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The Chase Begins - like stepping on a Lego
May 10, 2013
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
For decades now, Lego bricks have provided kids and adults alike with an outlet for a seemingly endless supply of creative possibilities; if you can imagine it, you can make it with Lego. The same can't be said for developer TT Games' new 3DS title, Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins. In this Lego world, even a ceaseless amount of bricks isn't enough to make the game fun.
The Chase Begins is a prequel to the Wii U version of Lego City Undercover. It follows protagonist Chase McCain as he begins working for the Lego City police department.
As the campaign progresses, Chase will go from completing mundane tasks such as fetching donuts for his fellow officers, to jumping headfirst into more heroic fare such as saving innocent civilians who are stuck in a burning building. He'll also don a space suit, ride pigs, and take part in a mech-on-mech battle.
Don't let that summary fool you though - in between some relatively cool set pieces, Lego City Undercover is a decidedly barren world in which to take on criminals. Don't let anyone describe this game as "Grand Theft Auto for kids," because that's just a setup for disappointment, even for those who have never played a GTA game.
The story takes Chase throughout several sections of Lego City as he takes on different baddies, including his future arch-nemesis, Rex Fury. Each chapter sees Chase earn a new disguise, which in turn gives him a new ability. The farmer, for instance, allows Chase to grow seeds into vines, which he can then climb up to new areas. The miner, meanwhile, lets Chase blow stuff up and pickaxe his way through certain obstacles.
It makes for the illusion of character progression, but frustratingly, the majority of these special abilities can only be activated at predetermined spots throughout Lego City. Having a spacesuit that lets you fly for short distances, for instance, sounds like a ton of fun, until you realize you can only fly to certain points by stepping on special icons.
That's but one of several examples. These disguises, which are conveniently accessible via the 3DS' touch screen or D-pad, fit in well with the story missions, but once those are all done - which should take a matter of a few hours at most - they feel almost pointless.
There is extra stuff to do throughout Lego City's different sections when you don't want to focus on the campaign, and TT Games smartly lets players continue their search for hidden goodies once the story is completed, but it's all quite boring, really.
There are cats to be rescued, ATMs to be looted, and special Lego bricks to be discovered, but the game doesn't offer much incentive to find them, unless you're a hardcore completionist. Chase has special binoculars that allow him to search for hidden objects and highlight them on the map - a great addition - but it's ruined by the fact he can only highlight a single object at one time.
There are several alternate costumes available as well, but for those that need to be bought, you'll be spending hours collecting enough Lego pieces to earn them.
The residents of Lego City, meanwhile, will only react to you when you're trying to chase them down in a stolen car, and those scenarios always end in them miraculously leaping out of the way before being hit. And who are we kidding - where's the fun in that?
TT Games does a valiant job of trying to mix up the gameplay as you complete objectives during the missions, but they can only do so much. For every lock-picking scenario, high-speed vehicle chase, and parkour-esque running section, there are about 10 mindless combat sequences that pose almost no challenge, including, I'm certain, for the kids that this game is surely aimed at.
And that's the other problem with The Chase Begins - the difficulty, or lack thereof. Toning down the challenge of a kid's game is understandable, but The Chase Begins takes things to nth degree. Paths are highlighted by Lego bricks that appear out of nowhere, enemies' attacks are as slow as an inanimate Lego character trying to walk through molasses, and deaths only result in the player respawning instantaneously in the same spot, with a few less Lego bricks.
Something that's sure to frustrate just about any player, regardless of age, is the load times present in The Chase Begins. By the end of the game, I was actively avoiding moving from one section of the city to another simply because the load times are so horrendous, and run up to almost a minute at certain points.
The game does have its bright spots - the script can be legitimately funny at times, and as mentioned earlier, some set pieces, such as the one that has you climbing up a massive docked space shuttle, are truly a sight to behold - but it's not enough to save the game.
The Chase Begins is technically an open-world title, and it's a barren genre on the 3DS, but the amount of stuff you can do beyond the main campaign is embarrassingly limited. The effort is there, but this game begins falling apart brick by brick almost from the get-go.
Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins
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