LEGO City Undercover is an open-world action adventure platform game available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Instead of LEGO City Undercover following the subject matter from a major film franchise and iconic characters such as Batman, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Marvel’s Avengers or Star Wars; it is actually based upon the LEGO City brand of LEGO sets that originated in 2005 in which emergency services such as policemen and firemen are the main focus, although LEGO City’s predecessor LEGO Town dated as far back as 1978. LEGO City Undercover originally released as a Nintendo exclusive on Wii U with a prequel sub-titled The Chase Begins on 3DS in March 2013, but how much of an improvement has been made in the 4 years since its original release?
The story revolves around Chase McCain’s arch nemesis Rex Fury breaking out of jail while Chase was out of the city; resulting in Chase being brought back to re-apprehend Rex Fury and permanently putting a stop to the crime wave he is causing around LEGO City.
Story mode includes 15 story missions and a variety of special assignments spread across locations around LEGO City with classic LEGO gameplay such as deconstructing particular objects and constructing a useful object that is capable of being utilised to reach the next area.
LEGO City allows players to free roam around various districts outside of story missions, but if you want to replay those missions; free play mode also makes a return. Free play mode allows the player to revisit each completed level in any order in an attempt to utilise the skills of characters that have been unlocked since originally completing the level, therefore attempting to find which character’s abilities hold the key to finding out what is hidden beyond a barricaded door or obtrusive boulders.
There are lots of additional activities beyond completing the levels comprising of free run challenges, vehicular races, police city challenges, robber city challenges, miner city challenges, astronaut city challenges, farmer city challenges, firefighter city challenges, construction city challenges, collecting police shield pieces, achieving LEGO City Hero status on every level, unlocking 305 characters, constructing 65 super builds, earning 450 gold bricks and collecting 39 red bricks to unlock the ability to purchase a variety of extras. Red brick extras include Nitrous for All which provides a nitrous boost for every vehicle; Costumes changes the clothing of civilians into fancy dress; x2, x4, x6, x8 and x10 stud multipliers; and much more besides that are mostly required to be purchased after being unlocked for a varying amount of LEGO studs which are used as in-game currency, while a further red brick unlockable is available for achieving 100% completion of the entire game in the form of Super Minifigure that turns your selected character into a giant.
LEGO City Undercover even manages to channel Grand Theft Auto via slow motion stunt jumps and a series of 13 vehicle robberies that need to be conducted by Rex Fury, while evading the police on route to delivering each vehicle to a drop off point at a storage facility with each successfully delivered vehicle resulting in rewards such as a new unlocked vehicle or a new unlocked character and gold bricks.
There is an additional type of collectible that are not usually in other LEGO games as small LEGO bricks need to be collected in order to be able to create super builds such as a vehicle call-in point. The vehicle call-in point initially provides a squad car, although the vast majority of vehicles will have to be purchased using LEGO studs after unlocking them. Further super builds include a wishing fountain, a ferry which activates ferry routes to such locations as Albatross Prison located on Albatross Island, a cable car in the mines, bridges and even stunt ramps.
The character design is as imaginative and charming as always in LEGO games with characters that take cues from famous characters from popular films and television series such as Shaky Harry being based upon Dirty Harry and DaMumbo is the iconic Lieutenant Columbo complete with his trademark mac. Unlockable character disguises provide new abilities to gain entry to new areas such as Chase McCain as a policeman or an undercover policeman can use a grappling hook, detective scan, criminal scan and audio scan, while Chase McCain’s astronaut disguise provides a jetpack, teleportation through teleport stations, a laser gun and opening space boxes; and a construction worker disguise supplies a jackhammer to break loose tiles or objects, enjoying coffee breaks and the ability to fix electricity boxes. Further disguises include a farmer disguise which can use a super chicken glide to easily glide from one building to another, a chicken egg gun and a watering can to encourage the growth of plants; a fireman disguise provides a fire extinguisher to extinguish fires and fill pools, an axe to chop wood blocking doors and save cats; a miner disguise supplies dynamite to break silver LEGO objects and a pickaxe to break boulders; and a robber disguise can use a crowbar to break open locked doors or hatches, crack open safes, the ability to change the colour of objects by using a colour gun and destroying ATMs. Character customisation is accessible through a door to the left of Ellie Phillips’ office on the basement floor of the police headquarters. Character customisation effectively allows players to mix and match components from characters as you gradually unlock them comprising of 12 categories including a name change, full costume, hat, hair, head, gender, body, arms, hands, hips, legs and attachments.
