will continue to make the site better. Until next time!

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3 Comments
  1. Been playing this off and on for a couple of weeks now, and have been really enjoying it. First LEGO game that I’ve actually owned, though I have played the demos and one hour trials on PS3. Love the humor of the game. Nice review!

  2. Anonymous permalink

    Its Asome

  3. Anonymous permalink

    Try Gta 5 its the boom by just driving around and crashing into cars.

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