There is a certain tradition that exists with many gaming franchises, often this is terms of a struggle to change or a reliance on something that the franchise has done for so long. In this case I think of the Lego games, since 2005 many of the Lego games created by developer TT games have relied on the use of popular franchises such as Batman, Star Wars and even Harry Potter to drive sales and keep popularity for the franchise. Even if this is the case everything must change eventually and be open to the introduction of new ideas as Lego City Undercover proves.
I use the term open to new ideas but TT games doesn’t always stray from tradition. Many of the ideas that are seen in the game are carried over from many of the developer's other Lego game projects. The basic combat of Lego City feels very much the same as many of the other games and is very simplistic . Also, studs, which are the currency in Lego games, are far too easy to find and collect this time around.
Where TT games do stray from tradition is in the world and story of Lego City Undercover. The story reminds me of a pilot episode of a police drama, Lego City is in mayhem and panic with crime literally roaming the streets and lurking around every corner. To make matters worse, Rex Fury, one of the worst criminals to ever hit Lego City has escaped from jail and nobody can find or stop him. Knowing he needs to be caught, the mayor of Lego City calls former officer Chase McCain back to Lego City in the knowledge that he is the only one who can stop him and bring him in.
The story is great and 100% original, it really makes you want to keep going through the game, but it is the game's characters that add the most amusement. The world of Lego City is filled to the brim with characters to meet, even if only a small selection of them are really major inclusions. The criminals in Lego City are completely stupid, such as a group dressed as clowns pulling tricks to distract the police in order to make their escape. Then you have one of the most amusing characters of the game, Frank Honey, he fails at even the most simple of tasks. This often adds into the comedy that has always existed in the Lego universe, and Frank’s failures add to the laughs that are to be had here, such as when he calls to say the horse he is riding has no head and he tried to feed it an apple but it got angry. But of course in Lego City he is icing on the cake in the comic relief department, as even one-time characters. or even the police never fail to show how stupid or foolish they are, in the best way possible.
It is often hard to not laugh at many of the jokes made in Lego City Undercover, even as an adult playing this game there are many references made that are better suited to the adult audience and kept me laughing in most occasions. The way some characters say things, the movie references and even some of the physical jokes made are hard not to laugh at. Though some of the jokes made do go a bit too far or are just too stupid but I think these jokes will appeal to the younger audience this game is obviously directed at.
Lego City is a massive environment to play in and shows a lot of influence from games like Grand Theft Auto, in the basic overworld that is Lego City you are allowed to break many objects in the environment, steal cars claiming police business and the funny part is you don't get penalized for it. From a kid's point of view this adds to the appeal of the game knowing you aren't going to accidently trigger police runs unless they are part of the main story, which does happen on occasion, but it's never to hard to deal with. Also, Lego City is filled with interesting tidbits to see and an amazing variety in its world that never feels like you are driving down the same street over and over again.
One of the major differences between Lego City Undercover and past Lego games is that Lego City is a single player only experience which is quite a departure from past games that often relied on having two people playing in order to use different abilities. Here it is a different story, without the option of the second player some of the levels become simple busywork which requires using the different abilities Chase acquires throughout his adventure in quick succession. Through Chase's journey he gets eight different disguises which provide him with new abilities and skills to use. Throughout Lego City there are plenty of opportunities to use many of these abilities and each acts as part of trying to fully complete the game. During some of the game's levels you will be required to use these abilities in quick succession, for example you need to use the fireman disguise to put out a fire, then fix an electrical box with the engineer disguise and then become a farmer to grow plants that you can climb.
One of the real strengths of Lego City is how the Gamepad has been integrated into the experience. A lot of the basic use of the controller is the same as other Wii U games in that it provides a map of Lego City to view, which is okay but often it does go a lot further, even being integrated into the actual gameplay. Little tasks such as scanning areas to hear suspects' conversations, taking photos of suspects, and even taking phone calls are all masterfully done using the Gamepad, which is essentially Chase's Police device. Often tasks are done by moving the gamepad around the room as if you are inside the game which is very easy to do and quite enjoyable.
Whether you are a child or an adult, Lego City Undercover is an interesting and fun game to play, even if only to drive around and smash Lego cars or to go and listen to some of the silly comedy. Personally I am hoping TT games takes note of what they have done with this game and go towards the future making more games as original as Lego City Undercover as this is one of the best games they have made in the Lego brand so far.