The biggest problem with LEGO City Undercover? Trying to pull myself away from it in order to write a review.
I’ve played pretty much every LEGO Game from Traveller’s Tales since LEGO Star Wars started the trend back in 2006. They’ve always been entertaining, but in recent years the fun has started to wane a bit; gameplay has got a bit stale and the tried-and-tested template has been in dire need of a reboot. While LEGO City Undercover still feels familiar, it somehow manages to reinvigorate the spark that LEGO games have been missing recently, making the franchise feel fresh, new, and most importantly, incredibly good fun.
Without a franchise to appease, it feels like Traveller’s Tales and LEGO have been free to let their imaginations run wild in creating LEGO City Undercover. The world they’ve created is bigger and more beautiful than ever, with a massive number of nooks and crannies to explore. The humour – though a little childish at times – is absolutely on-point; its writing akin in quality to the likes of The LEGO Movie. Sure, gameplay still fits into that all-too-familiar LEGO game stencil, but enough has been changed and tweaked to make this experience feel more polished than ever.
LEGO City Undercover puts you in the shoes – well, not literally, because LEGO Minifigures don’t have shoes – of Chase McCain, the everyman good cop who is obviously here to save the day. The city is under threat from an escaped criminal, Rex Fury, and its up to Chase to work with the police while going undercover in Rex’s gang to find out what he’s up to. The typical LEGO shenanigans play out through the 15 chapters of its campaign, with each level having the usual collectibles to find – a number of studs to unlock ‘city hero’ status, four pieces of a shield and a red brick. You’ll also unlock new skills (in the form of ‘disguises’ for Chase) as you progress through the story, so there’ll be lots of collectibles you can’t get your first time through.
It took me around 15 hours to work my way through the main story, and according to the in-game counter, at that point I’d only completed 30% of the game – that’s after doing some side content along the way, too. That’s how big this thing is. LEGO City Undercover is absolutely teeming with discoveries, puzzles and collectables. Sure, some of them may be tedious, but you don’t have to do them; the beauty of the game is that you can do as much or as little of the side content as you like. It’s a collectathon, with plenty of familiar open world game nuances in there, but you can take or leave them. LEGO City is your oyster, and you can explore it like a madman, taking in sights, flying on a jetpack from one area to the next before jumping on the back of a pig (literally) to run across a field, or you can be methodical, going from street to street, collecting everything you come across.
The main problem with LEGO City Undercover is that, despite its open world appearance, it’s still very much level based like any typical LEGO game. Sure, its open world hub is much bigger than any we’ve seen, but you still need to complete the levels in a set order before you can really enjoy the meat of the world around you. Thanks to needing various skills/outfits to complete certain tasks and to find the vast majority of the collectibles out in the world, it’s not really worth trying to do much until you’ve completed the levels. Even after completing the game and seeing the credits roll, there’s still at least one skill I don’t have and therefore a bunch of collectibles I can’t yet access. It’s not too much of a problem, given that each level is bloody good fun to complete, and the story naturally guides you to the next relevant starting point without any real trouble – it’s just a shame that going off the beaten path generally leads to dead ends until you have the full roster of available skills.
That’s a very nitpicky complaint though, even if I do say so myself. It’s hard to find anything negative to say about LEGO City Undercover; it’s been a long while since I’ve enjoyed a LEGO game – hell, any game – quite this much. So much love has gone into the game to make it as accessible and enjoyable as it possibly can be, and it really shows. Even technically, the game runs brilliantly – LEGO games are no strangers to random glitches, but in my 20+ hours with the game I’ve not encountered any issues. The writing and character delivery of the game is second to none; several of the lines had me literally laughing out loud – Frank Honey’s innate dim-wittedness never tires, and the Arnold Schwarzenegger-esque foreman in a later level is pure comedy genius.
Everything about it makes LEGO City Undercover a joy to play, and it truly is a game that everyone in the family can enjoy. While the Schwarzenegger movie references may go over little Billy and Gertrude’s heads, they can still enjoy the hilarious and brilliantly-acted characters and the bright and colourful world they reside in. Just like any LEGO game, City Undercover can be played in co-op via a simple drop-in, drop-out system, with a second character helping Chase McCain on his quest to save the day.
I feel like Traveller’s Tales is going to be hard-pushed to outdo themselves on another LEGO game that feels as enjoyable to play as LEGO City Undercover. It’s a brilliant addition to the franchise, and I’m so glad that other console owners finally get to enjoy it outside of the 2013 Wii U version. If you enjoy well-voiced characters, some silly jokes and inoffensive yet brilliantly addictive gameplay, look no further. If you’ve ever played a LEGO game and even slightly enjoyed it, you will love LEGO City Undercover.