The colourful and content-packed open world crime-fighting game finally gets exposed to the wider audience it deserves.
When we first reviewed LEGO City Undercover for Wii U in March 2013, we declared it great and awarded it an 8.0 out of 10. Here’s what we said then:
LEGO City Undercover is the best iteration of a very familiar experience, which is as reassuring or problematic as that might seem. The sheer scope of the overworld is impressive, as is the way Traveller’s Tales layered in its wide range of collectible goodies, which ensures hours upon hours of activity after the campaign ends, which should take the average player about 10 hours, accounting for some collectible fetching. Undercover’s story is an incredibly entertaining homage to countless movies and television shows, and manages to feature a very strong cast of characters – no small feat considering the game has no major license associated with it. Of course, rampant loading times, no co-op and a variety of other problems (loading times, routine gameplay) hold Undercover back from truly taking the next step for the larger LEGO franchise.
That’s still for the most point where we stand on it today, with the main difference being the inclusion of local two-player co-operative play for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC versions of the game. This brings the updated release of LEGO City Undercover more in line with the vast majority of LEGO titles from Traveler’s Tales, as a second player can now drop in and drop out at any point.
Admittedly co-op support in LEGO City Undercover is pretty barebones. Rather than introduce a second character into the game’s story, player two is just a palette-swapped version of main hero Chase McCain. Furthermore there are no specific missions, puzzles, or activities designed to cater to co-operative play, it’s the exact same content as the Wii U version only it can be tackled with two of you brick-smashing your way to success instead of one. Having said that, it’s still a fun sandbox to muck around in with a second player particularly given the presence of some 100 different vehicles to thrash about, and certainly the addition of co-op helps to make this re-release of LEGO City Undercover superior to the original to some degree.
The only other major difference is the migration of the Wii U’s second screen features onto a single screen. LEGO City Undercover hardly made the most of the Wii U Gamepad anyway, so these tweaks have a fairly minor impact on the experience as a whole. It’s certainly more convenient to have video communications windowed in the corner of the main screen rather than having to keep looking down in your lap while you’re driving somewhere, and although controlling the environment scanner with thumbsticks isn’t quite as fun as physically holding up the Gamepad was, it’s no less functional. (It does however seem slightly odd that Chase McCain’s slab-like police communicator device still looks exactly like the Wii U Gamepad it was originally designed to imitate.)
Each version of the re-released LEGO City Undercover runs at 1080p (including the Switch version, when docked) and at a more stable frame rate compared to the original (with the exception of the un-docked Switch version, which features a slightly choppier frame rate reminiscent of the Wii U original). The visuals are otherwise unchanged, but I wasn’t exactly expecting the addition of high resolution textures or anything since well, almost everything in the game is made out of smooth-surfaced LEGO bricks.
What I had hoped for was some level of optimisation for the load times, but unfortunately this doesn’t appear to be an area that developer TT Fusion has given much love. While it varies marginally between platforms, LEGO City Undercover still features generally sluggish load times. Even the Switch version, which I downloaded digitally and have running off a high speed Micro SD card, can still take anywhere from 30 seconds to a full minute when transitioning from an interior to the open world, which is a lengthy period of time to regularly stare at a static screen no matter how much you enjoy the incredibly funky ‘70s wah-wah wocka-ing that accompanies it.