Game Review

LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Mike Mason

Bricking it

We all love a good origin story, right? It's an opportunity to delve further into the inner workings of a character, to learn what they're all about and how they became the hero that we know and love. LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins, however, is an oddly timed tale of this ilk: we only just got to know Chase McCain a month ago in Wii U's LEGO City Undercover, but already we have a prequel that takes us back two years in McCain's life to show how the hotshot cop rose from rookie to regular action hero.

The strange thing is, Chase doesn't actually start out as green as you might think. Despite his lower rank, from the outset he's about as skilled as he is two years later, freerunning and fighting talents in tact, and debatably he grows more over the course of his Wii U adventure than he ever does on 3DS. In The Chase Begins, McCain arrives in LEGO City, shiny new police badge in hand, and is promptly thrown into the investigation of a city-wide crime syndicate. Which, naturally, requires him to dress up in a variety of disguises that each offer different skillsets.

This prequel is set in much the same style as its console big brother – it's a departure from the usual licensed LEGO titles, an original story set in an open world city that's yours to explore. There's a storyline to follow, but you can also stomp around at will, snatching up LEGO studs, bricks that scatter whenever you smash things – used to build landmarks, jump ramps and vehicle call-in points – and discs that allow you to purchase new costumes and vehicles.

Of course, familiar LEGO mechanics such as unlimited lives, basic puzzles often solved by constructing a nearby object and straightforward combat return, too. Both during the plot and threatening innocents in dodgy streets, there are criminals to tackle through a simple fighting system that flows well. You can go on the offensive by throwing and grappling enemies, or wait for them to strike before turning the tables with a devastating counterattack, many of which take inspiration from films or take kung fu to its most ridiculous extremes. Once you've worn them down enough, slap on some handcuffs to pack them off to prison.

It wouldn't be a LEGO game without some clothes swapping. All of the main costume types found in the Wii U game show up on 3DS, though they're presented in a completely different order and some have new abilities, so the structure still feels fresh even if you've already put a couple of dozen hours into the console version. If you've played both, you'll instantly recognise much of the city layout, which has been transposed over to the 3DS edition.

There are numerous interaction points dotted around the city, such as fuse boxes that can be fixed up while dressed as a construction worker, and hooks for cops to grapple onto. Some of these use the 3DS's touch screen, such as the burglar's safecracking mini-game, though more often than not it's a case of mashing the A button. Finding and 'solving' each of these distractions counts towards the completion percentage, and you'll need to be dedicated to reach the coveted 100% mark; it took us 12 hours to reach 23%. If you're just in it for the story, though, that can be cleared in around eight hours.

3DS's motion sensing functions get a work out as well: there are viewpoints in picturesque areas, and you have to move the system around to snap the perfect postcard photograph. You can also scan for useful items or locations at any time in the same way, and there's a cool new mechanic where you have to wiretap doors to listen in on conversations, tuning the audio in by tilting and twisting the console into just the right position. Each is used sparingly so they don't get old, and they blend in well without feeling forced. StreetPass is also supported; you can put together a gift package of postcards you've collected, vehicles discovered and other goodies, which is then sent out to anybody you connect with.

Where The Chase Begins diverts significantly, however, is in its mission structure. Whereas LEGO City Undercover often pulled you into separate levels away from the main city, in similar fashion to other LEGO titles, The Chase Begins takes a more ambitious approach, setting missions within the city itself. The story is very linear and played in strict order, so you stay in one section of the city per group of missions, but it's nice to see TT Fusion attempt something different. You're still in restricted areas when it comes to continuing the story, and the puzzles and general structure remain quite similar, but they're much larger spaces that give a greater impression of freedom.

That ambition is also to The Chase Begin's detriment, though – the technical issues it suffers are the real criminals that lurk in LEGO City's alleyways. The framerate dips noticeably when there's a lot on screen, or a wide view of open space, only to run perfectly smoothly in areas where buildings or walls obstruct more of the surroundings. We were able to test the game both before and after the recent 3DS system update; we found that it improved the performance, though it's still sluggish when there's a lot to display. The game's certainly playable, both pre- and post-update, but it doesn't look like the most attractive thing during slowdown – a shame, as the assets and animation look fantastic on 3DS.

Sadly that's not the only technical foible. The draw distance is acceptable but not outstanding, a blueish fog regularly clouding out far off architecture. Much more distracting is the pop-in on local, non-essential objects – you can be walking down the street and suddenly a person will appear, ghost-like, from thin air when they're just a few centimetres away from you. The same happens with vehicles, which is slightly troublesome when driving at speed, as you can end up crashing into cars that you didn't even know were there. It's an insurance nightmare.

