When the Wii U version of Lego City: Undercover (2013) released, it was unclear how the Lego game series would do without a big-name movie to latch on to. Despite these doubts, the game was a success, proving that the Lego game formula can work away from the blockbuster films they were based upon.
It seems weird that Lego City: Undercover has received a remaster for the PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch at this time, given so much time has passed since the original released in 2013 for the Wii U, and no one seemed to be clamouring for a re-release. Although it makes sense for the publishers to bring such a successful title to a wider audience given the small install base of the Wii U.
For the uninitiated, Lego City: Undercover tells the story of Chase McCain, formerly of the Lego City Police Department, who returns to bring criminal mastermind, Rex Fury, to justice. For a game with such a heavy focus on crime, it succeeds in making light of these narrative overtures. With its criminals acting in slapstick ways, the game never takes itself seriously and is a wonderful pastiche of the detective-movie genre. Lego City: Undercover ultilises broad, well written humour to appeal to both young and old gamers, with a gameplay difficulty that doesn’t test too much but does enough to keep more seasoned players coming back for more.
The game is set in an open world environment with a variety of collectables to pursue. The story missions are unlocked in a linear fashion, and are spaced across the large map, which features a bustling downtown district, rural countryside and residential areas. There is enough variety in the locations you will visit and explore to keep things fresh and interesting throughout its approximately 15 hour story campaign.
Lego City Undercover also does well to incentivise replay of the story missions after completion. Part of progression within the game is for Chase to unlock different disguises, which grant different abilities as you go on. Just to name a few, the bank robber outfit allows you to break locks with a crowbar, dress as a farmer to soar through the air whilst holding the legs of a chicken, and a miner disguise allows you to smash path-blocking rocks into pebbles. You will find that, even in the earliest missions, there are opportunities to use abilities earned later in the game. Coming back and replaying these missions whilst using these features increases the number of collectables you can find and edges you ever closer towards 100% completion status.
As a remaster, there is a visible improvement to the visuals. Textures are of a higher resolution with everything looking sharper and more detailed. Outside of reduced loading times when waiting for the game to load and between missions, any differences in actual gameplay performance aren’t observable at first and it seems odd that a higher frame rate hasn’t been targeted, considering the above platforms having significantly more power than the Wii U. Sound design remains the same as the Wii U version and is fittingly appropriate for the section of the map you are in. Car horns blare and tires screech in the city areas whilst the countryside is quieter, with the sound of bird song and farmyard animals in the distance. The game also features a fantastic score, reminiscent of the detective movies it parodies so well and voice-acting is excellent all round, with all characters exhibiting excellent comedic timing.
If you had played the game on Wii U, there is not much in the way of additional content to incentivise a second purchase as there is no DLC to bundle into the package. That said, Lego City: Undercover is of such high quality when it comes to its writing, mission structure and replay value that it almost warrants a second purchase. I say almost, as this is £49.99/ $59.99, which is high considering this is essentially a 2013 game, and not entirely justified, even with the visual improvements, as it is not the visuals that make this game stand out. The game pulls its quality status from the fun to be had with its story, characters, interesting missions and mechanics, and doesn’t need to be a technical power-house to succeed. If you have access to a Wii U, this game can be picked up as part of the Nintendo Selects range for £19.99/ $19.99 and is just as good an experience.
That said, if you’ve never had the opportunity to play Lego City: Undercover, the only recommendation for the £49.99/ $59.99 price tag is if you are desperate and cannot wait to get your hands on the ‘next-gen’ experience. If that is the case, then you shouldn’t be dissuaded from a purchase. Lego City: Undercover is a fantastic experience that harkens back to childhood days of low-pressure and carefree gaming.