WiiU

North America

Lego City: Undercover

by Carmine Red - February 11, 2013, 5:49 pm PST
Total comments: 21

Is Lego City best experienced by getting lost, or by following directions? Maybe the answer is doing both.

I had to tear myself away from the Lego City demo 15 minutes before my time was up. I had been given a choice: continue exploring the ready-made demo save file they had set up for me or start a new save file and see how Nintendo and TT Game's open-world Lego extravaganza starts out. I put down my GamePad, and politely asked to see the game's beginning.

Within a minute of the game's opening cinematics, I had encountered both a Wilhelm scream and a "Titanic" "king of the world" reference. After the intro cinematic concluded with undercover cop Chase McCain returning to Lego City, Nintendo's J.C. Rodrigo cheerfully gave me the impression that I'd actually missed out on many more references. (Can anyone tell me where I heard the line "That'll buff right out" before? It's driving me bonkers!)



Humor is shaping up to be a hallmark of this game, and more than once I couldn't help but crack a grin as the game's lighthearted dialogue played out. Even in the middle of active gameplay, there were opportunities for witty banter, calling to mind the constant tongue-in-cheek back-and-forth of last year's Kid Icarus: Uprising. And learning how to use a newly unlocked audio listening device, McCain suddenly started voicing his own noir-style internal monologue, even as the NPC he was conversing with protested that she was still there. Trying to use my new tool to eavesdrop on a distant criminal conversation, I stumbled upon an unrelated conversation that seemed to serve no other purpose than to reward me for my curiosity and add flavor to the world of Lego City.

And in my hour spent with the game, Lego City definitely seemed a world unto itself. Since it's based on Lego's own original franchise (the buildings in the game are sourced from real-life Lego construction sets), one gets the feeling the game's creators were given freedom not just to craft their own unique setting and story, but also pour as much unbridled creativity into as many corners of the game as possible. For example, instead of careening off to complete my next mission, I decided to park my car, hold up my GamePad, and activate my scanner, resulting in an X-Ray vision view on my GamePad screen of the real world on the TV. The GamePad's screen highlighted some secret collectibles and puzzles that I might've just zipped by!

One of the hidden collectibles I discovered was just out of reach (I hadn't unlocked the necessary abilities to nab it yet, but the spot was automatically marked on my map so I could return later), but the other was locked behind a series of mini-puzzles. In order to destroy the statue of ace criminal Rex Fury, I had to get some dynamite. To get the dynamite, I had to use a curious but convenient dynamite vending machine. In order to use that dynamite vending machine, I had to tap a button and switch to my miner's costume.

But in order to get the dynamite to the statue, I had to unlock a door. To get the key, I'd have to find where it was stashed nearby. To find its hiding place, I had to follow a series of footprints with McCain's in-game GamePad acting as a blacklight. And in order to activate that black light, I had to switch to my police costume at a glowing, context-sensitive circle nearby. 

That may sound like a complex sequence, but realizing that such a meaty puzzle had been hidden right around the corner was impressive. It managed to have me use my GamePad, the game's costume switching (and contextual ability switching) system, and a little follow-the-footsteps sleuthing and exploration. And it had all been completely optional.

Nintendo's J.C. Rodrigo and Krysta Yang informed me that Lego City: Undercover had easily hundreds upon hundreds of collectibles to dig up. (To impress upon me the sheer magnitude of stuff in the game, J.C. rattled off a quick but incomplete list of items, including silver statues, vehicles, character/clothing options, Lego studs, Lego bricks, gold bricks, red bricks, super bricks, super builds, etc.) Even crashing into and breaking apart objects all over the game world also composed of Lego blocks yielded the collectible studs and bricks I used as currency to unlock or build even more things in the world. It seemed like going off the beaten path in this game could potentially yield ample rewards. It also seemed like, depending on your mindset, this could either be heaven or hell for compulsive completionists. J.C. admitted to me he'd spent more than 60 hours running around various in-development versions of the game and was hoping they wouldn't take his current test version of the title back anytime soon because he was still having fun digging through content.

But it seems like care has been put in the game so that if you don't want to get lost, you won't. Almost the entire city may be at your fingertips from the moment you start playing, but as I played the demo I always had clear objectives for how to advance the storyline. This clarity is aided in a large part by the Wii U GamePad often functioning as a combination map and GPS navigation system. I need only touch and drag to scroll and zoom my GamePad city map, and indicators easily point me towards my next destination. Tap and hold down on that destination, and a green line appears on the map drawing a path through the city streets. Look back up to the TV, and that green line shows up as a route of green dots hovering in the middle of the road, making navigating to a destination across the city just about the easiest thing in the world. I felt perfectly safe with so many guidance systems in place, safe both to lose myself off the beaten path, and safe to jump right back into the story missions any time I wanted to.

