STAFF REVIEW of LEGO City Undercover (Xbox One)

Friday, April 14, 2017.
by Chad Goodmurphy

LEGO City Undercover Box art Although the Wii U didn’t receive a lot of great third-party support it did possess a handful of exclusive gems that weren’t developed and published by Nintendo. One such title was TT Fusion’s LEGO City Undercover, an original experience that looked to bring the Grand Theft Auto formula to the all-ages market with the LEGO humour and storytelling intact.

If you’re new to the fold, LEGO City Undercover is the story of Chase McCain, a police officer with love for the ladies, who has returned home to help the city’s ragtag group of parodied officers with their biggest case yet. You see, before Chase went away he was responsible for arresting one of the area’s most notorious criminals, the appropriately named Rex Fury. Now, that same bad dude has broken out of the local jail, which bears an awful resemblance to Alcatraz, while being full of homages to Shawshank Redemption.

Chase’s attempt at stopping and recapturing Rex plays out over fifteen chapters, some of which house more than one mission. Along the way, you’ll earn new abilities, find more outfits, and cycle between said disguises in order to solve basic puzzles.

Almost all of the disguises (civilian, police officer, criminal, miner, astronaut, fireman, farmer and construction worker) have their own abilities, which is something that you’ll be used to if you’ve played any other LEGO games. For instance, as a robber Chase can use his crowbar to pry things open or use his stethoscope to crack open safes, while police officer Chase has the ability to scan for clues and hidden objects and use a grappling hook. Going further, the miner can use dynamite, while the farmer can glide with chickens, both of which can lead to some rather comedic events.

As you progress, you’ll switch between these disguises in order to solve puzzles, progress through each of the game’s story missions, complete city challenges and find collectibles. There’s a lot to do in LEGO City Undercover, so prepare to give up a lot of your free time if you plan to complete the game with the magic 100%.

Unfortunately, the combat doesn’t exactly change with each costume, like one would hope, so it ends up being pretty basic overall. There are no guns or super powers allowed in LEGO City Undercover, and those who have 'beefs' with each other are forced to settle it the old fashioned way, with fists and feet. The result is a somewhat lacking combat system that eschews guns and powers for grabs, throws and basic punches.

Truth be told, though, the campaign does have some issues, and tends to drag at times. Then again, this entire game isn’t as impressive as it once was four years ago. Still, it’s a fun take on the Grand Theft Auto formula, and there’s lots of great humour to go around. The city is also rather large, and shares an obvious likeness with San Francisco, with its rolling hills, majestic bridges, cable cars and an island prison. However, there is one weird thing to note, and that is the fact that although all of the characters and civilians are made out of LEGO, the buildings are not.

Before we move forward, it’s also important to mention what’s new this time around outside of achievement support and the lack of the unnecessary second screen of the Wii U gamepad. When LEGO City Undercover was first released back in 2013, it was built as a single player only game. That has changed with the addition of two player co-op, which brings the campaign in line with most of the other LEGO branded video games. That’s not to say that the co-op is anything special though. All it does is allow another player to take control of a second Chase McCain, whose clothing is merely a different colour. That’s all. As such, it feels more like something that was shoehorned in to increase sales, as opposed to a mechanic that was given a lot of thought or care.

Of course, it’s very possible that co-op was left out of the original version due to fears of added performance issues. I say that because, as those who played this on the Wii U will know, it didn’t run perfectly. There were performance issues, pop in was evident, and the loading times left a lot to be desired. The good news is that this current-gen port addresses some of those problems, and looks rather good in 1080p. It is, however, not a complete home run, especially since its long loading times haven’t been improved upon all that much.

Thankfully, the framerate is a lot more consistent, and the visual pop in has been decreased. There are still visual anomalies to be found during cutscenes though, and there’s also a noticeable amount of blur at times. Still, for what this is, and where it started, LEGO City Undercover looks and plays pretty well on the Xbox One.

Unless you absolutely hate LEGO games (surely, you don’t, as why would you be reading this review if you did?), LEGO City Undercover is something that you should play through at least once. I say this because while it’s not a perfect experience, and it remains somewhat dated, it’s a nice change of pace and a hilarious experience. The writing is spot on, with some great one-liners and a ton of excellent homages, and the campaign has more than a couple standout moments.

Some of my favourite homages include a police officer who looks and acts like Dirty Harry, a Morgan Freeman impersonator who does a bang up job of sounding just like him but doesn’t want people to say his name for legal reasons, and a character who loves to spew Arnold Schwarzenegger quotes. These are just a glimpse at what you’ll find in game though, as it seems like every scene features a nod towards pop culture royalty.

If you’ve yet to play it, give LEGO City Undercover a chance on Xbox One. It’s a smartly written and often hilarious game that has a lot to offer for the first time player, while also being a good option for kids who are simply too young to play Grand Theft Auto proper.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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