Absent a Movie License, Lego City Undercover Still Has Charm to Spare

Why TT Games doesn't need an official movie tie-in to have fun with Hollywood.

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When it comes to modern games, the appearance of anything Lego has become synonymous with pop culture silliness thanks to the creative efforts of TT Games. Since releasing Lego Star Wars in 2005, the England-based developer has unleashed a torrent of whimsical Lego adventures set in every fictional universe from Batman to Harry Potter to Pirates of the Caribbean. So what happens, then, when a developer so known for working with official movie licenses creates an original Lego story?

The answer to that question is Lego City Undercover, a Wii U and 3DS exclusive due out early next year. If there's one thing that can be said about Lego City Undercover, it's that TT Games doesn't need an official movie license to have fun with Hollywood. Lego City Undercover is one great, big homage to '60s and '70s crime movies, from a San Francisco-inspired setting ripe for car chases to a main character who bears the most police-y of all police officer names: Chase McCain.

McCain is an exiled detective sent away after he successfully locked up the city's most notorious criminal mastermind. Why would that be cause for exile? Well, when your slimy superior officer decides to steal the credit for your arrest, you can see why he wouldn't want word getting out that it wasn't, in fact, his own handiwork. But now that criminal mastermind is back on the streets, and McCain has been called back to Lego City to see if he can't work his magic for a second time.

McCain's journey plays out in an open-world setting not unlike a family-friendly version of Grand Theft Auto. You can run around and "commandeer" vehicles from hapless citizens, explore the city to perform optional side quests, and generally take your time between story missions.

But it's in those story missions where you can see the way that TT Games is casting an especially broad net of pop culture references and irreverent humor. At one point McCain must infiltrate Albatross Prison (an island compound with more than a passing resemblance to Alcatraz) and speak with a character named Blue. When you meet this guy, you can't help but notice a striking similarity to a certain esteemed actor from The Shawshank Redemption. Eventually you finish your conversation, and another character walks up to Blue and asks something to the effect of, "I need some help! Are you free, man?" To which Blue responds, "No! I am not Freeman! His lawyers might be watching!"

Snappy dialogue like that pervades Lego City Undercover's in-game storytelling. There's a mile-a-minute pace of pop culture in-jokes and references that seems capable of pleasing adults with their cleverness and children with their silliness. You really get the sense that TT Games is taking advantage of this game's lack of any official movie connection to forge decidedly unofficial connections to lots of different movies.

Where Lego City Undercover feels more like classic Lego fare is in the way the game plays. Missions tend to be a combination of platforming, puzzle-solving, and very light combat. It's the sort of low-barrier gameplay where challenge doesn't come so much from the missions themselves, but from how much of the huge amount of side content you want to tackle. The open-world format looks like it will add a bit more freedom to the way you take on that content, but the gameplay itself seems like standard Lego stuff.

There are some novelties that come with the Wii U hardware, however. You can use the screen on your GamePad as a sort of mini-map/GPS, dropping a waypoint on the touch screen that will create a trail of green Lego studs on your TV so that you can more easily drive to a particular destination. You can also use the GamePad as a sort of augmented-reality scanner to look around the environment and easily distinguish criminals from ordinary citizens. (Yes, cute little Lego police officers aren't afraid to use Big Brother technology.)

Whether or not TT Games is playing it safe with the way Lego City Undercover plays, it's clear that the developer doesn't need an official movie license to make a game that's every bit as charming and humorous with its pop culture sensibilities as those other Lego titles. Wii U owners will want to keep an eye out for this one when it's released in early 2013.

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Discussion

2 comments
psdsoldier25
psdsoldier25

Gonna be putting in my pre-order real soon.....

zpluffy
zpluffy

Finally, GTA for kids

tgwolf
tgwolf

As much as I REALLY REALLY REALLY wish they had picked a theme that was less...mundane...I know that ANY LEGO movie will be a kick.

senjutsu
senjutsu

Could be nice to wait for GTA5, lol. Still, I don't see myself paying 60$ for a game like that.

AsKo25
AsKo25

i hope you can fly to LEGO Island

RogerioFM
RogerioFM

Damn, not an exclusive, I wanted to play it on my PC or Xbox :(

spoonybard-hahs
spoonybard-hahs

It's a shame Nintendo and TT Games couldn't get this out at launch. This might have been a huge system seller. As it stands, this game is the only reason I want a Wii U at the moment, especially when I already own a few of the launch titles on other systems.

viciouskiller
viciouskiller

I wonder how the physics will work in this game like if you crash does your car lose pieces,or maybe buildings to.

inailed
inailed

Bought wii u for this and bayonetta 2 :) (and just to have a new console) 

ZachBobBob
ZachBobBob

The ONLY reason I would buy a Wii U would be for this game.

kdavenport88
kdavenport88

Can't wait for this to come out, should be a lot of fun!

Lattata
Lattata

It's gonna be interesting t osee what Lego does here.

 

I miss playing Lego Creator...

FallenOneX
FallenOneX

"I need some help! Are you free, man?" To which Blue responds, "No! I am not Freeman! His lawyers might be watching!"

 

Pre-ordered game after reading that part of the article.

