Lego City Undercover was one of the Wii U’s earliest highlights, and one of those rarest of beasts, a third party exclusive. Now that the Wii U’s time has drawn to a close, Warner Bros. have seen fit to remaster the game, releasing it this time across every available platform, including Nintendo’s brand new Switch.
Though there’s some sadness to bidding farewell to any console, the repurposing of one its best, but least-experienced, games and bringing it to a wider audience has to be applauded, and something that we should see more often, rather than a remaster simply being a second bite of the cherry for games that were already a hit the first time around.
Lego City Undercover sees you take on the role of the eternally dim Chase McCain, a disgraced policeman who returns to the city to recapture his escaped nemesis Rex Fury. Chase remains one of TT Games’ best creations, and in Lego City Undercover they put him to good use, making the absolute most of the opportunity to write and produce a game unfettered by the constraints of a huge movie license.
The cast of characters is also completely on point, from the hilarious buffoonery of fellow police officer Frank Honey to the bullying bluster of police chief Dunby. The standard of writing is unbelievably good – literally laugh out loud funny – and really does show off the talent of the TT Fusion team in a very different way to the situational slapstick of the movie tie-ins.
One of the key complaints levelled at the Wii U version was its interminable loading times. Things aren’t quite as bad now as they were at launch, as the game received a number of patches, but they’re still pretty hefty. Thankfully, at least in the case of the PS4 version, things have been radically improved, with the opening loading time alone having been cut by a full thirty seconds, down to around thirty-five seconds, and subsequent loads of the city clocking in around twenty-five seconds faster.
It’s hardly an exhaustive test – the Wii U version was launching from an external harddrive, while the PS4 was installed to its internal drive – but it’s unequivocally faster, and that’s the main thing. You do have to remember that it’s loading the entire city into the console’s memory, so you should temper your expectations accordingly.
Graphically things have definitely improved too. The Wii U version operates at an obviously lower resolution, with very little in the way of anti-aliasing, which leads to rough edges everywhere. The PS4 presentation meanwhile sees the in-game action take a huge leap, with clear, vibrant visuals and a vastly improved draw distance that seems to have more or less completely eliminated the original’s pop-in.
Oddly the only area where things seem to have been left alone are in some of the game’s cutscenes. Some of the original’s fuzzy image quality has made the transition to the PS4 version, which stand out noticeably when the majority of the cutscenes are wonderfully glossy, matching the gameplay perfectly.
The game’s performance as a whole has had a welcome bump, and this is immediately obvious when driving around Lego City. The Wii U version suffered from instances of poor frame pacing, and prevalent frame rate issues when the screen became busier which were made even worse when you were travelling at speed. The PS4 remaster once again manages to eliminate them completely, making the whole experience far more enjoyable. The driving in particular now feels significantly tighter than the lumpen Wii U rendition.
It’s worth noting that despite all of the improvements, the remaster of Lego City Undercover isn’t without some flaws. I experienced at least one major crash where my vehicle simply lost all control, forcing me to quit out and return to the police station, losing my progress on that mission. On top of that, all of the original game’s issues, such as the low difficulty level and iffy platforming, have survived the process intact.
There have been some key changes made to the gameplay though, partly due to the loss of the Wii U’s second screen, and partly as an attempt to streamline the experience. Your police communicator still looks like a Wii U Gamepad, which is now a sad and melancholic little inclusion. All of the original game’s Gamepad functionality such as the map and the communicator have been shifted to menus and the main screen, and this is really the only instance where the remaster loses out to the original, with the Wii U additional screen proving a real boon at times.
The most obvious and important improvement is the inclusion of co-op play, a staple of the Lego games that sadly just wouldn’t work with the Wii U edition of Lego City Undercover thanks to its focus on the Gamepad. A second player can now drop in and out whenever they want, assisting you in your mission.
Lego City Undercover is arguably one of the best, if not the best, Lego games of the last ten years. With the release of the remaster, Warner Bros. are finally opening it up for a wider audience to experience, and in largely the best shape it’s ever been in. For fans of the series who’ve perhaps tired of the ceaseless march of movie tie-ins, Lego City Undercover is a hilarious, expansive, brick-infused open-world experience that’s begging to be explored.