The British studio, now with the trust of the mighty LEGO brand behind it, has the chance to go all-out and explore more avenues of play that might not have been possible when working with film and comic license holders. The result is an open-world, city adventure game for the Wii U - that is looking very cool.
You play as the charismatic and witty police detective Chase McCain, as he returns to his home in LEGO City... only to find that Rex Fury, the criminal he once put behind bars, has escaped and is causing havoc all over the town. From the moment the opening scenes start playing, the world has immense character, cult references and that classic Traveller’s Tales + LEGO humour.
Missions are set for you by your police chief or LEGO City associates, and involve you travelling between waypoints to find criminals and beat them into submission. You can commandeer any vehicle and stop traffic using your handy whistle, or you can build terminals in the open world and call in some police cars to ride in. The cop cars have turbo boost, so they’re worth sticking with the most.
Overall, it’s what you’d imagine a family-friendly version of Grand Theft Auto would be like - the protagonist has to fight crime, rather than descend into it. You can still cause havoc and mayhem though by running over lampposts and other cars.
In fact, there’s no end of things you can bust up. The first thing anyone does when playing a LEGO game is to punch the crap out of the scenery to collect studs. You can do the same here and, impressively given that the world map is absolutely huge there’s still so much to destroy. But there are also fewer studs.
In Undercover, you don’t get studs from destroyed objects though - studs are found by completing mission objectives and are also dotted about the pavements. Instead, when you smash LEGO objects you get LEGO Bricks.
This is a different kind of currency that is used to create new items and vehicles at certain creation points. Some, like luxury cruise boats, require around 15,000 Bricks to build - so to help you along your way the world is littered with rare Super Bricks, worth upwards of 1000 Bricks each.
The Criminal Scan uses the GamePad’s gyroscopic technology to scan the area around you. You’ll need to hold the GamePad up and move it around to see through buildings and detect Super Bricks or criminal targets.
The build that I toyed around with was an early one - side missions had not been implemented just yet, and some of the presentation needed touching up - but the game ran at a smooth and consistent framerate and made for a very pleasant experience.
LEGO City Undercover might have had a relatively frosty reception when it was announced at Nintendo’s E3 press conference - but have no doubt that this is shaping up to be a Wii U killer app in its own right.
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Closing date:30 Jun 2013