LEGO City Undercover Review
LEGO City Undercover is at once a familiar LEGO game and something different for the series. The basic gameplay elements will be familiar to you if you've ever played a LEGO game before, but rather than recreate the events of a movie or familiar license, this LEGO game features an entirely original setting and cast of characters. OK, technically LEGO City is one of the product lines of the building toy, but the only common thread in that line is that all the sets can be used to build yourself a small brick city. And that's exactly what LEGO City Undercover does, imagining LEGO City as a recreation of San Francisco. It's not a building by building recreation, but if you are familiar with San Francisco, you will recognize the LEGO versions of all of its landmarks and you'll be able to easily navigate your way around the city.
LEGO City Undercover is a lot like a LEGO version of a Grand Theft Auto game, except given that it's a LEGO game you assume the role of a police officer instead of one of the city's criminal element. LEGO City is a living/breathing city, filled with traffic and pedestrians. You're free to explore the city and go where you'd like, and there are plenty of secrets to discover and collectibles to find. You can commandeer any vehicle you'd like, for official police business, of course, and drive everything from a scooter to a large truck.
You play as Chase McCain, a cop returning to LEGO City after an extended absence. His last big case before leaving resulted in master criminal Rex Fury being brought to justice, but most of the credit went to the wrong cop and his love interest was forced into witness protection, so it wasn't the career-making bust that it should have been. But when Chase finally returns to LEGO City, Fury has escaped and it quickly falls upon Chase's shoulders to bring Fury back to justice again. This being a LEGO game, the story is filled with silly but clever humor and packed with references to cop shows and movies from the past forty years or so.
All of the signature LEGO game elements are here, and you'll be smashing every LEGO object that you see to collect the pips that are released when they're broken apart. This time, though, some objects also leave behind small bricks for you to collect as well. These bricks are used to build special large items such as a ferry boat, although "build" is used lightly here since the bricks are essentially a currency that once paid results in a canned sequence of the object being built. The smaller objects that you'll build are also an animated process, just hold the circle button and Chase will put the object together for you. It's the same way with the game's puzzles, there's not much thinking involved, you just complete a generally obvious sequence of steps and you've solved them. The game's more challenging aspects come from trying to figure out how to get to and grab special bricks that are hidden throughout the game world, which can be surprisingly tricky to pull off at times. This approach makes it relatively easy for younger gamers to make their way through the game while providing more challenge to older gamers and those who enjoy going for 100% completion in their games.
Other LEGO games feature a large roster of characters with specialized abilities, but in LEGO City Undercover you're just Chase. The game does still lock certain areas behind obstacles that can only be unlocked using certain abilities, but in this case those abilities are all doled out to Chase as you make your way through the game in the form of new gadgets and disguises. This gives you an incentive to return to story levels that you've already completed or different areas of the city to unlock new areas or find new collectible items.
LEGO City Undercover supports co-op play, but it's not as integrated into the gameplay as it is in other LEGO games. When playing alone in those other games you do so with an AI-controlled companion, who's always there to give you a helping hand with the numerous co-op puzzles you encounter. LEGO City Undercover is more of a solo experience; you're playing as the same character throughout and there are no co-op puzzles to solve. When a second player joins in, that player is essentially a second Chase. While in a story mission the game will keep you close together and you can run around trying to be the first to hit switches or break objects. When not in a mission, the game becomes a split-screen experience and the players can go wherever they want on their own. I'd say that LEGO City Undercover is less a co-op game than it's one in which two players can play at the same time.
LEGO City Undercover is at its heart another LEGO game, so if you've played a few in the past then you already have a pretty good idea of whether or not you'll enjoy it. I enjoyed the game, the story is fun and I like the way that it is packed with so many pop culture references it's bursting at the seams. The open world city and surrounding countryside are fun to explore and the game feels like it delivers the largest LEGO world to date. Sure, LEGO City Undercover relies on the same formula that LEGO games have been using for quite a long time, but that formula is a good one and makes for fun, light-hearted gameplay.
Final Rating: 84% - A Grand Theft Auto game the whole family can enjoy.