Most of the demo focused on this concept of Lego City as an open world chock full of missions and side missions, collectibles and content. But I also noticed a lot of smaller touches. I could tap the X button to jump with vehicles even as I was rocketing down the road (But watch out! I tried to vehicle-jump into a bus, only to end up as a passenger!). I got into a vehicular chase with a bad guy, and after totaling his vehicle got to run him down on foot, then use the A button to trip him up and cuff him. I spotted the game's color-coding for free-runnable environments—blue and white—on some pipes and scaled to the roof of a building. I was informed of the existence of, but never got to actually see for myself, Albatross prison, which was on an island somewhere out past the docks and bridges. I got a tiny peek at the game's many unlockable clothing options and vehicular unlocks. And I was just able to scratch the surface of the game's system of switching outfits for Chase McCain as a way of expanding his contextual abilities, be it using grappling hooks, detecting footprints, or utilizing dynamite.

Oh, and I also noticed the game's support for subtitles throughout its extensive spoken dialogue, witticisms, and banter. I could turn it off, but I happen to like subtitles, and I happen to think they'd be useful in the future for whoever else is sitting beside me as I get lost in the world of Lego City: Undercover.

Talkback

Disco StuFebruary 12, 2013

Did you get a feeling for how large the open world is?

PhDintendoFebruary 12, 2013

Jerry: (as George picks up a broken piece of his father's car) You know, a lot of these scratches will buff right out...

"The Handicap Spot"

Also Planes, Trains and Automobiles

You're going in the wrong direction!  You're going to kill somebody!  You're going the wrong way!  Truck. Truck. What? Aah! Ah ha ha ha ha!  Ah ha ha ha ha!  Well, this isn't so bad.  I thought it would be a lot worse than this.  They'll be able to buff this out.

EasyCureFebruary 12, 2013

^GREAT username!


I've said it before and I'll say it again; this might just be the first LEGO game I'll ever purchase.

PhDintendoFebruary 12, 2013

Also I should say great impressions Cai, I am actually looking forward to this game even though I have had little interest in Lego games so far.  It seems like you had a good time.  I'm a little worried my OCD completionism may be too much for this though....

EasyCureFebruary 12, 2013

Quote from: PhDintendo

Also I should say great impressions Cai, I am actually looking forward to this game even though I have had little interest in Lego games so far.  It seems like you had a good time.  I'm a little worried my OCD completionism may be too much for this though....

I'm completely ignoring that part of his impressions so I can support this game. If I start thinking about it I'll NEVER buy it.

Quote from: Disco

Did you get a feeling for how large the open world is?

If I step back and think about it, pretty big. I didn't have time to actually survey the entirety of the gameworld, but there ARE bridges to other parts of Lego City, and there IS an island out there somewhere with a prison on it, so the comparisons that immediately come to my mind are on the scale of the Grand Theft Auto games, though I wouldn't be surprised if Lego City didn't actually get as big as the bigger example in that series since I'd imagine the developers had different priorities than just outright acreage.

Either way, I'm looking forward to finding out just how big this thing gets.

Quote from: PhDintendo

"The Handicap Spot"

Also Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Ooh, thanks! I had this nagging feeling when I heard that line that I wasn't making some connections, and now I can finally sleep at night!

Quote from: EasyCure

I've said it before and I'll say it again; this might just be the first LEGO game I'll ever purchase.

You know what? EXACTLY the same situation for me!

FjurbanskiFebruary 12, 2013

Sounds like they're doing a good job with the Gamepad. Very encouraging.

ejamerFebruary 12, 2013

Aww... you got to meet Krysta? She's dreamy.


This game seems like it could be a big winner from the Rayman Legends delay. With less competition and a lot of people looking for something to play, maybe LEGO City: Undercover will see a nice sales boost if Wii U gamers can get past the LEGO=kiddy association.


My only question: a lot of LEGO games can kind of be played on auto-pilot because there really isn't any meaningful challenge. Instead of challenge, they just give you lots of things to see/collect/do so you don't get bored while playing. Is it fair to say this game represents more of that same design philosophy?

Quote from: ejamer

My only question: a lot of LEGO games can kind of be played on auto-pilot because there really isn't any meaningful challenge. Instead of challenge, they just give you lots of things to see/collect/do so you don't get bored while playing. Is it fair to say this game represents more of that same design philosophy?

No, I don't think that will be the case.

I don't think the Lego City will tend toward severely challenging players, after all, this game is positioned to appeal to a very wide audience. But just from my hour with the demo, I had to undertake a high speed vehicular chase of another character (as well as a short foot chase), AND witness a complex multi-stage puzzle. And it's worth noting that my demo didn't focus on any of the game's on-foot action/brawling elements hinted at by the trailers.

