Kratos, Lara and even Gears-heads has recently been serviced by tales of how their heroes got to where they are now, and all solid games with sky-high production values and gameplay that we know and love it.
Now it's the turn of Chase McCain. Granted, it's only a month ago that we came to know him in the blazingly entertaining Lego City Undercover, but it was one of the best games on the console, with the score rightly deserved.
The understated humour with lots of movie references and hilarious moments, the huge open world with so much packed into it and with good voice acting, the game rightly keep the traditions of the Lego franchise yet became its own unique experience.
TT Fusion has delivered a handheld game of Lego fun, which, while it doesn't do much wrong, it lacks the heart and soul of its bigger brother.
Players familiar with Lego City Undercover will probably remember that Chase McCain returned to Lego City after two years away and immediately was nstructed to put the game's main villain Rex Fury behind bars. Chase was, as the title suggested, going undercover and already was somewhat of a legend, and with this 3DS game we get the chance to see how that legend was built, joining a younger McCain as the new police officer in town.
We have here the story of his first meeting with the grumpy Dunby and the beautiful Natalie. It all takes place in familiar surroundings as TT Fusion has squeezed most of the LEGO City sandbox into the handheld. An impressive achievement... if they had not simultaneously removed virtually everything that made Wii U game so fantastic.
The first thing I notice when I enter into the city is that I can no longer look up or down. I can still control the camera with the shoulder buttons, but it's rare I can see more than two floors up. That in itself need not be a problem. But Lego City Undercover borrowed not only from Grand Theft Auto but also the Assassin's Creed series. The explorative parkour elements of Lego City are reduced significantly. Combat is also limited to press X or Y at the right time, watch a slow-motion kung fu dance, then press A to give criminal handcuffed. Next.
As the story takes place two years before the original game, TT Fusion has redesigned several elements. For example, my first visit to Ablatross Island also provides new tasks alongside the different story.
I praised Lego City Undercover for a lot of little details that, for me, made it one of the best games on the Wii U. For example, when bumping into other cars they, or you, took damage. That's gone. I praised the voice acting. You'll find that only in the cutscenes now. I loved the amazing humour and movie references. That's been replaced by boring dialogue.
And then there's the visuals. I was impressed with how much they are squeezed out of the Wii U. Here... I'm happy with what they've done. The 3D effect is used well for depth of field in the right places, and the animations are of good quality.
But hold off the celebration: there are problems, technical limitations that has seen them cut corners. The city is always shrouded in a grim fog, so you should not expect to see very far into the distance. Characters will suddenly pop into view a few meters in front of you. There's outrageous load-times between a half to a full minute, which seems ludicrous on a handheld. The soundtrack is incredibly sparse while playing, and often there is only a single sample, which unsuccessfully tries to set the mood. And so on and so on...
I have never cared much about 3DS versions of Lego games, I have yet to see one of its kind that can compete with the PS Vita or even the iPad versions. I do not know why TT Fusion has it so hard with the machine, but trying to deliver a big open sandbox does not improve matters.
Speaking of open - the sandbox is closed to begin with, opening only after you've completed a major part of the main game (an achievement that takes about seven hours). A lot of the main game controls used with the Wii U GamePad have been mapped to the bottom screen. You can also find hidden objects by moving your 3DS around, you can eavesdrop through doors, and this is also where you watch as Super Builds are constructed (obviously this was too much to handle for the in-game engine). All functions work as they should without frills.
What's left? Well, there is a reliable foundation that serves as a backdrop for the usually good TT Games Lego model, there are lots of blocks to assemble and build, as well as characters, vehicles and secrets to be discovered.
You can also use Street Pass to send collected postcards (a new kind of collectibles that can be found in the game) or vehicle parts found with your friends. Multiple outfits, and their abilities also return, so you can - among other things - break things as a thief, extinguish flames as a firefighter, bore holes as a construction worker, smash and blast rocks as a miner.
As with previous titles in the franchise, Lego City Undercover is a fun game. But unlike them, it's not a crazily entertaining one. Chase McCain is not Luke, Frodo or Batman, he's just a cop without any of the franchise familiarity those others bring with them, which is perhaps the game's biggest problem. You can certainly pull forty hours out of the game if you are the type that will gather everything. Whether you have the same type of fun as previous games is a different story.
Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins has a large open sandbox, but one that feels like the best bits have been stripped out of it. I would personally just return to the Wii U game, and for those that loved that as much as I do, this will be a disappointing addition to that. If you're a fan, then fine: but why settle for an average gaming experience?
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