LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
OverviewPlatform: Wii U
TT Games throws out everything that was good about LEGO City Undercover, then makes it worse on the Wii U.
Sometimes I feel I have to write things because something needs to be said about a game, to pay due diligence to the video game-buying public. To, y’know, do some good old-fashioned games journalism.
Thus, here I am, letting world know about LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, specifically the Wii U version. In this case, platform holder, publisher, developer and games press deserve to be equally called out and chastised.
If you’re unaware of the series, TT Games’ long-running, money-printing juggernaut brings popular licenses to life in LEGO form. Broadly speaking, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes relies on the exact same formula this franchise always has – fight enemies, smash everything possible, construct things, solve rudimentary puzzles, fight a boss, repeat ad nauseam.
If you want more details on the basics, I’ll leave that down to the other reviews out there as I’m focusing on the Wii U aspects here. However, in my experience you might want to take their verdicts with a pinch of salt. Across all different platforms, the majority of online reviews heartily recommend this wonky, uninspired, umpteenth entry in the stagnant series. Eurogamer gave it a review score of 9 out of 10. 9 out of 10!
While that’s a joke in and of itself, a whole separate annoyance is the scarcity of reviews, honest or otherwise, for the Wii U version. Out of the four Wii U-specific reviews I did manage to find online, three gave the game glowing praise, one failed to mention the signature GamePad functionality and none of them mentioned the additional problems unique to the Wii U edition. These reviewers either played solo and didn’t sufficiently try out all the game’s features or were so keen to keep receiving free review copies from the publisher that they ignored the problems and gave it a tip-top review.
On paper, the Wii U version of LEGO MSH sounds like the definitive one. The exclusive Off-TV option and the ability for the second player to have his or her own individual screen via the GamePad are great features – especially when you consider the series still hasn’t adopted two separate screens via online play. Okay, so it would have been a definitive version of a mediocre game but that’s beside the point.
Unfortunately, LEGO MSH Wii U is riddled with the various technical issues evident in all versions of the game, most of which are typical for the series including numerous glitches (some game-breaking), dodgy geometry, erratic audio levels, brain-dead A.I. and a troublesome camera.
Yet on top of all that the Wii U version features a poor frame rate when playing with two people. This manifests on multiple levels; in a standard stage, if both players stay together the frame rate sticks to roughly the acceptable 25-30 frames per second. If you split the screens either on the TV by moving far apart or by dropping one player down onto the GamePad, it noticeably dips below 25 frames. On the more graphically intensive scenes such as the opening Sandman battle, it will drop even further.
It suffers further still whenever you’re out in the game’s city-based hub. This is where it becomes so sluggish that it becomes uncomfortable to play. While there’s obviously a lot more being rendered here than the enclosed, highly-scripted standard stages it’s still a big disappointment as this free-roaming area looked to be one of the most interesting aspects of the game.
But that’s not even the worst of the frame rate woes. At certain points you’ll be given a cinematic camera pan of the city, usually after finishing a mission or triggering an event. The frame rate here becomes embarrassingly awful, stuttering along so much that it sometimes borders on slide show territory.
While the Wii U’s graphical prowess is still kind of nebulous, when the system can run highly-detailed titles like Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag it’s a joke to see the simple graphics of these LEGO games rendering so poorly. Even the developer’s own LEGO City Undercover, which launched earlier this year exclusively on the Wii U, did not have this problem and was decidedly less buggy.
Had this been another series with less emphasis on co-op or had it provided the option to play online with a consistent frame rate this might have been forgiveable. But given that co-operative play has been a key part of this series since its inception (alleviating some of the tedium through experiencing it with a partner) it can’t be understated how big a problem it is.
A game update was issued on Monday 18th of November (almost a month after the initial North American release), making me hopeful that I wouldn’t need to write this review. However, having played another hour post-patch I honestly can’t see any noticeable frame rate improvement. Hopefully, it at least fixed some of the more critical bugs.
To sum up, this version feels like a sloppy port of a game that felt unpolished and rushed to begin with. Regardless of which edition you pick up, this is essentially the same stale formula the series has been using since its 2005 debut. Let’s hope that TT Games goes down the progressive path of LEGO City Undercover in the future, though given how much money these licensed LEGO crossovers generate, I’m not holding my breath.