After months of building up our LEGO City sets, staring at trailers and dreaming about the video game adventures we'd soon be getting into, we recently got our hands on a near-final version of LEGO City: Undercover at developer TT Fusion's offices. We've already posted our first impressions of LEGO City: Undercover and an interview with TT Fusion – and as you might agree, things are looking pretty arresting.
While that piece covers the game as a whole in detail, we thought that there were a few additional things that were worth highlighting. We've gone into deep cover to pull together a list of extra information about the little touches that make the world come alive, how it compares to other LEGO titles and the numerous skills of super-cop Chase McCain.
LEGO City: Undercover has been summed up as a “LEGO Grand Theft Auto” since its unveiling. While that comparison holds somewhat true – you drive around a massive open world city, can use your police authority to 'borrow' any vehicle you see and generally cause chaos if you like – there's more to it than that. There's an additional emphasis on vehicle-less movement: Chase McCain can use a grappling hook to climb higher, for instance.
We'd actually put it closer to the open world segments of LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes than anything else. Just like that game you can explore anywhere you please, though the missions are closer to Rockstar's headline series in that they don't take you out of the main world. Some sections we played were reminiscent of the acrobatic Robin sequences found in the superhero sequel. During a rooftop chase Chase had to swing around horizontal bars, shimmy up pipes, zoom down ziplines and slide down glass roofs – it's like playing a blocky version of an action movie.
LEGO City: Undercover uses the Wii U GamePad in a couple of interesting ways. Chase's tablet shares its exact form, and it's his primary form of communication with HQ. Characters video call you and pop up on the GamePad to deliver new missions and objectives – if you adjust the controller's volume, the vocals instantly shift between TV and GamePad in very slick fashion.
At certain points, the GamePad also becomes a scanner to track down criminals that are hiding in buildings, or dog houses. Much like ZombiU, you lift the GamePad towards the TV and move it around, tagging bad guys with the A button once they're in the centre of your sights. Chase's on-screen GamePad is used to highlight footprint trails as well, whether they belong to burglars or naughty sandwich-stealing seagulls. It's a handy map, too.
With the GamePad used in this way, there's no off-TV play in LEGO City Undercover. While the usages we've seen aren't hugely groundbreaking – unfortunately for TT Fusion, Ubisoft got there first when it comes to GamePad scanning – they're well-implemented, and we hope that there are some extra things that we've not seen yet.
It's a jungle out there
It's not all about the city life. The world of LEGO City is reasonably expansive – apparently it takes ten minutes to drive across the city, excluding exploration, side-roads and rooftop shenanigans – and there are quite a few locations to investigate. Starting off in the centre of the metropolis, over the course of an hour we visited docklands, quiet hilly roads and a small woodland.
It was in this patch of green peace that we noticed the wildlife sauntering about. There are rabbits lolloping, frogs hopping, birds fluttering about and squirrels fishing – rod and all. It might not seem like much, but these little details are a nice touch that make the world come alive. We even spent a minute chasing a frog about; younger players might get a kick out of this.
It's a-me, Chase McCain
TT Fusion has taken its collaboration with Nintendo in full stride. As well as putting the Wii U GamePad right into the heart of the adventure, there are a number of cheeky nods towards the House of Mario dotted around. Initial trailers showed off a familiar over-sized green pipe that Chase McCain could slip inside, plumber-style, and we've also seen chicken-assisted gliding the likes of which would turn Link even greener with envy. During our play session we spotted a giant red mushroom, perfect for bouncing upon, and mutterings from the development team implied that there are numerous other hidden extras lurking throughout. We hear there might be a familiar foe tucked away in a museum somewhere...
Many of the cars, buildings and characters in LEGO City: Undercover are inspired by the real-life LEGO City toys; there are even going to be certain playsets that contain codes to unlock extra missions and vehicles in the video game. We can hear the clink of golden bricks already.
If you've ever played a LEGO game before, you might well be expecting a huge cast of playable characters to switch between at your leisure. Chase's story is a little different: he's a master of disguise who can change into a large range of outfits with a tap of a shoulder button, each of which unlocks different abilities. While the police uniform is your go-to suit for arresting bad guys, you can also put out fires and rescue cats as a fire man or even take a walk on the wild side and pretend to be a burglar for a while.
You can also build vehicles at special Super Build points and customise their colours, so if fire engine red isn't your shade you can easily switch it for a lovely royal blue instead. Try doing that with your toys without making a mess.