In LEGO City Undercover (LCU), you play as Chase McCain, a skilled, yet goofy cop that is returning to the City after spending a couple of years away. As you arrive at the dock, you are greeted by the mayor who informs you that master criminal Rex Fury — who Chase put behind bars — has escaped and the town is overrun with criminal activity. It’s up to you, with some help from a few NPCs, to crack the case and restore order.
LCU is a surprisingly large and active open world game played in the third person. Similar to GTA, players can run on foot or commandeer a variety of vehicles, only this time you are on the right side of the law. That doesn’t mean you have to drive safely or not commit numerous criminal acts of your own, such as breaking and entering and destroying almost everything in the endless pursuit of more LEGO blocks, though. But, all of this is done in good fun in a game that is both kid and adult friendly. This is evident from the light-hearted and charming animations of the characters, which is not to say they are low quality. TT Fusion did a really nice job with the animations, and much of the game’s great sense of humor is pulled off thanks to these and the zany variety of vehicles and costumes available to players to discover and don.
Chase discovers eight different disguises throughout the story, but each of these disguises has a lot of alternate costumes. In other words, you have civilian Chase, Police Chase, Miner Chase, Robber Chase, Farmer Chase, and others. Changing disguises not only changes your appearance instantly, but it also gives you additional abilities, such as being able to pry open a door by rapidly pressing A as the Robber, or smashing boulders with your pick-axe as the miner, or dousing fires with the Firefighter. Within moments of starting the game you will see lots of interactive objects that you cannot interact with until you progress the story and unlock these disguises. As any good open world game, this makes for lots of re-tracing and additional discovery. With so many unlockables (hundreds of costumes and vehicles and sixty-five Super Builds, the list goes on), dedicated players will find themselves locked in for hours across the massive City.
I found the amount of loose LEGO blocks floating around for pickup too much, though — it isn’t long until you have in the hundreds of thousands of these (granted, each actual pick-up represents 100 or more) and into the millions, which just seemed excessive to me. On several occasions I had wished I could “cash in” this stockpile towards some Super Blocks, which are the pieces you “actually” need to unlock Super Builds, which are key structures like a ferry boat or bridge that allow you to advance the story. Finding Super Blocks can be a nuisance, especially if you aren’t so much interested in running around the open world and would rather just continue the main story.
Exploring the large City is made far more manageable thanks to the Gamepad, which for most of the game displays a map that you can zoom in and out of. You also receive video calls on the Gamepad which is pretty cool. Often these are from your dumb, but nonetheless funny (usually) police buddy named Honey, or his love interest in the evidence room (whose name I forgot). The map shows an easy to follow route of where your next objective is, and you can also perform a Data Scan by pressing a button on the touchscreen and holding your Gamepad up and looking around. When playing the game while laying down, this can be annoying because this works best if you can rotate around in 360 degrees. This mode allows you to scan for Super Blocks (and criminals in certain events). You can then tag a single Block to pick-up, resulting in a hard-to-see pointer being added to the screen in addition to the larger objective pointer. It’s too bad you can’t go ahead and tag multiple Blocks. I found the scan-and-find method of finding Super Blocks a little cumbersome at times because even when you would find the Block, it may be behind a door you can’t unlock yet because you don’t have the right disguise.
LCU does do a good, if not overbearing, job of keeping you on track when you are not looking for Super Blocks, though. A clear objective pointer that is always present and up to date, and on screen prompts pop up a little too often. You can also get an objective reminder via the Gamepad’s text crawl, and you might get a call from HQ to check in from time to time as well. I think for younger players, that all may be a good thing, because there is a lot going on in the City, and it’s not hard to be constantly distracted. Of course the flipside of that for more seasoned or older gamers is that the immersion factor and difficulty is only further reduced by this non-optional hand-holding. Personally, I feel somewhere in the middle — I never found myself engrossed in the game and I didn’t mind the objective pointer changing rapidly as I played through a chapter to keep me on task. Said another way, if instead the next location were obfuscated or much trouble to get to, I would have been more annoyed than I am with the current system.
Speaking of annoyances, while LCU overall is low on these, it’s hard not to notice the load times. While the TV displays a perpetual ‘loading’ screen, the Gamepad at least has a steady progress bar that shows you where things are at. Right from the very start, and every time you transition to a new area or enter and leave HQ, expect a significant wait time that hits forty-five-plus seconds often. This isn’t a game-breaking issue, but it’s perhaps a sullen reminder of the Wii U’s own slow UI. I have no idea if this is a patchable issue or just a hardware limitation (surely not, right?), but it is what it is right now. While disappointing, again, it’s not a problem that should keep you from playing this game.
With that, let’s get to the summary…