Oh, and I guess I forgot to mention in my write-up that one of the missions even played out as a bit of a timed Crazy Taxi challenge.

So no, I don't think that Lego City will be a game that tries to replace "gameplay fun" with "collect or see 100 different things." Despite the game's accessible wrapper and bombardment of humor, I want to believe that there's non-trivial gameplay driving the narrative, the missions, and the experience.

Now will that gameplay be a "meaningful challenge?" Hmm... that depends on your point of view. I don't think Lego City will be a difficult game by any stretch... but I do think it will be a game.

ejamerFebruary 13, 2013

Quote from: Kairon

...

Fair enough! My expectations weren't very high for this game, but your impressions have definitely piqued my interest. Will look forward to reading more.
;D

EasyCureFebruary 13, 2013

no body mention that Kai also loves Funky Barn, it'll ruin his cred!

HypotheliciouslyFebruary 13, 2013

I'm pretty sure Kai is incapable of hating anything.

He we started naming things he should hate, he'd retort with some sort of positive remark.

EasyCureFebruary 13, 2013

"the cover art is whimsical!"

HypotheliciouslyFebruary 13, 2013

'Despite the gameplay, I loved it."

Fatty_The_HuttFebruary 13, 2013

I am a big fan of the Lego games and have almost all of them. This open-world, original property looks to be a refreshing change to the formula of licence tie-ins (fun as they are).

Very much looking forward to this one. Can't wait for the delay announcement so I can pick this one up in late October  ;)

azekeFebruary 13, 2013

Quote from: Fatty_The_Hutt

Very much looking forward to this one. Can't wait for the delay announcement so I can pick this one up in late October  ;)

LEGO brick protests by WB studios are gonna be fun.

Quote from: Fatty_The_Hutt

Very much looking forward to this one. Can't wait for the delay announcement so I can pick this one up in late October  ;)

Oh geez don't even joke about something like that >_<

Quote from: Stogi

I'm pretty sure Kai is incapable of hating anything.

He we started naming things he should hate, he'd retort with some sort of positive remark.

Quote from: Stogi

'Despite the gameplay, I loved it."

Quote from: EasyCure

"the cover art is whimsical!"

Awww! It's great to have fans! You guys are the best!

In fact, I felt inspired to go back and look at some of my past reviews and relive my glory days. For instance, have you ever read my write-ups of Anne's Doll Studio:Tokyo Collection or Indianapolis 500 Legends?

And for the record, I think Funky Barn is grossly under-appreciated. If I had my way, that unique, laid-back, wacky, casual farm-automation simulation would have the solid 6.5 it deserves.

CericFebruary 13, 2013

If this wan't a Wii U exclusive I can say that I would not be interested:

1) Open-World Sandbox
2) Lego

Yep, 2 things I don't really enjoy in a game.  I just see the dialog and think that maybe this time will be better.  Maybe they'll have more direction like Ni No Kuni.

EasyCureFebruary 14, 2013

Quote from: Kairon

Quote from: Fatty_The_Hutt

Very much looking forward to this one. Can't wait for the delay announcement so I can pick this one up in late October  ;)

Oh geez don't even joke about something like that >_<

Quote from: Stogi

I'm pretty sure Kai is incapable of hating anything.

He we started naming things he should hate, he'd retort with some sort of positive remark.

Quote from: Stogi

'Despite the gameplay, I loved it."

Quote from: EasyCure

"the cover art is whimsical!"

Awww! It's great to have fans! You guys are the best!

In fact, I felt inspired to go back and look at some of my past reviews and relive my glory days. For instance, have you ever read my write-ups of Anne's Doll Studio:Tokyo Collection or Indianapolis 500 Legends?

And for the record, I think Funky Barn is grossly under-appreciated. If I had my way, that unique, laid-back, wacky, casual farm-automation simulation would have the solid 6.5 it deserves.

If Nintendo starts letting you gift games again, I'd try it if it showed up on my Wii U *wink*wink*

HypotheliciouslyFebruary 14, 2013

Kai, I'd love to see your review of Ball and a Cup.

Milhouse

Quote from: Stogi

Kai, I'd love to see your review of Ball and a Cup.

Milhouse

This'll have to do for now.

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WiiU

Game Profile

Lego City: Undercover Box Art

Genre Action
Developer Travellers Tales
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Lego City: Undercover
Release Mar 18, 2013
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone 10+
jpn: Lego City: Undercover
Release Jul 25, 2013
PublisherNintendo
Rating12+
eu: Lego City: Undercover
Release Mar 28, 2013
PublisherNintendo
Rating7+
aus: Lego City: Undercover
Release Mar 28, 2013
PublisherNintendo
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