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Lego City Undercover is the first major evolution in the Lego Adaptation Game series in a long time. The basic play mechanics have not changed in a decade, so if the last Lego game you played was the original Lego Star Wars, you know the basics of playing the levels.
What's changed majorly, though, is what happens around the levels. LCU takes major inspiration from the Grand Theft Auto series. The vast majority of the game does not take place in levels, but instead in an open-world city that can be explored freely at will, at least after completing the first handful of missions.
It's essentially Lego Grand Theft Auto in the city. You can steal - I'm sorry, I mean, "borrow" - any vehicle at any time, even blowing your whistle to make drivers slow down for you. You can ram into vehicles and break Lego pieces off them. You can run over people, who don't die but instead just get up and walk away, being that they're only toys after all. Gradually, you earn the right to drive boats and fly helicopters, giving you even more freedom to go anywhere and see the whole city from new angles - again, just like in GTA.
Where it differs from GTA in the open-world city is the sheer amount of platforming to be done. Tons and tons of hidden items are all over the place, requiring some clever climbing, jumping, searching, and looking around. The world may be smaller than in GTA, but it's very dense. Everywhere you look, there's hidden alcoves and secret items galore, so leaving your vehicle and exploring on foot is highly recommended. There are also "super builds", where you can earn the right to have extra buildings and other things added to the world if you collect enough block pieces.
Even the game's actual levels are very original. Some have no enemy combat whatsoever, such as a level that takes place entirely in firefighter training, and ends with you celebrating the fire chief's birthday party. And speaking of the combat, for that matter, it's actually less "violent" than other Lego games - enemies don't break into pieces because you're not cutting them with lightsabers or other toy weapons, but instead you merely knock them down and arrest them.
Basically, it's a G-rated GTA with platforming, and I find it quite refreshing.
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