Friday, March 29, 2013

LEGO City Undercover (Wii U) Review

We have reached Friday at SuperPhillip Central. Before we wrap up for the week, let's take a look at one of our most anticipated Wii U games, LEGO City Undercover. Chase McCain is a cop who has returned to LEGO City to capture an escaped convict. Let's see if you should enlist in the manhunt.

Speaking of reviews, SuperPhillip Central's Review Archive has been totally retooled. Check it out here. If you have any suggestions on how to improve it even further, let us know.

Rock Around This City's Block

The Wii U saw an entire month without any kind of retail release, and without releases your console is not going to sell. Wii U owners have had nothing much except the titles that launched with the system way back in November. March has finally given the struggling system some new titles for owners to play. The most exciting of which is a Wii U exclusive from TT Games and Nintendo, LEGO City Undercover. Not only is the title a welcomed and fresh take on the third-person sandbox-style game, but it is one of the greatest [exclusive] reasons to own a Wii U right now. 

Crime doesn't sleep, and neither does Chase
when he has a bad case of insomnia.
Our protagonist Chase McCain is back on the beat and has returned to LEGO City when he hears news that the man he helped put away behind bars has broken out, the villainous Rex Fury. In order to learn of his location, Chase will have to go undercover and infiltrate various gangs and even the mafia to gain helpful clues. Right away when you play LEGO City, you'll find that the humor is absolutely brilliant. The game presents itself in a cheesy way that makes you can't help but smile. The humor isn't just for kids, the main market for LEGO games, either. No, a lot of references and jokes will go over the heads of the younger mindset, and this game is chock full of references. From a segment of the game that is based off of The Shawshank Redemption to a construction site's foreman who is no doubt inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger, even having the character not-so-subtly use the former Govenator's movie titles in his dialogue, the references of pop culture are numerous. The other characters in the game are brimming with personality as well, and by far my favorite would have to be the rookie cop Frank Honey, who is so clueless that it makes him endlessly endearing. His dialogue is fantastic and seldom failed to make me chuckle while playing.  

Chase speaking with Blue at Albatross Island.
If you've played a LEGO game in the past, you should feel familiar with how the fifteen levels are structured. While LEGO City Undercover isn't a carbon copy of past games with the LEGO branding, as you drive to locations and complete tasks outside of the game's fifteen levels, there's still the tried-and-true gameplay. This consists of making your way through levels, using your skills and abilities as well as breaking everything in sight to find objects that can be built into useful tools and platforms to make progress. For instance, busting a certain car allows Chase to use the leftover pieces to build a ladder to reach an otherwise inaccessible area. These missions will have you and Chase going to all sorts of places and participating in all kinds of heists. From infiltrating a museum to steal a ride-able T-Rex skeleton to taking out baddies in a mine, there is no shortage of interesting places to see and missions to accomplish.

Pull over, or I will keep chasing after you!
While going undercover, Chase will come across various new disguises in missions, granting him new abilities. For instance, the robber can pry open doors and carefully open safes, the miner is able to destroy boulders with his pickax and use dynamite to blow open steel objects, and the farmer can water certain flowers and make them grow, making new platforms or vines to climb on. He can also cross chasms by pulling out a chicken and gently fall to the ground. There are eight unique disguise archetypes, but a myriad of mini figure costumes that you can find, purchase at the police station basement, and wear. 

The robber's specialty is prying open doors
such as the one seen here.
LEGO City is a fabulous open world playground for players to drive, fly, or simply saunter around in. It's incredibly expansive with unique districts modeled after real world locations. For instance, Cherry Tree Hills is clearly an homage to San Francisco with its hills and cable car running up and down the streets, Bright Lights Plaza owes a lot of its design to New York City's Times Square, and Fresco's canal streets and mafia connections are modeled after Italy. The map is massive, citizens prance up and down the sidewalks, and the most entertaining and impressive part of how the city is built is that there is literally something to do and something to collect at every block. 

I wonder if they drop a LEGO stud 
for New Year's Eve...
Each of the game's districts has a list of tasks and side quests that can be performed. They're all the same category of things such as rescuing a cat from a high place, conquering a district by planting a flag at a specific spot as Chase's astronaut disguise, destroying a Rex Fury statue with dynamite, stealing a vehicle and getting it to a marked destination as the cops try to stop you, beating the clock as you participate in a waypoint time trial, getting your platforming on in a Free Run race against time, and so much more. Each task you complete rewards you with a Gold Brick. There are 450 in all to gain, and to tell you how much content is in LEGO City Undercover, I have played for 30 hours now, and I am not even at 300 Gold Bricks yet. If you're looking for a game with tons to do and you love collecting and exploring a fascinating world, LEGO City Undercover should be on your must-have list.

Free Run races will put your 
platforming prowess to the test!
Navigating through rooftops is part of the thrill. Rooftops hide lots of secrets, from side quests to unlockable character and vehicle studs, to secret bricks used for Super Builds. Platforming plays a big part in the game. Chase excels at parkour-like actions, such as wall climbing, wall jumping, pole vaulting, leaping over or sliding under  platforms, and tightrope walking. You'll need all Chase's tricks to reach the highest vantage points that LEGO City holds. Figuring out exactly how to reach a certain rooftop or area is immensely rewarding, especially if there's something special that it houses.

The platforming isn't perfect, but what is?
For a game that is exclusive to the Wii U, one might ask what features make LEGO City Undercover only possible on Nintendo's next generation offering. The Wii U GamePad on its own serves as the map of LEGO City, allowing you to survey the entire map through sliding your finger across the screen. It also serves as your communication with the various characters you interact with. The calls come from the GamePad's speakers and also show a live feed image of the person speaking to you. Additionally at times you will need to scan a given area for criminal activity, to listen in on distant conversations, or to just take pictures. This is where the GamePad comes in too. By holding up the Wii U GamePad and moving it around, you can perform these acts with ease. Finally, the Wii U controller is used for selecting new vehicles from call-in points and checking your status and completion progress in a district. 

Commandeer any vehicle of your choosing.
Your insurance will pick up the tab anyway.
Open world games are generally rather intensive on the hardware they run on. After all, they have to load parts of the city as you approach them. This is the case with LEGO City Undercover. It's not a perfect game graphically, as there are hints of aliasing, jaggies, and the occasional frame-rate stuttering. I have also had the game freeze on me once in my 30 hours of play. Thankfully, the game auto-saves after every brick and special stud collected, in addition to side tasks completed, so no real progress was lost. LEGO City is quite a beautiful place with plenty of points of interest to gaze at in wide wonder. On the sound side of the city, Undercover sports a 70's cop show-type soundtrack, one that is surprisingly well done. I found myself humming along as I played. The voice acting is sensational as well, sporting terrific dialogue delivery from every character in the game. All of these components add up to a particularly impressive presentation, except for the loading times, which aren't as rampant as some have said, but to actually load the title screen and your save data takes over two minutes to do. After that, the only loading times (which are generally 30-60 seconds in length) to contend with happen on an occasional (but by no means frequent) basis.

LEGO City Undercover single-handedly made my Wii U purchase worthwhile. As I stated already, the amount of activities that can be done, places to see, and secrets to find are staggering. Several dozens of hours in and I still have a long ways to go. Content is king, and LEGO City delivers in that aspect. The game also delivers in presenting a story with levels of humor that all ages can enjoy, a city that is well designed with stuff to accomplish at every corner, and a popular Miiverse community that is full of people to talk with, LEGO City Undercover is without question, in this reviewer's opinion, the best reason to own a Wii U currently. 

[SPC Says: 9.25/10]

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