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We’ve been slacking on the content lately, I know. Let’s get back in the swing of things with a look at LEGO City Undercover.
I’ve been playing LEGO games since the original Star Wars releases and usually enjoyed them, but this release turns me off somewhat. I don’t know if it’s the annoying characters, the bad jokes, the long load times, the poor control or the crappy frame rate, but… no, wait. It’s all of those things. The characters are either a: annoying (like lead character Chase McCain), dumb (Police Chief Dunby) or a combination of the two (that accursed Frank Honey). For the first hour or so, everyone who meets you has to call out your character’s full name, like they’re trying to drill into the player, “hey – that’s you. You’re important! People know you!” It becomes irritating after about the 3rd time.
The game is referred to as a LEGO-style Grand Theft Auto, and at their basest levels, there are similarities, but for each one there are caveats. Yes, there’s a large, open world – but it’s rather lifeless so you’re not really compelled to explore it. Yes, you can hijack cars – but they’re slow and don’t control worth a damn. The controls in general aren’t great. The biggest culprit in this is the camera angle. It’s often more or less fixed so you’re often stuck trying to navigate narrow walkways and tricky jumps from odd angles. I’ve had to repeat tedious jumping puzzles far too many times because I couldn’t judge my position correctly. Combat is mostly non-existent; you do fight foes but it’s mostly a matter of hit them once to knock them down and then press the A button to slap cuffs on them. Compared to the combat of past LEGO titles, it’s incredibly uninspired. My biggest control gripe is in the stud collecting. The studs are a pain to collect this time around, and I blame a combination of the lousy camera not letting you know where you really are in comparison to them and a seemingly shrunken hit-detection box on the studs themselves.
LEGO City Undercover spends allot of time holding your hand with go here/do that instructions and cutscenes so it’s amazing how much time you can spend wandering aimlessly, looking for that one item to break and build with or that one unmarked jump to make. When you’re puzzling over a goal, the nearby NPCs will often engage in repetitive, allegedly humorous banter that tells you what you need to do to progress. This helps you stay on task but it also gets really irritating as you shout, “I KNOW WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO, GAME… I JUST DON’T SEE HOW!” I also have to comment on the graphics. The game doesn’t look great but you still suffer frame rate dips on a regular basis, even with the many long load screens you sit through. The load screens happen often enough – and are long enough – that they are real immersion breakers.
I think my biggest issue is that this is geared for a much younger mind then mine. I’m not the target audience and I knew that going in, but I’m surprised how little I like it. It can be funny at times but more often than not the jokes fall flat. Looking at it as a title for kids still doesn’t negate the previous three paragraphs of critique. They may enjoy the characters more, and the story may sit better with them, but the controls, camera, and combat are what they are. LEGO City Undercover isn’t broken, it’s just not much fun.