E3 Preview: Lego City Undercover


Despite not making any mention of price or release date, Nintendo spent its energy at E3 trying to get people excited about the Wii U. The game that many people came out of the Nintendo press conference wasn’t one of Nintendo’s classic franchises, but Lego City Undercover, the first Lego videogame not to be based on a franchise of some sort. I got to play it a bit, and while it’s still very early in its development, it’s already shaping up to be a great incentive to pick up a Wii U.

You are Chase McCain, rugged cop out to keep the streets safe for law-abiding citizens … ok, you’re about as rugged as a minifig can be, which means you’re actually tiny and adorable, but you’re serious about that law and order thing. In the level I played, Chase has to track down three bank robbers after they’ve fled the scene of their latest heist, so my first task was to hop into my police car and speed off after the crooks.

Which was a little harder than I’d anticipated. Either the controls are a little wonky or my understanding of automotives is, but I couldn’t keep that thing in a straight line no matter what I did. Two things helped make up for my terrible driving. There was a trail of green studs on screen showing me the path the robber’s car had taken, and the map on the Wii U controller screen showed not only a green line tracing his projected course through the streets, but also a red dot pintpointing his location in real time. My driving wasn’t good enough to catch up in straight pursuit, but by following the map on the Wii U controller, I was able to get ahead of him and cut him off. I had to crash into the crook’s car several times before taking after him on foot, then knocking him down with a dramatic foot sweep.

One robber down, two to go. Chase’s colleague Ellie got in touch with him via the Wii U controller. Unlike other Lego games, Lego City Undercover is fully voiced, and I could hear her instructions over the controller’s speaker. The second crook – who was dressed like a clown by the way, I feel it’s important you know that – was hiding out in a nearby building, so I had to use the Criminal Scanner to find him. Holding the controller up and turning around with it, I was able to “scan” the location in the game, which provided a kind of X-ray view of the area. The lone clown was hiding out in a tiny shed, and once I zeroed in on him, we were off and running. A quick baseball slide and he was nabbed.

The third crook took a bit more classic Lego-style puzzle solving as he hid out in the suburbs. You’ll need to break apart blocks and put other blocks together to help you get past obstacles and puzzles; in this case, various bits of junk needed to be cleared off a hose so that the sprinkler would work, allowing vines to grow up a wall that I needed to climb.

I was told that Lego City Undercover is an “open world,” a la Grand Theft Auto, but no information about possible side quests was available yet. Even if it’s just a fairly linear tale of a tiny cop on the not-very-mean streets, it looks like it’ll be a blockin’ good time.

See all our coverage directly from the E3 2012 show floor.

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