The environment design is fascinating as it takes LEGO into the kind of open-world sandbox that would be anticipated from a Grand Theft Auto game with an astonishing 20 districts situated throughout LEGO City as well as islands to explore. There is no filler within the 20 districts and islands as you encounter characters on their way to or from work for the day, visiting monuments or just out for a drive which creates an accurate depiction of city life. For instance, I got out of a car in one particular area as I had noticed farmland and wanted to see if it was possible to jump over the wall to explore the fields. Sure enough I was able to not just explore the wonderful agricultural land, but to find a task involving building three scarecrows, collectibles and further tasks that require an unlockable character disguise as an appropriate reason for venturing back to the location after further exploration elsewhere in the city. It is this kind of depth that makes LEGO City Undercover’s environments such a pleasure to explore.
There are over 100 vehicles to roam around the streets of LEGO City that are gradually unlocked to be available from a vehicle call-in point. There are six road based vehicle categories including 21 emergency vehicles, 21 worker vehicles, 18 compact vehicles, 18 heavy vehicles, 20 performance vehicles and 11 bikes. Further unlockable vehicles include aircraft such as helicopters, rail vehicles such as public transportation trains and trams and a variety of boats from a small rowing boat to a ferry. Earlier vehicles will seem fairly slow as every vehicle has varying rates of acceleration and handle cornering with differing efficiency, although you are allowed to jump into any vehicle you happen to come across to experience greater acceleration and improved handling.
LEGO City Undercover possesses a sense of humour that is clear to see from early on in the game such as Chase McCain waking up the police chief by blasting music out to make him start a briefing and how excitable Frank Honey is about everything and his constant mispronunciation of computer as compuper. There are many references to pop culture and famous film scenes such as a character named Shaky Harry being asked how many coffees he has had in which Shaky Harry responds, “Yeah. I know what you’re thinking. Did I have six shots or only five, well…” until he is interrupted. A few moments later the police chief mentions that Rex Fury has been a criminal since he was six years old to which two detectives exchange dialogue, “Good heavens! At that age he would have still been in pre-school” followed by “Elementary, my dear fellow”.
It is disappointing to not see LEGO City Undercover arrive on Vita, especially considering that many Vita gamers have been excited at the prospect of eventually playing the game on Vita with a Nintendo Switch port preferred, despite the game previously releasing on the Wii U and 3DS, therefore remote play comes as a small consolation to Vita gamers. LEGO City Undercover’s remote play performance is excellent as it produces the quality of graphics, audio and general performance from the PS4 version. As with previous LEGO games such as LEGO Worlds; split-screen multiplayer is displayed in split-screen during remote play, although it would have been much better to have the player using remote play to have their own full Vita screen with the other player having a full television screen. Remote play controls have not been appropriately optimised as centring the camera when on-foot or accelerating when driving a vehicle has been re-mapped to the top right of the rear touch pad, while using the police whistle when on-foot or braking when driving a vehicle is mapped to the top left of the rear touch pad and centring the camera when on-foot or driving a vehicle has been re-mapped from L3 to the bottom left of the rear touch pad, alongside tapping the touch pad to display the map naturally being mapped to the touch screen. It would have been much better and a more comfortable remote play experience if the controls automatically moved to the top right and left of the rear touch pad had been re-mapped to R and L respectively with cycling through character disguises being moved to the top right and left of the touch screen or rear touch pad.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing X to jump or double tapping X quickly to perform a slide, roll or double jump; pressing O to interact with an object, holster your weapon, build, use or activate; pressing triangle to enter a vehicle or holding triangle to display the disguise wheel; pressing square to perform an attack by punching or using a weapon, holding square to aim; pressing L1 or R1 to cycle through character disguises; pressing L2 to use the police whistle; pressing R2 or L3 to centre the camera; pressing down on the d-pad to answer communicator calls; pressing right on the d-pad to open the criminal scanner; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move your character; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to move the camera; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Tapping the touch pad displays a map of LEGO City, while the light bar produces varying colours such as flashing light blue and red for police vehicle sirens or flashing white and light blue for fire engine sirens and yellow when driving a construction vehicle, alongside vibration which occurs subtly during instances such as collecting a blue LEGO stud, collecting a gold brick or unlocking a character disguise.
Graphically, LEGO City Undercover is incredible as it produces a fully realised open-world city containing impressive landmarks such as Auburn Bay Bridge being the LEGO equivalent of the Golden Gate Bridge. LEGO City bustles with life on a vast scale not only on footpaths, but also dozens of cars travelling on the majority of roads, while retaining impressive performance throughout and the usual charm of LEGO characters and environments.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, extras menu, options menu and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. The background of the menu screens immediately sets the scene as they consist of the lead character Chase McCain limbering up in front of the police headquarters, while criminals in clown masks sneak or run away.
