Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins is an enjoyable romp through the 3DS’ first open world game, but inevitably succumbs to the limitations of the hardware.
The Chase Begins is a prequel to the wonderful Wii U title, the game is set in the same universe and Lego version of San Francisco and tells the story of Chase McCain’s rise from a rookie cop to detective. As you rise through the ranks you’ll deal with all kinds of ne’er-do-wells all over the city, each criminal gang will operate in one particular area, and in each area you’ll gain access to a new outfit which will give Chase a particular ability which will help him solve the crimes in the area. It’s all pretty standard fare, but being Travelers’ Tales, it’s all done with a cheeky nod and wink.
As with all previous Lego/TT games there are plenty of collectibles, and red bricks to collect, you’ll come across some of these in the missions, but most will be hidden across the city for you to find as you explore. The main game will take you around 10 hours to complete, and each area is long enough so you can easily dip in and out of it as required.
Unfortunately in the transition from console to portable the game loses a lot of the charm that made its Wii U namesake a success.It would be silly to think that the 3DS has the same kind of processing power as the Wii U, it doesn’t we know that, yet after having played Luigi’s Mansion 2, and Fire Emblem Awakening, The Chase Begins feels and looks outdated.
The city you inhabit and are asked to explore and traverse is covered in a thick layer of game fog. Your line of sight is limited to only a short distance in front of you, the city has a discoloured tinge to it, and more often than not items, buildings and especially vehicles will just suddenly appear in your path. The vehicles are especially annoying when missions involve a car chase. Ultimately the fog made me complacent about the city, I couldn’t see any landmarks, there were no points of interest that intrigued me enough to want to wade through the swampy sky, so for me it remained largely unexplored. Graphically the game also suffers, often characters will look jagged and blocky (ironic for a Lego game), the frame rate dips quite often when the game is processing a lot. I tried to use the 3D function, but if anything it made the game look worse, this is one I’d recommend keeping the slider down for.
The blandness of the city can also be compared to the characters in the game. Lego games are famous for being very tongue in cheek, often quite openly ridiculing their subjects. The charisma of these titles lies in their cut scenes, more can be expressed in those animated shorts than in endless text talk, but the cut scenes in Chase Begins are few and far between, usually appearing right at the end of a mission, and only then for a brief time. There is no time for the game to show the characters’ personalities, and unless you have already played the Wii U title, you’ll come away with no real opinion of them either.
Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins isn’t a bad game, when it has its moments it’s actually quite fun, and in some places still retains that Lego appeal we have come to expect. Yes it falters and it’s limited in what it can achieve, but I don’t doubt for a second that a younger gamer would love this, probably almost as much as their parents for a long bank holiday weekend drive.
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Tim Bowers is the ex-Editor of Zero1Gaming, he also occasionally writes when he's able to string sentences together. He can usually be found waiting for Nintendo to remember about Samus Aran.