LEGO 2K Drive Review

May 29, 2023


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Xbox One
Xbox Series

The only time LEGO and “step on it” make sense in the same sentence.

LEGO 2K Drive is the most fun I’ve had with a racing game in years; something I have to caveat with the fact that I don’t play many racing games.

I had a big daft grin on my face within seconds of starting this game; something I suspect will be the same for everyone else who sees a sports car transform into a quad bike as it careens off the road, and then into a speedboat upon hitting open water. All of this happens quicker than you can click LEGO bricks together and is LEGO 2K Drive’s biggest gimmick. Thankfully, this remains just as satisfying after spending hours with this charming, brightly coloured, arcade racer; even if the game as a whole only just makes the podium.

Wearing its inspirations like winner medals, LEGO 2K Drive proudly pilfers some of the best bits of The Crew 2, Burnout Paradise and Mario Kart before combining them with thousands of, beautifully rendered, digital LEGO bricks and presenting players with a chaotic and casual racing game in its own image. In fact, very little of what LEGO 2K Drive does feels wholly original. However, that doesn’t mean racing through Bricklandia and leaving a trail of plastic destruction in my wake wasn’t a lot of fun. 

I spent the majority of my time with LEGO 2K Drive hurtling at brick-neck speed (sorry!) through the game’s Story Mode. Bricklandia consists of four, open-world, maps each with their own unique aesthetic. Tutorial map Turo Acres is the smallest of the four, with the deserts of Big Butte, the gold-filled hills of Prospecto County, and the spooky suburbs of Hauntsborough unlocking as I played. Visually distinct thanks to their hyper-specific theming; their toyetic plasticity stands out amidst (mostly) realistically scaled landscapes as if they were placed there by a big kid.

Each biome and its associated tracks look the part, standing out even when blasting through at warp speed. There’s the odd instance of pop-in and the occasional annoying frame drop, but nothing that completely took me away from the experience. Each map is packed with quests, challenges, collectibles and, of course, races. Completing any of these results in a reward of some in-game currency to spend on unlocks, XP to increase your rank and driving class (ranging from C to A), and maybe even a vehicle or some parts for a custom car of your own. Pretty standard racing game fare with a LEGO twist.

We built this city on bricks and erm… more bricks?

Like any good arcade racer, speed is at the core of almost everything in LEGO 2K Drive: Anything in your way is largely there to be turned into bricks, and the brake pedal is for sliding into well-timed drift above all else. Driving is incredibly solid. Best pitched as somewhere between a kart racer and an arcade street racer, the focus is on fun and chaos at all costs. Tracks are littered with power-ups and obstacles, with explosions of bricks and bright colours as a result.

Unfortunately, LEGO 2K Drive’s accessible nature does mean that the bar for a proper challenge is fairly low when playing solo. However, I still enjoyed competing against the AI; the rubber-banding is such that each race feels defined by fine margins. I never felt massively overpowered when I won, or cheated when I lost, and every race was a ton of fun. However, there’s no doubt that LEGO 2K Drive is lacking when it comes to both the assortment of races and a sense of proper progression, which is a real shame.

There’s actually quite a lot to do in the game’s Story Mode. It just depends if you have the inclination to do it. Challenges are littered around the map and range from traditional driving challenges to off the wall mini-games. Naturally, some are better than others and if you’re the competitive type then you may get more out of them by going for gold instead of settling for silver (or bronze) as I often did. Quests also play a sizable part in the story, but they often boil down to fetching something for the weird and wonderful townsfolk, smashing into robots, or some other repetitive roadblock. 

What’s worse is a handful of these quests are mandatory, stunting your progress and not letting you compete in races before they’re complete. Tedious at best, they absolutely tank the pacing of a game that is best played at one hundred miles per hour. Having to repeat two late-game, unavoidable, side quests as I was inches away from competing in the game’s final race (and defeating the incompetently evil Shadow Z in the Sky Cup) was a huge disappointment. Defeat literally snatched from the jaws of victory. 

