LEGO City Undercover (Wii U) Review

By Jorge Ba-oh 14.03.2013

Review for LEGO City Undercover on Wii U

There's something remarkably special about LEGO. The much loved children's toy has been selling strong and continually expanding for over 60 years and is a global phenomenon, outselling rivals and taking on the biggest Hollywood names. LEGO has also weaved its way into the video game market, continuing the success of the physical brick building with action, sandbox building, racing and even story driven titles like LEGO Harry Potter and LEGO Star Wars.

With the LEGO range of videogames cementing themselves as high quality releases, particularly those created by Traveller's Tales, it was time for Nintendo to jump in on the action with a pair of exclusive games for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS as LEGO City Undercover. Has Nintendo and developer TT Fusion built an experience worth exploring on Wii U or is Undercover something that should remain boxed in the attic?

As part of the Wii U show-reel during E3 2011, Nintendo announced an exclusive deal to develop a new brand of LEGO game that closely resembles themes and the feel of the classic LEGO City playsets. Undercover would involve a vibrant, dynamic world full of familiar block characters, buildings and roads and an action-packed story - likened to a more accessible, family friendly Grand Theft Auto. The result is very much as promised; a well-scripted, mission-based open world that attempts to blend action and exploration without delving into guns, drugs or ladies of the night.

Players take on the starring role as a well renowned, effortlessly charming police officer known as Chase McCain who has been summoned back to LEGO City as the smarmy overlord of crime Rex Fury has decided he's rather bored of the confines of prison and has escaped. City officials are ever so slightly nervous that Fury is on the loose so it's down to players to hunt and detain him using a number of skills Chase McCain has at his disposal. It's not all that simple as along the way McCain's old flame becomes involved and there's more to certain characters than meets the painted eye.

Screenshot for LEGO City Undercover on Wii U

If there's something that immediately stands out with LEGO City Undercover, it's the storyline and dialogue itself. Typically with a game of this sort, particularly one targeted towards the younger market, the story could often be tacky or ridden with the stench of adolescent cheese, but the cut-scenes and in-game dialogue are a strong point. There is the confident, slightly suave and cheeky protagonist Chase, his bumbling and hilarious sidekick Frank Honey, the generic-yet-brilliant Chief of Police, plus a wise lass on the phone who helps out along the way. The interaction and vocal work between each of the characters is believable enough and makes each sequence worth watching, at least once.

Plot aside, LEGO City Undercover can be described as a game that's part action through linear sequences and part exploration through collecting. As a police cop players roam the streets to the next crime, possibly related to the overall goal of hunting Rex, learning the ropes along the way - whether it's using a grappling hook to leap up a soaring tower block or running across a tightrope with ease. Chase will also unlock a handful of disguises along the way that give him the ability to perform certain tasks or moves; for example, donning a fireman outfit to settle searing flames, pretending to be the bad guy as a robber or breaking rocks as a miner. Though these are available at the of a click of a button, they can become tricky to use once the game requires a fair few costume changes within a mission or a short space of time - something that could have been spaced out better especially during a chase or rescue mission.

These costumes also come with their own item selection, often using the GamePad or analogue stick as a means of aiming or controlling the camera. Whilst fun and innovative to use within the LEGO City world, the aiming and item recognition does have its share of niggles. Sometimes using an item forces a bit more precision or having to be in the right spot to use correctly, leading to some frustrating sequences - something that did improve as the game progressed, but an element of the game that brings usability down a notch.

Screenshot for LEGO City Undercover on Wii U

After passing the initial tests to re-join the police force, Chase is given access to a nifty communicator device that gives access to a map of the entire LEGO City, a handful of unlockable gadgets, and a handy video phone feature. This is where the Wii U GamePad comes into play - the controller acts as the interface, primarily a GPS or location tool, but also a camera for different items in the game. When the story pits Chase at the top of a burger bar to scope out the scene for hidden criminals, the GamePad can be used to pan around the scene to sniff out those baddies. The screen can also be used as a nifty GPS device by tapping on a location - for example, a crime scene or building and the directions are marked out by a path of bricks on the TV screen. These are just some of the more unique touches that add a level of immersion whilst keeping the experience simple for all ages.

After pouncing on the bad guys and helping the city folk, it's down to the exploration side of things. This is a double-edged sword as in one sense it leaves Chase free to pop into a vehicle and drift around town with the sun seeping through his plastic hair, yet opens up the game to the more tedious collect-a-thons. Throughout the story players need to accumulate a number of bricks in order to rebuild objects like a car generator or a boat and this requires a hefty amount to hand over. Bricks can quite literally come from any source, whether it's slamming a vehicle into a wall or kicking down benches with unrestrained glee, but this only offers very little. When it comes to needing to rack up over 10,000 bricks to forge a boat to visit a prison, it comes down to what are known as "Super Bricks" that come in far bigger amounts of around 1,000 bricks and up. Problem is that, of course, these are hidden throughout the landscape, inside locked buildings or potentially areas that remain inaccessible with the current skill set. This, in turn, becomes a far more troublesome "break and collect" affair, adding unnecessary sections to what, as a whole, is a streamlined story.

Screenshot for LEGO City Undercover on Wii U

Collecting concerns aside, the world of LEGO City is a gorgeous and highly detailed populous that's on par with other sandbox games in the genre. Granted it's more of an outdoor affair as only a handful of buildings can be wandered into, but there is a great variety of areas to visit that become more apparent as the plot devices kick into place. It's fairly restricted at first, but invites Chase into a manner of different locales that, without spoiling too much, go a little bit beyond the walls of LEGO City itself. Graphically, the entire experience has been crafted with care, with not a single brick out of place, especially when sat alongside Wii U ports. LEGO City Undercover is a project that's been built with the console in mind - ground up - and it shows. The LEGO and more realistic elements blend nicely through a balance of immediate and draw distance detail, smooth lines and smart use of lighting in places to really lift the world in high definition. The animation sequences and general movement within the game world, whether it's cars or people, resonates a distinct LEGO charm that's difficult to capture - it's certainly one of the better looking Wii U titles out there so far. Despite the game's good looks, the drawback comes with its loading times. Whilst Undercover makes up for the long loading sequences with a thumping funk backing track, these tend to trail on from around 30 seconds to well over a minute before the next cut-scene or mission kicks in. Whilst not game-breaking by any means, the loading sequences do spoil the flow and do have the potential to put off some players given how immediate most contemporary games run.

The storyline itself can be polished off within a good thirty to forty hours, potentially a lot less without the collecting sequences, leaving behind an expansive world to drive around in and various additional tasks to try out before calling it a day. The only other positive addition perhaps would have been a multiplayer or co-operative feature for two players to work through the large world at the same time, one on the GamePad and another on the TV screen.

Screenshot for LEGO City Undercover on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

As one of the highlights in the Nintendo Wii U software library to date, LEGO City Undercover blends together a large, compelling open world to explore with fun, suitably cheesy action sequences that can appeal to both young and old. Built ground-up for the system, Undercover excels both visually and in the sound department, yet is hindered by longer loading times and a handful of gaming grumbles. Despite this, LEGO City Undercover should certainly be on anyone's Wii U radar as one to explore. Doughnuts and police badges at the ready folks; Chase McCain is in town!









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (2 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop


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