When it was announced that Lego City Undercover was moving off the Wii U and on to other platforms, part of me was very happy, as I remember enjoying the game, no matter the issues it had, but I also wondered if it would compete against the other Lego games that have come out since then.
Lego City Undercover is the same game now as it was on Wii U, which means the story, characters, locations, mini games and all the other details are just as they were. You take on the role of Chase McCain, a cop who was called back to Lego City by the Mayor after criminal mastermind Rex Fury busted out of prison and the Mayor believes that Chase, the man who put him there is the only one who can return him there. While the story for why Chase is called, back is fairly light, it is the characters that you interact with that help sell it, from the cranky, yet doughnut loving Chief-of-Police Dunby, or the well-meaning and yet woefully incompetent Frank Honey, even the smaller characters that you meet along the case are, stereotypical of their casting, but still packed with charm. The games biggest addition though, is that you can play co-op through out the entire adventure.
The game itself is broken up into chapters, with most introducing more story as you progress and while the game limits your exploration early on, it does not take long for the entire map to open up. As you complete more chapters though, you will unlock new skills and outfits, more options for exploring the world become available. Chase can only have a set number of outfits in his collection at any time, but you can swap out one type of look for another, but not lose that ability, which is key to progressing further in the game. Not long after the first chapter, lots of the building around Lego City will sprout blue and white studs, which are your clue that you can climb the building. That same colour scheme goes into play when it comes to the free-running and the reason why that is important is purely because the game allows for a much enormous range of exploration than past Lego games have done.
As you explore Lego City and its surrounding neighbourhoods, you will find lots of activates to fill your time, if hunting down the city’s biggest crook becomes a bore. There are loads of trivial things that you can do to fill your time, from playing some side show games, to shooting hoops, but in addition to those, there are loads of time trials, free running events and such to complete as well and you will want to do those, as doing that will earn you the Gold Bricks. In fact, completing the game is going to take you a while as there are over 400 bricks to collect, even more once you add in the red ones and those are worth getting as they unlock modifiers for the game. Each red brick you collect, will unlock a game modifier from earning double studs to obtaining unlimited dynamite and to more obscure options like biggest nitro boosts.
One of the games biggest additions, is the inclusion of the super builds; by now everyone is used to collecting studs, well now you also need to collect bits. As you cruise around the world, you will discover lots of super build locations, these can be as innocuous as a vehicle call in point, or something slightly more important like a missing bridge, or even just a stunt ramp. As you complete the builds, you earn more gold bricks and unlock extra content. While the studs are just lying around, I mean they are everywhere, bits are harder to find, in that you need to actually destroy everything that you can, or locate the super bricks that are hidden around the world. These super bricks come in two sizes, 1000 and 10,000 bits per brick and while there are many of the first, they are still a challenge to get to. Sometimes you will see them hiding in a shop window, but you won’t have the right outfit to unlock it, other times they will hide on rooftops so you need to find the right way up. If you can’t locate them, your only recourse is to destroy everything from sign posts to trash bins, tables to shipping crates, doing that will slowly earn you bits and sadly it is a slow process.
The problem with what is on offer is very simple, it is old news, since Lego City has released we have had 8 Lego games all expanding what we know a Lego game can be, even if you cut Dimensions from the list, you are still left with two Marvel, one Jurassic, one Batman and one Star Wars to name a few and with The Force Awakens, refining the formula to what some consider to be perfect, going back in time to much older and more hand-holding gameplay is strange. Outside of the looking back, the game is still very much contemporary, at least when not referencing 80’s cop shows, the wealth of options for getting around the city, is in line with other open world games. Side activities and such offer challenges to keep you entertained and given the games replayability, there is a lot to have you coming back to.
Where the game gets let down is in its performance and two key areas specifically, getting the worst out of the way is the load times, on Switch they are horrid. The load up to the main menu takes way to long and after you wait for that to load up and then load into the game, it takes almost the same amount of time to get into the game, I am talking 50-60 second each. Once you are in the main world, loading into buildings or mission areas is fast, at least compared to the Wii U release, but still behind the other platforms it’s been released on as well. When you are in the game, it looks fine, but there is an amount of pop in that happens, it is nothing large or such, just smaller items like bushes, benches and flowers, they fade in over time.
In terms of the games overall presentation, it works for the aesthetic that the developers aimed for, the city looks like a city, the forested area looks like a forest. The indoor locations do fair slightly better, because the Lego elements don’t stand out as much as they do outdoors and because outdoors has that slight pop in issue, but also because there is inconsistency. You will drive past a dozen trees that are real life, then out of nowhere a Lego tree will be in the mix and then your back to normal. The same thing happens with other objects like fences and such, while seeing Lego elements in the missions areas is expect, the complete break in immersion in the outdoor spaces is just to jarring to overlook.
Lego City Undercover was a solid game when it first released, it tried some interesting things with the Gamepad, but its constant long load times were the anchor around its neck. With the Switch release, the game has improved somewhat with its performance, however it still has long loads, just not as frequently. If you don’t mind stepping back in time, with regards to the gameplay, compared to the recent Lego titles, you will find enough humour and variety here to entertain you or your little ones.