Exceptional voice-overs are provided by a voice-over cast including Joseph May as lead character Chase McCain having previously voiced Michael Corleone in The Godfather games, Sanders in Battlefield 3, Nomad in Ghost Recon: Wildlands and much more besides, while Trevor White voices Frank Honey having voiced various characters in Star Wars: Battlefront, Homefront: The Revolution and Battlefield 1; Jaimi Barbakoff voices Ellie Phillips having voiced Triss Merigold in The Witcher 2 and 3 and Beatrix Bloch in Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, alongside LEGO Worlds narrator Peter Serafinowicz voices Forrest Blackwell, Cornelius Burns and Jethro Hayes having starred as Denarian Saal in Guardians of the Galaxy and Sommelier in John Wick: Chapter 2. Sound effects include your character running, jumping, climbing, throwing, punching, firing a grappling hook, driving road vehicles or piloting helicopters, building and collecting LEGO studs, while ambience provides more life and atmosphere to your surroundings as nearby LEGO minifigures analyse how their day is going, alongside music inspired by 1970s detective films such as Shaft. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which is surprising given that LEGO Harry Potter Collection demonstrated how the DualShock 4 speaker could be utilised creatively to produce certain sound effects that should have adapted to LEGO City Undercover through sound effects such as unlocking a new character disguise, earning a red brick or gold brick, your vehicle’s engine and more besides.
The trophy list includes 49 trophies with 38 bronze trophies, 8 silver trophies, 2 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Around a third of the trophies can be earned naturally during the first playthrough as there are 15 story based trophies including a bronze trophy for completing each level and a silver trophy for completing the 15th story mission, while further easier trophies such as the Chase McCain bronze trophy for achieving LEGO City Hero status from collecting a certain amount of studs in any given level which can be achieved by breaking the majority of the objects you find in the surrounding environments. Harder trophies include the You’re A Legend silver trophy for achieving LEGO City Hero status on every level; the Shield Collector silver trophy for collecting all police shield pieces; the Super Compuper gold trophy for achieving 100% completion; and the Mr Gold gold trophy for collecting 4 billion LEGO studs. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 25 to 35 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are no difficulty levels in LEGO City Undercover, although characters will immediately respawn after dying in combat and there are some puzzles that require changing to another character disguise in order to gain access to certain areas or generally progress. These gameplay elements result in the difficulty curve for the story missions and challenges being only as hard as the player would find the puzzles, exploration and combat. It is most likely that players would generally find LEGO City Undercover relatively easy to progress through, although achieving 100% completion is hard given the scale of the environments that need to be explored to find character tokens, gold bricks and much more besides; which is rather appropriate given the appeal of LEGO to a wide audience and age range from young children to adults.
A major improvement over the original Wii U release of LEGO City Undercover is the inclusion of a staple in LEGO gaming in the form of drop-in/drop-out two player local co-operative multiplayer. Split-screen multiplayer is limitless as both players can be exploring completely opposite ends of the city in different districts or with one of the players even venturing to an island via the ferry, while the other player is still free to roam around any of the districts and both players can use separate methods of transportation. It is all technically very impressive to achieve such a feat with a large scale open-world environment that is complimented even further as everything runs smoothly with no performance problems and no pop-in.
There are no online leaderboards which is surprising as they could have featured the quickest times from every player who had completed each level and the entire game as well as the amount of objectives completed in single player or co-operatively with further leaderboards for quickest times to complete each challenge, the most amount of distance covered in exploring LEGO City, the highest amount of LEGO studs collected per level and throughout the game.
The replayability of LEGO City Undercover includes replaying levels to collect and purchase red bricks, gold bricks, character tokens and more besides which you may have been unable to do so during the first playthrough without having access to a certain character disguise. Revisiting levels in free play mode as different characters or disguises you have unlocked with unique abilities in an attempt to find which character can solve a puzzle and unlock whatever may lay beyond it, while there are huge quantities of challenges for specific characters to participate in. There is a natural satisfaction of creating your own characters and collecting LEGO studs as well as deconstructing particular objects and constructing an item that is of use to reach the next area of the level, while split-screen co-operative multiplayer is always fun to play with a friend, especially as both players are able to independently explore the enormous open-world. LEGO City Undercover represents exceptional value as throughout every feature it collectively contains more than enough replay value to keep players returning for many story mission playthroughs or continuous exploration as unlocked characters for dozens of hours.
- Title: LEGO City Undercover
- Developer: TT Games
- Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
- System: PS4
- Format: Blu-Ray Disc/PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1-2 (Local Co-operative Multiplayer)
- Hard Drive Space Required: 20.01GB (Version 1.01)