Ever since 2005, with the release of the very first LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game, TT Games began churning out film tie-in after film tie-in. The games were fun, and I purchased more than a few along the years. Although, they all followed the same basic formula, with each instalment ‘building’ on it, the games never really evolved into new territory. Until now. Nintendo wisely chose to support this project which would no doubt bring them success. And so it should. Lego City Undercover is tonnes of fun.
Lego City Undercover retains the basics of the Lego series, just expanded into an open world, using its own police storyline. You still run around smashing stuff, although the gameplay has been significantly expanded. One of the new additions, 'bricks,' adds a real purpose to smashing things, allowing you to build useful (and some not so useful) objects. The game provides all the super bricks needed to progress the story hidden nearby, however you often need to grind to collect enough to build random things throughout the open world. The open world is great to explore. It isn't ground-breakingly massive, and there isn't a huge amount of sidequests, although there is lots to collect and explore. The freerunning mechanic works generally well. Also new is the expanded combat. It works fine, although it’s very easy, which fits the usually relaxed nature of the game, although it would have been nice for a bit more of a challenge.
One of the great things that works very well throughout the city is the abundance of vehicles. All over the city there is a huge variety of cars, trucks, bikes, as well as boats and helicopters later on. With a flash of your police badge, any vehicle can be commandeered. The controls for these can take a while to get used to. But once you do, it's great fun to drive around the city, seeing your car fall apart into various Lego bricks and watching minifigs jump out of your way, although they can actually be run over sometimes! You also have the ability to access various vehicles at call-in points throughout the city, but only after you've built them, and unlocked and paid for the cars.
Much of Lego City Undercover's story gameplay takes place in the open world, with chase sequences and exploration built around the carefully-crafted environment. At various points in the story, you are sent on 'Special Assignments' which are basically levels in a similar vein to previous games', falling back on the series’ traditional mould. They are fairly fun, although I sometimes grew tired of them, wanting to explore the city a bit more. These levels can be replayed later with the disguises you unlock along the way.
There may be hundreds of disguises, but there are only 8 disguise types with different abilities. The unlockable disguises fit into these ability categories but generally it makes no difference which unlocked disguise you use – the only difference is looks. Many of them look cool and funny, but they serve no purpose beyond that. As the cutscenes are pre-rendered, it means your disguise choices don’t affect them anyway, which isn’t a big deal but may annoy some slightly.
But the cutscenes are fantastic. Filled with visual gags, they are well-animated and are invaluable to progressing the story, with enthusiastic voice-acting. The game’s story is enjoyable to behold. It’s not the most original ever, but it serves the gameplay fine. The characters are likeable and there are plenty of jokes throughout the game on various levels so people of all ages can enjoy it. That’s one of the many great things about this game. No matter how old you are, there is something in here for you, with references to various films et cetera. I did feel myself very interested in the story, and enjoyed its twists and turns, right through to the thrilling conclusion.
The GamePad’s use is also to be commended. It doesn’t get in the way of the game, but effectively supplements it, with a map, communicator and scanner. It’s a natural addition that really works very nicely. It can be hard to explain; you really need to play the game for yourself. Just watch out if you’re the type who doesn’t like moving the GamePad around like a scanner…
Overall the game is very fun, with many little touches that make it special. The city is great fun to explore, with many vehicles at your disposal. The story is fun too. In fact, the best way to describe this game is ‘fun.’ It’s not completely revolutionary, but it is mightily enjoyable to play. And what more can you ask for, really?