"Lego City Undercover" brings together Lego asthetics and "GTA" style gameplay and world design for a game that is a blast to play for any age.
After coming off of the incredibly detailed “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” I expected a bit of a drop in quality with “Lego City Undercover.” Not to say I thought the game would be bad, it’s just easy to compare two open world games when coming right off of one another. Needless to say, I was surprised at how deep “Lego City Undercover” was for a “Lego” game. The game follows Chase McCain, an ex-cop called back in to put the criminal Rex Fury back behind bars. The game hints at why Chase left the force because of Rex years prior, leaving the player with a mystery right from the get-go. While the story sounds serious, it still sticks with the quirky and slapstick humor everyone has come to expect with “Lego” games.
If you have ever played a “Lego” title before, then this game will feel familiar in a few ways but changes things quite drastically in some areas. The biggest of these is the big open-world that serves as a bit of a hub world for each level, although this one is packed with puzzles and secrets for players to find as they travel. “GTA” is an obvious influence for this game, allowing players to drive any vehicle on the map across the landscape that draws inspiration from New York City and San Francisco. The map also features a sort of woodland area, a nice break from the city area similar to “GTA V.”
The combat also differs from other games in the “Lego” series, focusing on taking down criminals then cuffing them, as opposed to simply hitting them four times then breaking into pieces. The driving is pretty fun as well, though it takes some getting used to at the start. As you progress you unlock more costumes which grant certain abilities, allowing you to reach areas you might not have been able to reach before. There are a load of collectibles to find much like “GTA,” gold bricks being the primary items to locate, coming in at a grand total of 450. While the Wii U version was strictly single-player, this re-release allows another player to join in on the mayhem as well.
Like mentioned previously, the game feels very much like an 70s or 80s cop film or TV show. It riffs on many of the tropes found in the media and even outright references some of them. Heck, the game even has a catchy theme that sounds like it was pulled right out of 1975. My favorite moment comes early on when Dirty Harry himself appears and states his iconic “six shots or five” line, although this time he is referring to coffee. This goes great with the familiar “Lego” humor, which helps to make this game one that nearly any age will enjoy playing.
When the game first came out for Wii U in 2013, many critics applauded the game but found fault with the ridiculous load times when entering various levels. As I played the game on Nintendo Switch, I found that while the load times were better, they were still not quite up to snuff for what is essentially a four year old game. I also found that the frame-rate, while not detrimental to my enjoyment of the game, was not very stable in object-heavy areas outside of your typical levels. This issue was much more prevalent while the game was undocked on the Switch, though as it went on, it got a bit better and I seemed to get more used to it as I progressed. While the “Lego” games have never been known for mind-blowing graphics, I was still disappointed that some of the issues remained even after four years.
Technical issues aside, “Lego City Undercover” is a charming game with a lot of things to love in it even after four years. I would not recommend buying it now for the full $60 price tag, but as time passes and sales begin to pop up, I would definitely pull the trigger then. “Lego City Undercover” is able to make an enticing game with a nostalgic setting, and one that players will no doubt get many hours of enjoyment from.