Objects similarly drift out of view when they've moved far enough away – thankfully the exception is when it's an object that's critical to your goal, so if you're taking part in a car chase for a story mission, your target never drops out of sight. Being a LEGO game, where it's nigh on impossible to fail a mission and you have infinite lives at your disposal, and with a strict lock on essential objects staying on-screen, it's more of an irritant than a game-breaker. In a title with harsher difficulty, however, it'd be completely unacceptable.

Worst, though, are the loading times, which are close to the Wii U version's in length and more frequent. It takes around 40 seconds to load a save, 40 seconds to enter or exit the police station either way, and this time the city is divided into sections – moving into another borough takes 40 seconds, too. Once you're in an area there's no more loading until you shift elsewhere, which means there's little interruption once you're doing a batch of missions, but there are some really egregious chains of loading during the story.

As the campaign goes on, you move further and further afield – one of the final areas is on the outskirts of the city, and if you start within the police station it takes four separate loads, 40 seconds a time, to reach it if you drive. It's not conducive to portable play at all – you can build helipads to warp directly to the area you require, but you're still looking at a minimum of one 40 second wait. At least there are tool tips, which dispense some pretty useful snatches of information, to read on the bottom screen.

The knock-on effect of these issues is that, while the city is reasonably big and packed with little things to do, such as the interaction points and unlockable street races, it dampens your enthusiasm to explore for hours as you could in the Wii U version. The typical LEGO humour and charm laced throughout helps a little, though with the hilarious voice acting unfortunately restricted exclusively to movie segments, it isn't a laugh-a-minute affair.

Conclusion

LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins is an enjoyable game that features many of the hallmarks of a quality LEGO title – there's tons of content, a decently crafted campaign and some fun uses of the 3DS hardware. However, it's burdened by several technical issues that sap away at some of its appeal and prevent it from being the handheld blockbuster it could have, and should have, been.

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User Comments (80)

Undead_terror

#1

Undead_terror said:

I guess I will get this one day, but for now I will be saving up for other games like animal crossing.

Knux

#2

Knux said:

It sounds like I better just stick with the Wii U version.

lmac99

#3

lmac99 said:

With how many great games that are here and still coming, I think I'll pass

Cevan

#4

Cevan said:

It's a shame this didn't live up to the game it should have been.

Void

#5

Void said:

I'll probably be picking this up sometime, but there are some other games I'll be getting before I do.

MrWalkieTalkie

#6

MrWalkieTalkie said:

I'll still get it. Just not now. It's not a top priority and I'm still trying to finish the Wii U one with its countless collectables.

Pikpikp

#7

Pikpikp said:

It's a shame this isn't better, but judging by how much I love the Wii U game, I'll most likely get this at some point.

Yrreiht

#9

Yrreiht said:

Noo! :( Such a shame, the Wii U one is so much fun... Oh well, might get it when it gets cheaper.

Giygas_95

#10

Giygas_95 said:

I might still ask for this for my birthday along with the Wii U version..., but I still want to get ACNL and DKCR 3D.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#11

Philip_J_Reed said:

A 6 is disappointing compared to the Wii U masterpiece. I'll still get this, but thanks for the heads up Mike!

Skeletor

#12

Skeletor said:

I was very curious how this game was going to hold up. It seemed very ambitious. I'm not too surprised by the draw distance, at all. The loading times seem excessive from my first guess, though.

DarkCoolEdge

#13

DarkCoolEdge said:

Bummer, I hoped it would be good. I was gonna buy it but knowing all the technical issues... I'll wait for the next one.

RR529

#16

RR529 said:

It sounds like it's just too ambitious. The gameplay, scope, and amount of content seem to rival the Wii U version (which is actually quite an accomplishment), but it's all just too much for the 3DS to handle.

Maybe they should have tried a more linear approach, and gone without the open world here.

GazPlant

#17

GazPlant said:

Shame about the load times, but it was something I feared. I still pick this up, Chase IS a legend, but maybe not right away. Undercover won't complete itself!

Guitardude7

#18

Guitardude7 said:

I think this review is a bit too harsh. The technical issues dont seem that bad. Frame rate drop? Thats fine. Under par but acceptable draw distance? Not bad. Long loading times? Annoying yes but not game breaking. Patience is a virtue after all. If I can deal with Super Smash Bros Brawls insane load times, I think I can deal with these. I think this review should've at least been a 7/10.

ToxieDogg

#19

ToxieDogg said:

Very disappointed to read about the long load times as I've been really looking forward to this. I don't actually find the load times on the Wii U version that bad, but they aren't inbetween every section of the city at least. I still want to give this a go despite the review though.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#20

Philip_J_Reed said:

Think of it this way: you can write me more hilarious reviews of awful games while this game is loading!

Shh, don't give them any ideas!

taffy

#21

taffy said:

thought something was off with the lack of previews for this. Will get it sometime down the line but still got so many games left to play, think i'll probably download Code Of Princess instead

Pikachupwnage

#23

Pikachupwnage said:

****ing idiots.

Can no one ever just look at their game and say.

