LEGO City Undercover is one of the best LEGO games of all time. We don't think it's far-fetched to say that it's the best original LEGO game, as it follows an original plot and storyline, as opposed to being based on popular franchises.
With that said, upon the game's release back in 2011, fans couldn't help but label it as a more family-friendly Grand Theft Auto game. Its open-world and charm were all reminiscent of the controversial video game series. However, unlike the GTA games, LEGO City Undercover was a less "naughty" and more "fun" take on the open-world franchise's established formula.
As it turns out, the developers, TT Fusion, put a lot of effort into making sure that the game wasn't another GTA clone.
"We were looking at the fun and funny element of what we could do."
According to a recent Bits N' Bricks podcast episode with Matt Palmer, who served as the lead animator on LEGO City Undercover, the development team didn't want the LEGO title to become a Grand Theft Auto game. He refers to this as a "really, really interesting phase" as the team had to find creative ways to accomplish certain things in the game without making similarities obvious.
Instead of outright letting players shoot enemies, which was "far too violent for what the LEGO Group would like their IP related to," the studio resorted to other alternatives. This eventually led to the creation of the grapple gun, which players could use in-game to tie enemies up.
In the same podcast, LEGO Group producer Darryl Kelley also shared how TT Fusion came up with interesting additional unlockable content wherein the citizens of LEGO City Undercover would become zombies.
Obviously, this never made it into the game. Kelley explains that while it was "hysterical and amazing to see", there were some legitimate concerns. For one, Kelley added that they were worried if it was going to scare children or going too far. However, he did praise TT Fusion for coming up with additional content that he described as "never short of fun".
As of December 31, 2019, the original Wii U version of LEGO City Undercover had sold 1.15 million copies worldwide. This is good enough for the 18th spot in the 20 best-selling titles ever on the Wii U. The game later got a prequel, Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins, for the Nintendo 3DS in 2013 and was eventually ported over to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and the Nintendo Switch in 2017, it received co-op gameplay and benefitted from faster loading times.