By Laura . April 27, 2013 . 1:30pm
Lego City is a rather normal city, despite being entirely constructed out of Lego sets. Sure, it has a minor problem with gangsters terrorizing the area, with everything from blowing up bridges to kidnapping dogs, but it also has a rather formidable police force.
Or rather, there is a rather formidable policeman by the name of Chase McCain. (That’s you.)
McCain, despite having no fingers and being made of blocks, is very capable, whether it involves driving (and crashing) any sort of vehicle whatsoever, or disguising himself as any of eight occupations and using all the gadgets that come with the job to infiltrate enemy bases. It’s abundantly clear why the game is called Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins.
After a fairly impressive voiced movie starting off the game, I was rather surprised at how smoothly the dialogue flowed despite the abundance of jokes. These were sometimes cute and sometimes actually really funny. The entire game is very tongue-in-cheek and I enjoyed McCain’s sarcastic responses to nearly everything. While it is obvious Lego City Undercover is aimed towards a younger audience than me, I had plenty of fun playing through the amazingly open world and exploring the city (and its surrounding area) regardless.
For as open as Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins is, the game runs very smoothly. While the loading times are very long every time you start up the game or enter a new area, this only happens every once in a while. I could spend about 1-2 hours without a single load lasting more than two seconds simply because I never left an area–there are just too many things to do in any given place. The hand-to-hand battle sequences always run without a hitch, as do screens filled with cars and people.
Despite the sheer amount of things to do, everything is designed such that you almost never lose track of what you need to do next to advance the story. The bottom screen of the 3DS is a map that always tells you where to go to continue a mission, where you go to start the next mission, and even where certain landmarks you find and take note of are located. While you can’t scroll the map, you can press a button to shift the map over to your destination for a short while before it returns to your present location. During the longer loading times, the game also reminds you of the wide myriad of different actions you can take, along with other helpful tips.
All of these things allow you to concentrate on enjoying the action side of Lego City Undercover. While the story revolves around McCain’s one-man takedown of the thugs conspiring some nefarious plot against Lego City, the game is actually about everything else you can do within the limits of the city. Sure, you spend some time chasing after the gangsters, either on foot or by car, and many times you end up in hand-to-hand combat with them, but these brief sessions are both short and relatively easy. The combat is mostly a matter of timing the press of one button, which allows your character to vault, punch, kick, dodge, or even toss the enemy willy-nilly. As such, while the main story is funny and entertaining, I looked forward instead to the new areas to explore and the new costumes you unlock in each map.
Each new area is extremely extensive. Not only are the areas large, but they also contain so many nooks and crannies, it is virtually impossible to find everything in one go without spending hours searching. There are also so many walls to scale and buildings to climb that sometimes the city can feel like a humongous jungle gym. True, sometimes the controls for these finer movements are a bit spotty (you have to move your analog stick in the direction of the object you want to latch onto, while your camera becomes unadjustable), but since retrying doesn’t take too long, it doesn’t hold you back too much.
Another aspect that makes exploration fun is the ability to hop into every vehicle that drives your way. Some of the larger vans, donut trucks, busses, and 16-wheelers aren’t so thrilling (but they sure can spin when you slam on the brakes), but they can take more damage before they explode into Lego pieces. The smaller sports cars, though, sacrifice control for speed and racing them across the cities and through every street lamp and fire hydrant (and car) along the way is just… fun. (The citizenry all suddenly become capable of dodge rolls when you drive their way.)
My favorite part, apart from the fast transportation, is that every car has its own characteristics such as speed, spin, weight, and acceleration. It also amuses me that a cop can just jump in any vehicle and zip off with it without a hassle (or crash it onto the sidewalk or into a building or down a river…).
In addition to the sheer size of the land and all the places you can explore, you will also find objects of interest that McCain can interact with depending on the disguise he is wearing. Disguise costumes are an essential aspect of the game. In fact, it is part of what makes McCain such a successful hero.
All he has to do is toss on a Robber costume, and he can wrench open locked doors and crack safes as though they’d never been shut. With a Construction Worker’s disguise, McCain becomes a master at the pneumatic drill and whacking at fuse boxes with a hammer until they spark to life. As a Farmer, McCain can water flower and vine seeds to grow platforms and climbable plants as well as chicken glide. Of course, as a Police Officer, McCain has his own abilities such as being able to fire a grappling hook and listen in on wiretaps. He can also use his magnifying glass to track down hidden objects hidden by the crooks. Other costumes include a Miner, Astronaut, and Fireman.
This sounds like it could be very tedious, since you could use an Astronaut’s jetpack almost anywhere, and you may be tempted to try that crowbar against every door. However, the game assists you by displaying an icon whenever you can use a disguise’s ability. The icons are very easy to identify, so while finding all the areas you can explore can be hard (because the game does a good job of hiding some of the objects), it is not infuriatingly so. The best part, though, is that icons from all the costumes are present in all the maps, even the earliest ones. This means that there are many places to explore even in maps you are supposedly done and over with, so there is plenty of reason to revisit old areas to explore them further.
To help, you can use your police scanner to find objects of interest, even in the far distance. Once you lock onto an object, it temporarily appears on your map. These objects serve to boost your completion rate and give you points, coins, and spare Lego blocks. Points, which are also found on the ground throughout the city, can be used to purchase vehicles and costumes to wear. These costumes are variations of the Disguises you have, so they don’t have their own abilities, but if you ever want to play as the bad guy, you could probably find his costume somewhere.
The costumes and vehicles themselves are unlocked through the coins. You have to first unlock them before you can purchase them.
Finally, the spare Lego blocks are used to build up the city. Sometimes you can find blank Lego plates here and there, and an object can be built on these plates. For some plates, you can build a jump ramp; others, a helipad or a vehicle call-in center where you can instantly summon a car you’d purchased. Finally, you can build landmarks such as statues. Building these also help towards your completion.
All in all, I was very impressed with the sheer number of things that could be done throughout Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins. Without doing any of them, you’d probably get less than 25% completion.
Food for thought:
1. There are no lives in this game. When you run out of health, you may explode into a burst of blocky components, but you are revived immediately.
2.) Among other things, Robbers can punch ATM machines. A Farmer can ride pigs and stuff them into cannons to shoot off at mid-air coins. A Policeman can follow invisible footsteps and track down hidden objects. Miners can use dynamites and also destroy boulders and crystals using his pickaxe.
3. Astronauts can teleport using teleportation pads and fly using the jetpack. And the Fireman can put out fires with his fire extinguisher as well as use certain fire trucks to put out big ones. He can also rescue cats from high places. I think there is one final costume but I haven’t unlocked it yet.
4. You can also purchase a UFO to drive through the streets. I have also learned that sports cars are not made to be driven through rough terrain.