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LEGO City: Undercover: Your next Wii U blockbuster

Traveller's Tales talk us through their most ambitious LEGO game yet

Whereas many dozens of toy companies have come and gone over the decades, LEGO continues to go from strength to strength. Quality of product aside, it was the company's decision to embrace technology and diversify that saw it steering clear of the jaws of change.

If you take a cross-section of LEGO'S portfolio you'll find dozens of different lines, many of which don't even remotely resemble the LEGO that 30+ year-olds grew up with. The traditional format is still massively popular though, which is why offshoots such as LEGO Technic and LEGO City still follow the same set of rules.

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LEGO's power throughout the 1990s made it an obvious choice for videogame licensing but it took a long time for anyone to get it right. While several attempts at releasing LEGO creation titles on the PC came and went, it wasn't until 1999 that the first proper videogame,

LEGO Racers, was released on the Nintendo 64. It wasn't great, though, and was followed by a run of rotten Bionicle offerings on the GBA. It took the little-known Traveller's Tales to practically invent a new genre, the 'LEGO game', before the franchise really started to deliver.

R2-D2 TT

In 2005 LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game became the very first title to assume the now familiar template. Since then the Cheshire-based developer, Traveller's Tales, has become synonymous with the LEGO brand. In fact, for the best part of a decade it's done little else but LEGO film licence tie-ins so the freedom of a title such as LCU (LEGO City: Undercover) must come as a breath of fresh air.

Though TT would never admit to it, the time and content constraints of working for a US publisher such as Warner Bros. Interactive (while also having to keep LEGO happy) must be stifling and the team must have thanked their lucky stars when Nintendo showed interest in an open-world adventure. As Executive Producer Loz Doyle tells us, LCU was something the team had wanted to do for a while: "We had already started work on the technology for a proper open-world game, but with the arrival of the Wii U and its unique GamePad, that really opened up a lot of new ideas... gameplay ideas that suited us perfectly".

LCU's development time, unlike many of the Wii U's ported launch titles, has been significant and the fact that the game has been built from the ground up for Wii U really shows. First announced in June 2011 the game will have been underway for around two years by the time it launches and will be one of just a few games launched so far (along with the likes of ZombiU) to really take advantage of the hardware. As such, LCU is an absolutely massive game with a vast number of different things going on at any one time.

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Comparisons with Grand Theft Auto may seem exaggerated, but actually the freedom to explore and interact with your environment does bear many similarities. The switch couldn't have been an easy one though; going from the extremely limited, super-controlled mission arenas in the likes of LEGO The Lord Of The Rings to open world, sandbox-esque freedom in LCU doesn't come overnight. As Doyle openly tells us, "We have gone from creating purely level-based games to having a sprawling open world city, so the technology and game systems involved were new to us. Yes, we had the core proven systems such as slick character control, addictive collectibles, easy-to-learn gameplay and so on... things that remain unchanged. But there is so much more to create when you're considering a city game."

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11 comments so far...
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  1. CDS Sunday 17th Feb 2013 at 22:44

    So considering a WiiU just to get this.
    Forget the other games, it's all about LEGO City Undercover for me.

  2. IPecksU Monday 18th Feb 2013 at 02:13

    I really want this but wii u games are so expensive right now!

  3. GiftedGimp Monday 18th Feb 2013 at 02:16

    I got bored of the Lego Film tie-ins tbh, They all started to feel to simular.
    This looks like its going to have the typicle Humour of the Lego games but bring a whole load of fresh ideas.
    I would of passed on this had I not got a WiiU, Fortunatly I do, and Will be getting this.

  4. Scraggy man Monday 18th Feb 2013 at 02:26

    I would like this game to do well both in reviews and Financially so Lego may make more of their own games with their own narratives in stead of movie tie in's.

  5. LairOfRockwhales Monday 18th Feb 2013 at 04:19

    There seems to be quite a lot of ridiculous bashing of pre-TT games in this article, and I will strongly dissagree. I don't see how it took a long time to get it right. I mean, their very first attempt, LEGO Island, sold at least a million copies and continued to have sales of some sort for nearly a decade. I wouldn't say that it "came and went" or call it an attempt. True, the three titles that followed it in 1998 were a bit weaker, but they have their share of fans and fun elements. And really, quite a lot of the (MANY) pre-TT games have somewhat large fan followings (again, LEGO Island's million sales) - if you don't believe me, just look at the cult following for Rock Raiders.
    So with that in mind... how is LEGO Racers the first "proper" video game? As you said, several LEGO titles were released on PC... shouldn't you have said it was the sixth title (or seventh, depending on the release of Friends)? How did you get that it was the first? And, why mention that it was released on N64? Its primary release was PC, with the PS1 version being a port of that. The N64 was a heavily compressed version and somewhat inferior to the other two releases. What's so special about it?
    LEGO Racers was not followed by BIONICLE games. BIONICLE didn't come out until 2001, and Racers was in 1999. There were quite a number of LEGO games between it and BIONICLE, including a lot of ports on the GBC if we're discussing Nintendo consoles, so you're really ignoring the complete existence of a lot of titles. And what's all that bad about the BIONICLE titles?
    On an unrelated note, LCU was not first announced in June 2011. It was first mentioned in The Brick 2009, an annual LEGO magazine. So there's something.

  6. Gorsewaygirl Monday 18th Feb 2013 at 10:06

    I don't like the bashing of previous TT games in this article either. I have bought every Lego game TT have ever made. They are consistently high quality, they are fun, the take a long time to fully complete. And they sell well. The formula has been updated as time goes on so each is a little bit fresher than the last - I think they're great. I am looking forward to Lego City though - and the reason it's going to be great is because of the experience that TT have gained producing the games that have gone before.

    I think when you review a game you should be objective, you shouldn't make it personal and mark a game down because YOU don't like it :0P

  7. Argenthor Monday 18th Feb 2013 at 18:30

    I think when you review a game you should be objective, you shouldn't make it personal and mark a game down because YOU don't like it :0P

    Mostly I agreed with you (although the games have become stale and yearly by now) but I would say that a review IS a personal opinion. While personal preference can colour someone's perspective (and yes it does happen with Nintendo games sometimes), a reviewer isn't wrong if they don't like a game. That's just silly.

  8. Mr Roboto Monday 18th Feb 2013 at 19:47

    I can't wait til March this is exactly what the Wii U needs right now!

  9. Alcom1 Monday 18th Feb 2013 at 22:46

    There seems to be quite a lot of ridiculous bashing of pre-TT games in this article, and I will strongly dissagree.

    I don't like the bashing of previous TT games in this article either.

    Lair was referring to pre-TT games, as in before TT games, as in not previous games developed under TT, but games developed before LEGO teamed up with TT. I've known Lair to not appreciate games past the TT era.

    I don't like TT games. Give them points in quality all you want, the constant reuse of the same engine has bored me. I've bought four, completed the first two with enjoyment, but the overwhelming consistency drove me to boredom, and I 10-20%ed the last two.

    LEGO Cities: Undercover is something new and brilliant looking, and I am going to actually buy a Wii U because of it. It is not based off a licensed theme, which means a lot to me.

  10. LairOfRockwhales Tuesday 19th Feb 2013 at 00:45

    I don't like the bashing of previous TT games in this article either.

    Say what? They're praising the TT games. It's the LEGO games made before TT sapped all the creativity (1997-2005) that they're bashing, and I feel that it's wrong.

  11. LairOfRockwhales Saturday 23rd Feb 2013 at 00:14

    So I guess the author never read my correction. Oh well.

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