There's usually a fair amount of similarity between core installments in a popular video game franchise. The LEGO brand, for example, is known for featuring a variety of established properties, co-operative play, and being available on a number of different platforms. LEGO City: Undercover, on the other hand, doesn't have any of these trademark features — abandoning the safety of an established formula for a single-player, open-world adventure that's more reminiscent of a kid-friendly Grand Theft Auto than anything TT Games has worked on in the past.
This time around, players won't be thrown into the role of Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, or Batman, instead they'll be introduced to a brand new protagonist known as Chase McCain; a hero cop who was transferred away from LEGO City after accidentally blowing the cover of a key witness in a case against the game's villain, Rex Fury. Chase has been brought back after Fury escapes from prison, and given McCain's intimate history with the baddie, he's back on the case. Thus setting up the main plot for LEGO City: Undercover.
Throwing users right into the swing of all things LEGO from the get-go, the gameplay is reminiscent of the recent LEGO Batman: DC Superheroes. The concept provides gamers with a massive open world to explore, a silly amount of vehicles to drive, and an unheard of number of collectibles. Each story mission will put Chase McCain through his paces, whether it entails a car chase or a little puzzle solving, but a majority of the missions take place in their own environments that require a separate load time to boot up. It's these load times in question where Undercover really suffers.
There are two separate load times that pop up while simply trying to boot up an existing save file. These load times aren't by any means short either, averaging anywhere from 30 seconds to an entire minute. Had they only occurred at the beginning of the game, they would be much more tolerable, but they occur in between every mission, effectively de-immersing players in the hilarious and engaging atmosphere that LEGO City: Undercover works so hard to create.
There's no question that the load times are ridiculous, but they can be overlook because of how enjoyable the game actually is. This is thanks largely in part to the game's script, which is filled with an unfathomable amount of laugh out loud moments and a heap of movie references. It's the humour, motifs, and references that make Undercover the ultimate comedic homage to the entire genre of cop films and television shows. Making references to everything from Shaw shank Redemption to Dirty Harry, there's no shortage of jokes that are witty, well-timed, and cater to a wider audience than the 'E' for everyone rating on the game's box implies.
While traversing through the plastic jungle of LEGO City, Chase McCain will earn new abilities which can be accessed through new suits. These pieces of plastic super clothing bestow new powers upon Chase, allowing him to overcome certain obstacles and access areas that were previously locked. These costumes manage to mix up the gameplay significantly enough that their initial implementation is fun, but — while the costumes are in abundance — they tend to grow old in a rather quick fashion. The need to switch abilities happens a little too often, and users will constantly find themselves changing attire a slightly irritating number of times in later levels.
The fighting is a little over-simplified, too, making most battles incredibly tedious and painstakingly easy. It all comes down to the combat interface that TT Games chose to implement into the title, with one button (the 'Y' button) being utilized the most for a pre-animated maneuver. Once on the ground, players will need to guide Chase over to the downed foe and slap a pair of handcuffs on them before they awaken from their beating. Some enemies need to be grappled and thrown in order to be subdued, but there still isn't much, if any, challenge in doing so. On the off chance that a player does perish, however, there are no repercussions — making the entire adventure a walk in the park to complete.
Fortunately, LEGO City: Undercover redeems itself by providing consumers with the most ambitious list of collectibles that has ever been seen in a LEGO title. Clocking in at roughly 15 hours to complete the campaign, it takes roughly 50 hours in order to gain the coveted 100% completion. This is a result of the unfathomable number of unlockable costumes, vehicles, Super Builds, and more scattered across the massive landscape. If there ever was a better bang for someone's buck, they'd be hard-pressed to point it out.
As for utilizing the GamePad, LEGO City manages to provide a few gimmicky features, but none that really take full advantage of the console's unique controller. For the most part, a map of the city is made available on the GamePad's screen while wandering around the world, and it displays markers and symbols that instruct players on where to locate missions and hidden items. Other portions make use of the tablet's ability to be physically swiveled around a room to locate and scan bad guys or audio files. Using the GamePad as a primary means of communicating with allies was a stroke of genius, though, and one that really does help to immerse gamers in the role of Chase McCain.
LEGO City: Undercover is a wonderful addition the Wii U's sorely lacking library, and one that acts as a promising sign that future platform-exclusive software will deliver on the promises that Nintendo has made. While the lack of co-op, lackluster combat, and stagnant load times take away from the game, the wonderful humor, immense open-world, and sheer list of collectibles make this one of the best LEGO titles to-date. Anyone with a Wii U won't want to miss out on this block-tastic adventure.
LEGO City: Undercover is available now on the Wii U.
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