It's fair to say that, out of all the LEGO games, LEGO City Undercover is perhaps the most underappreciated. A Wii U exclusive that was enough to convince at least one our writers that she needed to put a pre-order down, it was a departure from the LEGO norm in many ways. For starters, it wasn't based on a film license - the first main series LEGO game in many a year to buck the trend. And secondly, while it still provided plenty of traditional levels to play through, it was a game that also provided a whole lot more, baring more than a passing resemblance to a LEGO take on GTA. Only a lot funnier.
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So while we may have a pretty harsh opinion of the vast majority of "remasters", LEGO City Undercover is one we'll allow - not least because it's actually been properly upgraded. Hampered by the poor Wii U hardware, LEGO City was a game that struggled to live out its vision, with the system being both unable to support the traditional co-op split-screen mode, and lumbering the game with some incredibly long loading times. For the PS4/Xbox One/Switch/PC version though, that's all changed - the loading times are slick and speedy, the whole game runs a heck of a lot more smoothly - and an all important co-op mode has been added.
LEGO City Undercover is a drop-in, drop-out co-op adventure that follows the story of Chase McCain, a hotshot cop who's drawn back to LEGO City when a bad guy he put behind bars somehow manages to escape. With the notorious Rex Fury on the loose, Chase gets hot on the case, with a little help (or hindrance) from the somewhat useless Detective Frank Honey - a clumsy but loveable berk who always seems to find something funny to say.
Before too long, it becomes obvious that in order to track Rex down, Chase is going to have to go undercover - and it's this that plays a major part in LEGO City's gameplay. While most LEGO games see you changing character, with each character having its own set of different abilities, LEGO City instead sees you changing disguises, with a wide range of bizarre options on offer. In his miner disguise, Chase not only gets a pickaxe that lets him smash up boulders, but also gains the ability to use the dynamite vending machines you'll find scattered around town (only in LEGO City...), which can be used to destroy metal objects. The farmer disguise, meanwhile, let's you whip out a chicken to hover across small gaps, while the astronaut lets you use teleport pads or beam in special equipment using a satellite dish. And before you say it, yes - in the world of LEGO City, an astronaut costume is a perfectly viable undercover disguise.
As you work your way through LEGO City's story, you'll play through a series of 15 story missions, each of which plays out in the traditional fashion. If you've played any LEGO game before, you'll know what you're letting yourself in for here, as you bash baddies, smash up everything in sight, and solve simple puzzles by rebuilding broken LEGO into something much more useful at the touch of a button. Whether you're searching a prisoner's cell, working your way through some mysterious mines, or laying the smack down on the residents in a Chinese pagoda, it's up to you to make good use of your disguises (and their respective abilities), and arrest the baddies once you've taken them down. As you complete each level, you'll slowly start to work your way towards Rex Fury, taking out a chain of accomplices and uncovering a twisting plot, before you finally get to a showdown with the man himself.
But if the levels make up the backbone of LEGO City, it's the City itself that forms its heart. While open world is a pretty meaningless phrase that gets tossed around a bit too often, LEGO City gives you an absolutely gigantic city to explore in between missions - and while LEGO games have done open worlds before, they've never done anything quite as large as this.
Divided up into 20 very different districts, there's so much to do here, it'll take you an age to even scratch the surface. Each district has a load of collectables for you to find, from ATMs you can smash with your robber disguise, to statues of Rex Fury to destroy, boulder piles to smash, train stations to unlock, and free running races to complete, among others - and for the first time, there are two different currencies to collect here: studs, and bricks. While studs are used to unlock new vehicles and disguises (each disguise falls under a certain category, so you can change to play as any disguise in, say, the "farmer" category), bricks can be exchanged to build things around town - like vehicle call in points, rollercoasters, and many special buildings.
As a cop, it's not just disguises Chase can rely on either - he also has a variety of high tech gadgets he can use to track baddies. From a footstep tracker to an infra red camera and a high tech listening device, keep your eyes peeled for special, glowing points that'll let you track down the baddies of LEGO City in technological style - and will usually earn you a collectable or two in the process too!
If you've ever played a LEGO game, you'll know they like to jam in the collectables, but LEGO City goes beyond the call of duty. There are 450 gold bricks here to collect (usually for finishing levels, achieving certain things, and collecting the aforementioned collectables), nearly 40 cheat-unlocking red bricks, 305 different disguises, over 120 vehicles, and many, many more to be found. Considering it took us nearly eight hours to get 10% of the way through, you can imagine how long finding everything's going to take. Even better, the game now has co-op vehicles, so you and a friend can hop in a car together if you want to make sure you both get from A to B - make sure you hunt out the cherry picker if you want to travel in style!
Now with added co-op, LEGO City Undercover takes advantage of its remaster to finally become the kind of game it always should have been. With hours upon hours of fun here, and so much to find and collect, this is a game that'll keep you coming back for more for weeks to come - and one you'll love every second of. While we wish the remaster had added a few more new features, this is still well worth adding to your LEGO collection - just like every other LEGO game that's come before it!
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4