LEGO have been releasing games for years with a pretty high success rate. From Star Wars to Lord of the Rings, LEGO has always hit the bullseye by LEGO-ising previously established franchises but this time they’ve tried something a little different. LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins has been likened to “Grand Theft Auto in LEGO” and while the sandbox-drive-any-car-you-want-run-around-a-city gameplay from GTA is there, it’s not entirely accurate.
LEGO City at its core is a cops and robbers game. The criminals are constantly trying to blow something up, kidnap people and just do things that are generally annoying more than threatening but obviously being a 7+ game they couldn’t exactly have criminals trying to murder other LEGO characters. You play as Chase McCain a handsome (as far as LEGO people go) clever and brilliant police officer of the LEGO City Police force. At the beginning Chase almost has a Zapp Brannigan (Futurama) feel about him, not in a bad way though, he just feels ‘too perfect’.
The cut scenes are sporadic as far as voice acting goes. Every so often you’ll get a lengthy cut scene where every LEGO character has a voice that gives them more of an air of realism, but then others will have text boxes instead. Consistency would have been nice in this game, either voice act all of it, or none of it. It’s slightly jarring having Chase engaging in a full conversation to then not saying a word until the next major plot cut scene happens. Cut scenes lead us perfectly into talking about the humour of this game. The jokes in this game are mediocre at best; nothing laugh-out-loud funny and some will barely get you cracking a smile. It’s a shame that the game couldn’t sneak some jokes for older gamers, but is understandable with the target audience of this game being younger players.
The first opening missions serve as tutorial missions, as you’d expect, simple tasks like go and pick up doughnuts (obviously) and chase someone or find something, very basic stuff before the proper story of the game starts. The story is split into different mini-arcs throughout the game. You can tell when you’ve started a new arc because you’ll gain a new disguise for Chase. Disguises give Chase different abilities and can be switch between at the touch of a button. This is a great thing that the game gives the player; the different disguises change the look of Chase and give him different tools and abilities which the other characters can’t do. For example space suit Chase has a jet pack which can be used to get to higher places when standing on a jet pack platform but while wearing the space suit, Chase seems to forget how to follow footprints or open a safe like his other disguises allow him to. Chase has a total of 7 disguises; police officer, criminal, farmer, space suit, fireman, construction worker and miner. Each having unique looks and abilities with an instant and easy switch between them which doesn’t interrupt gameplay is a work of genius.
The foot controls in this game are pretty standard and work well, the only thing wrong with them is the so called ‘camera turn’ controls. The L and R buttons are supposed to turn the camera, but Chase turns with it so you’re literally just turning your character which makes the buttons pointless. This game would seriously benefit from circle pad pro support, just make the camera controllable via a second analogue stick and make sure Chase doesn’t follow it and the foot controls would be perfect. The driving controls, however, are a travesty. The steering feels laggy and unresponsive, the cars turn awfully and if the slightest pixel hits something you better be ready to be stuck to that thing while you try and reverse off of it because that thing has got you for a good 10 seconds. It’s obvious why driving in this game does not feature prominently, most of the game play is on foot and solving puzzles because the driving controls are so horrendous.
The story is a pretty simple one, criminals are committing crimes and it all connects to the big bad Rex Fury. Rex takes a long time to actually enter the game and is gone soon after. As far as an overall story arc goes this game has a pretty weak one. It’s an obvious prologue for the main game, LEGO City Undercover, for the Wii U with even the ending being an obvious wink to the main game. It was surprising that the game didn’t end with a picture of the Wii U rushing towards the screen and an advert saying ‘available now!’ Being a prequel game for a game on a more powerful system really hurts this game in a lot of ways. It’s obvious that TT Fusion put more effort into the Wii U version and tried to make a quick buck with The Chase Begins.
LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins is an okay game but has its flaws. As stated before, the game suffers as it’s a prequel for a much higher budget game and the cracks of the low budget show throughout. The controls for the driving seemed to have been designed to the point where they did the most basic left and right steering but where then abandoned because ‘it’ll do’. The story is almost non-existent up until the last hour of the game which is basically there to lead the player into wanting to buy a Wii U and play the main game. This game is perfect for kids, they’ll appreciate the humour, not be as frustrated with the driving controls because they won’t have played games like Grand Theft Auto and most of all – the story is very child friendly. The age rating of this game is 7+ but in all honest it should have a 4-12 rating as that is the audience that will appreciate it most.