LE5LO
LE5LO

Seeing that second screenshot just makes me nostalgic for San Fierro ;)

wgerardi
wgerardi

These games annoy the shit out of me, I'm sorry. I don't like that they basically recreate movies scene for scene, just adding embarrassing "kid" humor. I'm actually kind of sick of the whole "great for kids AND adults" genre (it has become one). All of my lame Christian friends love that genre.

brok
brok

and so TT Games FINALLY learns what I predicted from the start- Lego doesn't need to do some damn movie tie in to be a decent game. Why, for example, they did Pirates of the Caribbean when they had their OWN diverse pirate world, or star wars games when they had their own vast space set to draw inspiration from I'll never know.

 

Enough of the movie tie-ins! let's see more LEGO-lego games!

HADES2001
HADES2001

Well ofcourse they werent gonna get a expensive license for the wiiu alone thats way to expansive.

But i will wait a little longer mario and zombiu will keep me going for now and rayman will be coming soon enough.

rushiosan
rushiosan

I'm still not convinced about buying a Wii U. There aren't many games out there that would change my mind about that, and this one unfortunately doesn't made any difference for me. I'm sick of LEGO games since LEGO Batman... and yeah, I'm a hardcore LEGO collector since 90's.

armodillo17
armodillo17

I don't have a Wii U (and probably still won't by the time this is released, sadly), but I'm definitely excited for this game for when I finally do have one. I try not to get my hopes up for games so that I don't get disappointed, but everything I've seen so far looks great.

BiohazardXTREME
BiohazardXTREME

If anything, I'd say lack of a movie license only adds to the game. I mean, I really don't get the appeal of Lego Batman or Lego Harry Potter, but Lego in its core concept, with plenty of imagination to boot, sounds like it holds many more possibilities.

Sepewrath
Sepewrath

Cant wait to play this one, the amount of freedom, the lack of a license gives them, means the games will probably be even more fun, since you don't know what's going to happen.

unaminous
unaminous

Looks amazing! Too bad I won't be getting it, seeing as how it's for Wii U and all.

Codester_41
Codester_41

Loved the Legoland games! Kid at heart still. Wait, it's for the Wii U? Worst Idea ever!

superbuuman
superbuuman

Already locked on this game when I first saw it, the more I see the more I want! Can't come soon enough, with Pikmin 3 now being delayed.

nini200
nini200

I am DEFINITELY picking this game up day 1

Henrique2324
Henrique2324

Open World Lego? That is a brilliant idea, but the Wii U is just not worth it for a new take on an old brand.

senjutsu
senjutsu

 @viciouskiller There is already tons of gameplay videos, check youtube. Crashes and you will lose pieces. Not that well done, but certainely not violent, lol.

senjutsu
senjutsu

 @inailed Most of us will buy the wiiU just to have a new console I think, lol.

FallenOneX
FallenOneX

 @wgerardi But since this game is not based off of a movie, you look like the lame one now.

Edunear
Edunear

 @wgerardi Hey man, honestly I don't get your opinion, me i like games like this, it helps me relax and take the edge of, mostly after playing borderlands 2 or far cry 3.

 

The fun aspects and the solid game-play is pretty decent. but we are all in-titled to our own opinion.

 

by the way are there any non lame christians? ;)

 

ps. that's a joke :)

mgaroz
mgaroz

 @wgerardi why do you have lame Christian friends then? and why are you posting about it here? If these games annoy you, then pretend they don't even exist.

Coco_pierrot
Coco_pierrot

 @brok

 I don't know if you went in a toy store recently ... but everything Lego has become Movie or TV related serie ...

 

In my times their was a Medieval, Pirate, wierd Space and City theme. Now it is Star Wars, Lord Of The Ring, Pirate Of The Caribbean ... it is like the Lego brand destroy the creative part of their own toy ...

sun_spirit
sun_spirit

 @rushiosan It seems to be that way at the start of every new launch.

I had the Wii when it first came out, but was shelved after about a month. That was, until the likes of Mario Galaxy and Smash Bro. Brawl, however. Developers, even Nintendo, will take time to reach the console full potential, like any other. It's only been recently that the PS3 and Xbox 360 have supposedly been pushed to their bare limits by the likes of games like; Assassin's Creed III and Far Cry 3.

 

I am planning on getting a Wii U, just not for a little while, until Zelda, maybe.

wgerardi
wgerardi

 @mgaroz Because they are good friends/humans. And why wouldn't I want to voice my opinion, negative or positive if I felt a certain way about a subject?

 

Honestly, is this the first time you've seen someone comment negatively about something online?

unaminous
unaminous

 @hombreg1

 I'm sorry, it has nothing to do with hating. I'm not buying a console that I don't have the money for and don't really have time to play, especially if there's only one game that interests me.

 

God.

legoguy10
legoguy10

@wgerardi @mgaroz  Excuse me sir, if you don't like to read about LEGO games, then why come here sir? I like the Lego games and I am not Christian. :)

Dreizel
Dreizel

@wgerardi

They're are good friends and yet you call them lame?

Man, they might be good friends but you sure aren't.

 

You have the right to voice you're opinion about the game, but if these games anoy you why would you come reading this article to get annoyed?

 

Do you enjoy get annoyed,? or you didn't even read the article and just came here to bitch about these games?