"This game is terrible. The load times are absurd and the framerate is slower then a snail in molasses. Lets wait to release it and fix It up"

Incompetent fools!

We could've had a good open world game. But nooooooo. Lets make the long loading times of the Wii U version worse and then **** up the framerate!

Patch it. ****ing patch it.

/rant

Oh well. At least they saved me some money for other 3DS games.

demonta4

#25

demonta4 said:

I dont see why there's so much complaining,this is a open world game with a lot of content on a handheld.I'm greatful this even came to 3ds and will buy it on launch day.

willobee

#27

willobee said:

@Pikachupwnage

I think that to a degree, having an open world game like this, issues such as frame rate or draw distance are inevitable. It's just a matter of pushing the hardware a bit too hard. Patches can't quite solve everything.

Anyhow, I'll still buy this immediately :P Love me some Lego City!

Pachterkid

#29

Pachterkid said:

In my opinion Lego City Undercover is one of, if not the best games the Wii U has to offer. I’ve put over 40 hours into the game and am only at 71% completion. It’s simply a massive game and is a great value for your money. Therefore, I don’t understand why anybody would want to play a stripped down 3DS game, set in the exact same city, with technical issues and all the fog from Turok 2, especially when the first/better game was only released a few weeks ago.

KnightRider666

#30

KnightRider666 said:

I just pre-ordered this so I could get the Chase McCain Lego figure. I have all the Lego games, so I'm getting this no matter what. Also, it's $31.99 for some weird reason at Gamestop. I'm not sure what other places are selling it for?

astroshamu

#33

astroshamu said:

I couldnt care less about spawning nearby or short render distance I play minecraft on tiny render distance constantly

TheSonicdude97

#36

TheSonicdude97 said:

Aw come on! Just because the frame rate's a little slow or some loading screens are going on, does NOT mean the game is disappointing, especially with an awesome, huge free world and great graphics! Some of you guys exaggerate too much. If I had the money, I would definetly buy this as soon as I could. I don't need some "better" Wii U version to tell otherwise, either.~

XXIV

#37

XXIV said:

It's a bleeping open world on the bleeping 3DS. Insane load times are to be expected considering the hardware its running on.

WiiLovePeace

#39

WiiLovePeace said:

I'm still going to pick it up eventually, just so I can play through the story of Chase McCain before the Wii U game :)

LEGEND_MARIOID

#40

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

Price-drop purchase I'd say. Reads more like a 7/10 by the policy as well, I dunno. Anyway, good review.

Djrr-ific

#41

Djrr-ific said:

I think based on the review it's at least worth a seven, but I'm still going to get it.. Looking forward to this game alot, as I don't have a Wii U yet.

Kohaku

#43

Kohaku said:

Too bad. Would have been fun to be able to play with this guy also when you are not at home.

Dyl_73

#45

Dyl_73 said:

That's a shame. I was hoping that those exact problems would be ironed out in the final release. The fact that they have not means that I shall not be buying this game. I don't want to sit waiting 40 seconds to go into another area. I don't want things popping up out of nowhere.

mch

#47

mch said:

Yes, its a shame it's not as top as expected. Are the flaws "patchable"? Do games on 3ds get patches at all?

mch

#48

mch said:

@Djrr-ific
I can't tell about this game. But the Undercover on WiiU surprised me! I really enjoy it (and I am 29yrs!)! Having this 3ds-title to play trough the beginning of the story and getting the WiiU one later, can't be too bad of an idea.

Spoony_Tech

#49

Spoony_Tech said:

@Mason Dang! I was hoping the digital version had better load times since I've been hearing that the digital versions of games seem to run better!

LavaTwilight

#50

LavaTwilight said:

Thanks Mike, these were all the concerns I had with this game, pretty much above. I felt the WiiU loading times were too much (God help us if we ever go back to Spectrum-style loading times eh) but with 3DS times being longer? No thanks!

AJWolfTill

#52

AJWolfTill said:

As a result of the lack of coverage this game recieved I was always expecting it to be little more than a side note to the Wii U version. Although I am very interested in the Wii U version atm I doubt I will ever pick this one up.

AG_Awesome

#54

AG_Awesome said:

They really should have dropped their DS engine they've been using for years. TTFusion makes all of the lego handheld games and they've been recycling for years. The 3ds is powerful and is at least if not more powerful than the PSP. THAT system handled TWO grand theft auto games. How could a simple engine like the Lego series uses fumble it?

Mason

#55

Mason said:

@mch 3DS games are patchable, so maybe it could be smoothed out in some ways, but I think it's a deeper issue with the engine more than anything which may make things difficult.

GooRoo

#56

GooRoo said:

Disappointed to hear about the technical issues, but we love Lego games in our house and our pre-order is on its way. :) Can't wait, though we may finish story mode on the Wii U version before diving into this one.

