Friday, August 11, 2017

LEGO CITY Undercover Review (PlayStation 4)

Written By: Bernard Julius Paje

Title: LEGO CITY Undercover
Developer: TT Fusion
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Genre: Action, Adventure
Price: $49.99
Also Available On: Wii U, Switch, XB1, Windows

Back during the early days of gaming, licensed games based off movies and cartoons were released en masse. Most of them were not good, oftentimes solely made to cash-in on the popularity of the intellectual property (IP) it is based on. When Lego made games for 32/64-bit systems (amidst the boom of mascot-based, collectibles-ridden 3D platforming genre) they tapped into a high-profile license to use for their first major foray into licensed games: Star Wars. Sure enough, they had a bonafide hit on their hands. The game was a lot of fun and received mostly positive reviews from critics. As the years went by, they licensed various other well-known IP's like Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and Batman to make games that mostly used the template they used for the first game. They added new features and improved the mechanics for newer games of course, but each new game plays similarly with the previous ones (albeit using characters and environments from a different IP). Lego eventually used original material for their games though, mostly based on their actual Lego brick sets (like Lego City, Ninjago and Chima). These original games maintained the high quality their platforming games are known for, of course, so they continued selling really well for them.

When the Wii U came out, a Lego game based on the Lego City brick set became a launch title for the system, Lego City Undercover, and this game has just recently been ported over to other current generation systems. The game focuses on the misadventures of undercover Lego City cop Chase McCain in his mission to recapture an escaped criminal named Rex Fury. The game has very funny dialogue and a lot of various movie, game and pop culture references (including some from Titanic, Assassin's Creed and Sherlock Holmes). Like almost every other Lego game that came out before it, Lego City Undercover has a lot of in-game collectibles. A LOT! In addition to standard bricks and studs that act as your in-game currency, there are literally thousands of things to collect (like Gold Bricks, Red Bricks, Super Bricks and Police Shields).

Since Chase is undercover he has access to several disguises, each of which grants him new abilities to use. The robber disguise lets him unlock safes, for example, while the farmer disguise enables him to use a chicken to glide. Switching between various characters with unique abilities has been a core mechanic of Lego games for progression, and this game's disguise system effectively mimics that.

The titular environment, Lego City, is a fairly large open world with various themed areas. The city is a sprawling metropolis, with inhabitants that occasionally talk to you and spout various one-liners. Chase can traverse Lego City using various land, air and sea vehicles. There is a lot of variations for each vehicle type, and each of them handles different from each other. It is a good thing Chase has a lot of available options to explore the city, because it is one of the most fun things to do in the game. Driving your car or motorcycle on the sidewalk at full speed will hilariously make unknowing pedestrians dive out of your way.

As you progress through the story and gain more disguises and abilities, more areas of the city will become available for you to explore. You will also be able to enter some indoor areas in most story missions. The game has 15 main chapters, some of which have special side quests within them. It will take you around 15-20 hours to get to the end credits, but it may take completionists more than double that to get a 100% completion rate.

While the game is very fun to play it does have some problems. In fact, some of these minor problems are also present in older Lego games. Collision detection can be dodgy in the game at times, particularly when you try to hang from ledges or climb handholds. At times, you may suddenly drop from them if you veer out of their bounds for even a tiny bit. It can get annoying if you drop and have to redo a significant section of an area. Also, I had a frustrating experience in the sewer chapter once where a set piece that I needed to progress did not spawn in my game. After aimlessly trying to find a way to progress and realizing that the game could have bugged out on me, I reloaded my game and finally the missing thing I needed to progress appeared. Hopefully instances like these can be fixed soon via a patch. Loading the open world area of the game can also take up to a minute at times, but once it loads up everything plays smoothly. The frame rate of the game is locked at 30fps on the open world area and 60fps for enclosed, indoor areas on a vanilla PS4. The game runs rather well compared to the original Wii U release, which had frame rate inconsistencies at some areas.

Overall, Lego City Undercover is a fun entry to the Lego series of games. It is also one of the better ones in my opinion, because it is not tied to a specific franchise and because the game's tongue-in-cheek humor has a universal appeal. It implements open world exploration pretty nicely too, with lots of things to do and collect if you do not feel like continuing with the story. The game has some minor issues, but these instances will not ruin your fun with the game at all. If you are a fan of open world games with lots of things to collect and a humorous albeit silly story then do yourself a favor and check this game out.

  • Solid, open world gameplay
  • Fun storyline and silly humor
  • A lot of things to do outside of the main campaign

  • Has some glaring collision detection issues
  • Humor may not appeal to everyone
  • Some players may find the number of in-game collectibles overwhelming