If there’s one thing Travelers Tales really enjoys, it’s making Lego games based on movies. In 2013, there was a slight departure from this in the form of Lego City Undercover, an original game making use of the Lego license. Now the game has finally been brought elsewhere. Filled to the brim with references to a ton of cop movies, TV shows, and other police drama, should this Lego game be behind bars, or shall it keep its badge?
You play as Chase McCain, a police officer who was banished from Lego City despite catching notorious criminal Rex Fury. When Rex breaks out of prison again, Chase is called back after the incompetent police force has no luck in catching him. What follows is a goofy conspiracy of Chase going undercover to try and find Rex and figure out his plans for Lego City. It’s a funny story that is bolstered by poking fun at a lot of different movies, games, and other media. From the intro that parodies both Grand Theft Auto IV and Titanic, to a level that is made as one long Shawshank Redemption joke, I found myself often smiling and chuckling at each new scenario.
Even more surprising is how Lego City Undercover shakes up the Lego formula in interesting ways. The game takes place in a massive open world, letting you explore Lego City to your heart’s content. There’s a ton of things to do and collect there, as is the norm for a Lego game. If you feel like going for 100% then be prepared to spend quite some time doing so. By the end of the game, you’ll need over 800 collectible items, including playable characters, cheat codes, vehicles, and gold bricks. It took me about fifteen hours to finish the game’s story, but I could see another twenty being sunk in if you’re going for 100%.
The real changes begin with a totally reworked combat system. Taking some hints from other games, you can’t just smash one button to keep punching until everything nearby is broken. Instead, you’ll be tossing enemies around with well-timed attacks, and once they’re on the ground you can cuff them. Later in you’ll also gain the ability to aim your throws and counter-attack enemies. It all feels like a toned-down version of one of the Arkham games, and that’s a good thing. It adds some interesting depth to the combat that other Lego games never really managed, even if it is still hilariously easy at the end of the day.
Like most Lego games, there’s more of a focus on puzzles and platforming. In another change, you won’t be getting various characters each of whom has their own skills. Instead, you get one character: Chase. He’ll get different costumes that he can cycle through and give him new abilities. For example, a police officer costume allows him to follow footprints or use a grappling hook to get to higher areas, then you can switch to the miner to move dynamite around and break rocks. While a similar idea was used in Lego Batman, here you don’t need to visit specific spots to change costumes. Instead, it’s done at the click of a button. It’s extremely convenient and I never felt like I was doing a bunch of running back and forth to fill in space.
While the puzzles never felt like filler thanks to this simple change, some of the levels came off that way. At one point I was going through fireman training for reasons I’m still not entirely sure of, but it felt like it was there to pad out the game. Similarly, I got that feeling when I had to go through another training level with a construction worker. Both levels just seemed there to hit an arbitrary goal of having “enough” levels. Annoying sure, but even worse is when the game wanted me to make a super build, one of the new features of Lego City Undercover.
In the past Lego games, the only form of currency was studs. Lego City Undercover features a second form of currency known as bricks. Destroying objects used to yield studs, but in Lego City Undercover this will instead give you bricks. You’ll use bricks to assemble super builds, which are bigger structures around Lego City that often provide some kind of benefit to you. This could be things like vehicle call-in points, stunt ramps, or helipads. Occasionally you also need to build one for the story. Whenever this came around, if you didn’t have enough bricks, it meant you were stuck wandering around finding more bricks until you could. I often just wanted to get to the next story level and continue with the fun I was having rather than deal with these sections.
Thankfully they don’t pop up too often and before long I was back to whatever ridiculous stunt Chase had to perform next. Rob a museum? Check. Break into a bank vault using paintball guns? It’s there. Freefall down the world’s largest mine shaft? Why not. I was always enjoying whatever new crazy situation the game would come up with next. Replaying these levels was also important, as I could bring in my new abilities that I got from later levels to help open up new areas for more collectibles. I always got a sense of joy whenever I found something new that I just hadn’t considered before.
Of course, that applies to the open world as well. There’s many little areas tucked away in Lego City that you need your constantly expanding list of abilities to get to. Each costume also has unique challenges associated with it. For example, the firefighter costume has the challenges to put out all the BBQs and save all of the trapped cats in Lego City. If you mess around with the farmer costume then you need to grow all the plants and save all of the lost pigs. None of them are really super complicated, but it’s still fun going around doing so.
Lego City Undercover is also supported by some great voice acting that helps with the comedic tones. The parody characters nail the faux-actor accents so well that I actually got curious and checked the game’s IMDB page a few times to see if they got the right guy. I also want to commend the game’s soundtrack, especially the absolutely hilarious last stage which features an ominous latin choir chanting “Lego City” over and over. Unfortunately, the game is hampered by some long loading times, and while there’s not many of them you are looking at around 30-45 seconds of loading each time you hit one.
At the end of Lego City Undercover, I was confused as to why more Lego games didn’t make use of the ideas presented here. The improved combat system was delightful, and making it super convenient to access powers and advance through levels was something I think more of the Lego games could use. There’s still a bit more ironing that needs to be done, but it’s strange that this five-year-old Lego game is more convenient and innovative than more recent releases. This is a chase that you want to go on.
Lego City Undercover is a five year old game that somehow is more innovative than recent Lego games. A reworked combat system and interesting open world help make a lot of fun, as does a hilarious story. It just needed some trimming of the filler and cutting down on the load times.
- Hilarious Writing And Voice Acting
- Fun Combat System
- Interesting Open World
- Great Soundtrack
- Excessive Filler Levels
- Annoying Brick Currency
- Long Loading Times