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Friday, April 19, 2013

Lego City Undercover

A couple weeks ago, I gathered up a big stack of mostly Wii games, a few DS and a PSP game, about 12 games in total... to trade in at EB Games. I ended up getting about $40.00 in credit which I put towards the purchase of one game: Lego City Undercover.

Lego City Undercover is basically Grand Theft Lego. Both this game and another game I'm playing right now, Infamous (PS3) are clearly heavily influenced by  the Grand Theft Auto games, but Lego City Undercover wears its influence on its sleeve. Instead of playing a car thief, you play a cop. But you do many of the same things as in GTA games: jack cars from their drivers at will, only you do it on "Police business!".... and many missions also ape the GTA ones, like having to evade police (even though you are one? Hanh?)

First off, the game gets off to a bad start: there's a loading screen just to get to the intro screen where you pick your profile (or create a new one) THEN after you pick your profile IT LOADS AGAIN.... so there are 2 loading screens in a row, each about 20-40 seconds. WHY did there need to be a loading screen just to get to the TITLE?? That was a colossal mistake by developer TT Games... they should have just made the title screen a static one if it saved having to do a  loading time. Most complaints about the game are the long, numerous loading screens. But most GTA open-world style games have long load times because the maps are so large. Still, they should be planned out so as to minimize them as much as possible.

The home base for the player in this game is the Police Station, this is where you buy/unlock characters and vehicles. It is a 3 floor building each floor accessible by elevator, and they ALL have loading screens when you go from one to the other. You HAVE to endure at least one loading screen because you always enter the building on the middle floor and all the unlock areas are in the basement. And of course there are loading screens every time you enter and exit the Police Station.

That said, the game is a lot of fun. The city map seems to be about 3 large sections, and there are so many cars you can drive. And boats, and helicopters... it's so fun to just travel around. I haven't really played a Lego game since Lego Star Wars & Lego Star Wars 2: The Original Saga (original Xbox) and Lego City Undercover is basically the same overall formula but showing refinements learned from each Lego game they've released. It skews on the easy side, make no mistake-- this game is (rightfully) aimed at kids but I am just having fun exploring such an open place and digging the corny yet endearing humour.

There are still some rough edges to the game, glitchy areas... like when they want you to go to a mission point, they give you a trail of green glowing Lego studs to follow, on one mission I was following it ad it took me right off a incomplete bridge. I fell from a high cliff into water, which didn't kill me, but I couldn't get back up because the cliffs around me were so high. The game eventually gave me an option to hold a button to return to land-- but when I do, it takes me to the point where my car is already in mid-air jumping off the bridge. I tried to jump out, anything to try to stay on land but it always just sends me back into the water. I had to just quit and resart the mission. And another mission I was on horseback following the studs to a castle, and inexplicably, instead of having the stud trail go *over* the bridge to the castle, it seemed to want me to somehow jump across  the gap *beside* it-- which I couldn't. I think as I get through the last third of the story mode, things get less polished like they didn't have the time to playtest everything.

The humour in Lego City Undercover is genteel and mostly plays to a younger audience, but there is an odd off-note in the Museum mission where there's an almost racist depiction of native indians.... it's a bit of a sour note, especially for a kid's game.

 I have mixed feelings about the Wii U gamepad integration. There are some times when I really enjoy it, like when using it to track footprints to find a hidden treasure. But using it to display the city map, it takes my eyes away from the screen where my attention wants to be.... and the touch interface is unwieldy, maybe because of the (crappy) resistive touch screen. If it was a capacitive touch screen I would likely enjoy it more. But I will talk about Nintendo's second screen philosophy in another post...

Lego City Undercover is the first and only Wii U game that I'm really sinking my teeth into, making me think the Wii U might have been a worthwhile purchase. Unfortunately, I see little else on the horizon for the system, and considering I've had the console for about 6 (long) months without any real games to hook me on it... I honestly don't know if I should have bought the Wii U. If I knew it wouldn't sell out like the Wii frenzy of 2006-2007, I wouldn't have bought it at launch. At this point I'm waiting for Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition to price drop in Canada. Other than that game, not much else I can think of to pick up for Wii U.

Annoyingly, the 3DS also is looking tragically barren of games over the long run. But I am getting  psyched for Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins, the prequel to the Wii U game. It's coming out April 21, 2013.... very soon. Even though the early reviews are a bit tepid, I am aware of the limitations of the handheld and I still think I will buy it day 1.


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