Released in 2013 exclusively on the Wii U, Lego City Undercover did reasonably well both with critics and consumers alike, but was sadly hamstrung as a result of being tied to a machine with a comparatively low install base (compared to PS3 and Xbox 360). Fast forward a few years, brush past the question as to why it took this long to port over, and keep everything crossed that the issues encountered during its initial run on the Wii U have been addressed.
Now this child-friendly Lego version of Grand Theft Auto has thrown off the shackles and technical restrictions of the Wii U, has the development improved the experience across the board or is this simple remaster bringing the game to the many people that refrained from buying Nintendo’s console dud? Well, it falls somewhere in the middle.
For those who aren’t all that familiar with the Lego City Undercover adventure, Chase McCain is your main character. He’s pretty much the Hoff in cop form who gets wrapped up in a big adventure, played out through a plethora of old school TV references mixed in with a huge dose of random slapstick comedy akin to Police Squad or the more well-known Naked Gun series.
The gameplay itself hasn’t changed much at all, there are no new missions and no real key differences between this version and the one originally launched on the Wii U – this isn’t the end of the world, however, as the original was well received by its target audience. There are some subtle changes which are mainly down to the removal of the unique controller that was used for the Wii U – the most obvious being that the smaller screen was used for puzzles within the game. However it’s clear from this version, tested on Xbox One, that the use of that second screen was pretty unnecessary and simply a case of making use of the main selling point for this strange little underpowered console. Most puzzles never really needed it and it felt forced whenever it came into play. On a console like the Xbox One the difference in the experience is minimal; simply put, the puzzle elements that would have been in the pad’s screen are now displayed on the big screen and it doesn’t hinder the gameplay in the slightest. When it comes to gameplay the deciding factor for any purchaser will be around the fact that the mechanics feel a little dated, as they do with most Lego releases these days, and as this is actually an update of an older Lego title that feeling won’t be changed at all with this release. The usual combination of jumping, climbing, the occasional fight with no real consequences and some basic puzzling complete this standard Lego template and Lego City Undercover sticks to the formula, albeit in an open world setting.
The main changes and improvements for this new iteration are two-fold: performance was a particular bugbear for players of the Wii U version and resulted in a lot of people, us included, criticising the title and justifiably so. Loading times were atrocious on the Wii U with certain game locations and progress elements taking minutes at a time to load, forcing the player to tailor what they were doing based on the time it would take to load, which isn’t really in keeping with a title that is mainly aimed at younger audience with the intentions of providing some light and breezy fun. The main police station was one of the serious offenders and a large groan could often be heard from the living room if the game required you to go back there – might as well make a brew while you wait for it to load! This time around with the additional juice of the Xbox One the load times are reduced quite a bit. They could never be described as lightning fast but in comparison the game now loads faster throughout the entirety of the experience.
The second addition is the ability to play the game in split screen with a friend, something oddly lacking from the original launch which went against pretty much every Lego title ever released. Originally released as an open world, and purely single player adventure, it didn’t have the parent-friendly option of being able to jump on and assist the little one if they’d got stuck at any point. This version reintroduces this familiar Lego functionality to the expected previously seen standard, though, and it’s very much a welcome addition. Well implemented drop-in, drop-out co-op is always welcomed in such games even if it is sadly vertical split screen, something which whilst absolutely necessary for such an open world adventure, can be a bit of an assault on the senses if there is too much happening on the screen at any given time.
It’s a massive shame that Lego City Undercover was a Wii U exclusive on launch and it’s also a shame it’s taken this long to make it available for the masses. Still funny and still fun for both child and parent alike, with improved performance and the addition of co-op gameplay functionality, Lego City Undercover is elevated to the status of one of the better, more fun modern day Lego titles.