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Gaming Review

'LEGO City Undercover' review (Wii U): License to thrill

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Released on Wednesday, Mar 27 2013

'LEGO City Undercover' screenshot

© Nintendo


Release Date: March 18 (North America), March 28 (Europe)
Platforms available on: Wii U
Developer: TT Fusion
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Action/Adventure

LEGO City Undercover is a potentially huge release, not only for a Wii U console starved of must-have software, but for Traveller's Tales, whose previous efforts have relied on the drawing power of licenses such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Batman.

Fortunately, with a hilarious script, wonderful cast of characters, diverse selection of missions and huge city packed with secrets, Traveller's Tales has succeeded in creating a wonderful Wii U exclusive, which borrows liberally from every cop movie and TV show imaginable.

LEGO City Undercover stars cheesy cop Chase McCain, whose return to LEGO City is preceded by the escape of dangerous super villain Rex Fury.

With a love interest, corruption and a crime wave to deal with, Chase must use all of his skills and cunning to rid the streets of trouble one villain at a time.

'LEGO City Undercover' screenshot

© Nintendo

Chase tracks criminals atop a LEGO City skyscraper



It's by no means an original story, but LEGO City Undercover gets by thanks to an excellent script, which contains all of the humour you would expect from a LEGO release.

The voice acting is excellent, and really enhances a title that might have previously shunned vocals in favour of a silent narrative.

LEGO City Undercover's humour is apparent from the very first cutscene, which sees the celebrated cop return home by sea.
    It features an open-world mission structure, which enables players to explore the city freely and tackle missions at their leisure.
The back and forth between Chase and a supporting cast of characters that includes a floundering sea captain, a pompous chief of police and a starstruck cop, never fails to bring a smile, resulting in one of the more entertaining cop parodies since The Naked Gun.

We must have counted at least a dozen movie references by the second chapter, something which is likely to go over the heads of the majority of its players, but will be gleefully lapped up by players who have seen a Dirty Harry film or the Shawshank Redemption.

From a gameplay perspective, calling LEGO City Undercover "Grand Theft Auto for kids" is an appropriate comparison.

'LEGO City Undercover' screenshot

© Nintendo

Chase McCain shoots some hoops



It features an open-world mission structure, which enables players to explore the city freely and tackle missions at their leisure.

The game is split up into chapters typically made up of multiple objectives. Missions usually involve Chase driving to a location to unlock a new disguise or piece of equipment, followed by platforming and combat sequences within the game's countless interiors.

While some open-world games have been criticised for their lack of mission variety, the use of multiple gameplay styles means that LEGO City Undercover has no such problems.

Whether shooting some hoops, gliding through the air while attached to a chicken or grappling from beam to beam atop a skyscraper, players are bombarded with new abilities and areas.

Chase also unlocks abilities through disguises, which are easily accessible through a well-implemented menu system.

Popping on a robber costume enables Chase to pick locks, for example, and players will have to cycle through their repertoire as they make their way through each mission.


Unfortunately, while this could have made for some fiendish puzzles, the game is hampered slightly by its target audience.

In a bid to make it as child-friendly as possible, solutions are signposted a little too heavily, which removes some of the satisfaction when closing a case.

The same is true of the combat, which forms a big part of the game, but is far too simplistic to be considered fun. Baddies can be taken down with no more than a press of a button, eliminating any sense of a challenge. We realise it can't afford to be hyper-violent, but we expected more.

Outside of the main missions, players have a huge city to explore, which is a cross between San Francisco and New York City.

It's an impressive sight too, made up of cosmopolitan shopping areas, parks, forests, ports and prison islands.

'LEGO City Undercover' screenshot

© Nintendo

LEGO City features a wide variety of locations



Like all good open-world games it's begging to be explored and with plenty of side quests and thousands of LEGO blocks to collect, the latter of which unlock new vehicles and costumes, it's easy to get distracted outside of the main campaign.

It adds hours to what is already a sizeable campaign, extending the action past the 20-hour mark.

Like some of the other core gameplay elements, driving isn't quite as much fun as it should be due to questionable handling, but getting around LEGO City is made easier thanks to a clever trail of LEGO blocks which act as GPS.
    Traveller's Tales has succeeded in creating a wonderful Wii U exclusive, which borrows liberally from every cop movie and TV show imaginable.
There are tens of vehicles to unlock, however, which adds even more diversity to a game brimming with fresh ideas.

While you can jack vehicles much in the same way as Grand Theft Auto - minus the violence, of course - vehicles are liberally introduced during missions, which means that players are never likely to get bored of driving the same vehicle over and over.

Disappointingly, the game's lengthy loading screens hinder the momentum at times, while the Wii U GamePad isn't utilised nearly enough.

'LEGO City Undercover' screenshot

© Nintendo

One of LEGO City Undercover's many vehicles



In addition to a map, players can use the screen to scan for objects and enemies, but it's not as user-friendly as we would have liked, making these instances something of a chore.

It's also surprising that LEGO City Undercover doesn't feature co-operative multiplayer of any sorts, which feels like a wasted opportunity considering the target audience and the fact that there's such as a strong cast of supporting characters.

Despite some criticisms, LEGO City Undercover is a hugely enjoyable open-world adventure which shouldn't fail to raise a smile. It would be criminal to ignore it.

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