Ristar42

#58

Ristar42 said:

I don’t have the Wii U but I like the lego games, I might try this, though an inconstant frame rate can be quite a distraction. Would prefer to ‘try before buy’ with this one...

Sakura

#59

Sakura said:

Played this today for about an hour at a special event and loved it. Not keen on Fire Emblem though. I suppose it just depends on what type of games you like. That's why I love Nintendo, because they provide something for all tastes.

Harrison_Peter

#60

Harrison_Peter said:

@demonta4 It has. Chinatown Wars was such a success on the DS it's been ported to other systems (iOS, Android, PSP etc). It was a great game that made good use of the DS features. As for the main console games, as with all multiplatform titles except dance, quiz, and guitar games, the Wii was just not powerful enough compared to the PS3 and Xbox 360. The Wii would have gotten a crap spin-off game, different than the other consoles. Probably for the best.

Checkout Chinatown Wars if you like GTA games. It's like a throwback to the original 2D games for the PS1 and PC (GTA and GTA2) but with the comedy and style of newer games in the series. Cheap now as well.

Gamer83

#61

Gamer83 said:

@koopakid

Well, I don't have a Wii U but I do own a 3DS and have been looking for a good open world game for it and I've found this one more than able to fill that void. It does have its flaws but it's still a lot of fun to play, I've been enjoying the story and I like having a decent size game world to explore. I'm sure the Wii U version is much better but that's to be expected since it's on a home console.

PONGbyATARI

#62

PONGbyATARI said:

After playing LC 3DS for 3+ hours I like the game. I had low expectations so after reading previews I was a little worried that I wouldn't like it. My biggest complaint is the character draw in is pretty bad they will pop up at very short distances in a strange random manner. The game controls are tight the graphics not great but decent. It would have been nice if I could use my CPPXL the second stick would make for better control. It is also nice that the game is priced lower $29.99 most places than the average $39.99 for most new 3ds games. I would give the game a 7.5 overall

mcusc5435

#65

mcusc5435 said:

I think this game is getting so many low-average reviews is because it is to busy being compared to the Wii U game. I got this game on release day and I couldn't put it down. The load times and other things didn't distract from the fun gameplay. It quickly became one of my favorite 3DS games and it is an awesome game to get for 3DS.

ToxieDogg

#66

ToxieDogg said:

Got this today. Played it for 2 hours so far. And haven't experienced any excessive load times at all yet, asides from about 45 seconds when starting the game for the first time. Maybe I'll notice it a bit more later on when I'm exploring different parts of the city more, but at the moment I'm feeling like the reviews have exaggerated somewhat about the load times.

StarDust4Ever

#67

StarDust4Ever said:

Great console title shoehorned onto a portable. Sorry, it looks like I'll be sticking with the Wii-U version. I didn't buy any of the Lego games on DS, as they just don't feel right as a portable platform.

Nik-Davies

#68

Nik-Davies said:

I give this an 8/10, because although the cars popping in resulting in me crashing too much was an annoyance. It was SO much fun to play and I'm completed about 70% of it, trying to reach that 100% by unlocking everything. The loading times are a bit long, but they only occur when travelling between areas which isn't that often. I keep a phone or ipod nearby so I have something to do in those loading times.

SPUD

#70

SPUD said:

I got this last Friday. I love it, the best handheld Lego game ever! It's great to have an open world to explore. I would have given it an 8 or 9. Usually hand held Lego games feel like a watered down linear version of the home console versions. This feels really epic!

hayes1516

#71

hayes1516 said:

I was actually fairly impressed with this game. The city isn't as robust as the Wii U version but they chock that up to construction. Yes the load times are long but hey, you're getting an open world game on a handheld system. My only complaint so far is the camera sometimes goes where you don't want it to.

Nintendood

#74

Nintendood said:

@Guitardude7 Super Smash Bros. Brawl had bad load times? I own the original and Melee, but haven't gotten Brawl yet. I don't remember ever playing a game from a Nintendo franchise with bad load times...

To those who've played Brawl and this game, how does the length and frequency of the load times compare?

Pokefanmum82

#75

Pokefanmum82 said:

I personally love this game and don't care about load times. 40 seconds isn't that long. The game is definitely worth a play and is tons of fun. Does anybody know how to save the game?

Giygas_95

#76

Giygas_95 said:

@Nintendood Brawl's only long load time was at the start, and in my opinion, it wasn't even that long. Overall, I think it had good load times. Haven't played LCU: TCB yet though.

Big_Boy_Chubs

#80

Big_Boy_Chubs said:

i might get this just for the ability to drive and rome around in the world. the Lego series for nintendo always dissapoints me. I got lord of the rings for the 3ds for 39.99, hated it, then discovered they dropped the price a week later.

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