Racing across the game's 24 tracks is a joy but LEGO 2K Drive somehow still left me wanting more. Each track can be raced in three different classes, but outside a handful of repeats to rank up, there's very little incentive to run each one back. The tracks themselves may be visually interesting but there's very little deviation from the formula. Most races are straightforward lap-based competitions, but there are a few point-to-point runs included which offer some alternative. I suppose I just wanted more variety or more reasons to repeat races.

At least you can’t lose a piece doing it like this

Completing the game’s story is worthwhile and is probably core to enjoying the rest of what LEGO 2K Drive has to offer. Thankfully it's charming, silly and totally on brand. The voice acting is good, the jokes land more often than not and the cutscenes are reminiscent of 'The LEGO Movie'. I even enjoyed the quirky cast of rivals and their perfectly paired vehicles.

Speaking of vehicles, in Story Mode new rides and new LEGO parts for custom builds are awarded for every completed task. Competing against friends in exhibition races and cups are where the legs of this game will ultimately be in the long-term, and that will certainly feel a lot blander if you’ve not unlocked everything first. Outside of what is unlocked by beating rivals, there are a number of additional vehicles, parts and assorted cosmetics available from the in-game garage. These can be purchased with in-game currency (or via microtransactions) but, as anyone who has played any recent 2K Sports game can attest, the grind rarely feels worth it. 

Much like the array of races, there’s not a ton of vehicles to choose from at launch. Yes they can be augmented with various perks, but there’s still not always a huge difference between them outside of aesthetics. This leads to contests feeling well-balanced, but also a bit safe. The pre-built models available to drive all come with their own pros, cons (some are quicker, others heavier, some take less damage, and so on)  and incredible styling — who wouldn’t want to drive a racing car with a front-end shaped like a taco?! There are also brick-built versions of the McLaren F1 LM and the McLaren Solus GT included at launch and it wouldn’t be surprising to see more licensed Speed Champions vehicles arriving in the promised future DLC packs, especially with other LEGO City and LEGO Creator vehicles already in the game. Of course, this being a LEGO title, there’s always the option to create your own vehicle too.

Having already been impressed with the ability for LEGO games to replicate real-life builds in LEGO Bricktales last year, LEGO 2K Drive’s creation suite takes it to the next level by allowing you to build the supercar, off-roader, or speedboat of your dreams and/or nightmares if you’re willing to spend enough time with it. Having the option to literally build a LEGO car in-game brick by brick is the kind of thing I’d have wished for as a kid. It's a little overwhelming to begin with and I haven’t spent a lot of time with it, but it's intuitive to use and the possibilities seem almost endless. 

Created vehicles can, of course, be used online. However, I was surprised to see that there was no option to share creations at launch. Visual Concepts has confirmed this is coming at a later date.

Multiplayer is the only time smashing your friends’ LEGO sets is acceptable

For now, you can see your friends’ and others’ creations when racing online. The Cup and single race modes are shared with the offline exhibition modes and, with the challenge of new opponents and a natural increase in competitiveness, multiplayer is where the real long-term fun of LEGO 2K Drive will be found. However, it’ll still need the same variety injected into it that the single-player is crying out for.

LEGO 2K Drive is a tremendously fun game to race through, but its focus shifts away from outrageous arcade racing all too often, leaving what is here to become repetitive very quickly. Ultimately, it lacks the required depth and range of content to keep me coming back in the way that I really wanted to. It’s worth noting that Visual Concepts has already confirmed a full year of additional content is in the pipeline, and the developer is treating LEGO 2K Drive as a ‘live service’ game. Whilst it’s good to know that long-term support is planned, there’s no information on what that may be at the time of writing. With the right group of friends or a solid online community, the game could have real legs as a great pick up and play racer. Still, it’ll likely need that promised influx of content to keep that going.

Much like a great LEGO set, Visual Concepts has used their imagination and inspiration from elsewhere to create something that is more than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately, LEGO 2K Drive is missing a few too many pieces to build the next breakout arcade racer.

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A shift in focus and a lack of content stop this racer from coming in first place, but as a fun and chaotic arcade racer, LEGO 2K Drive does a lot of things really well.
Ant Barlow

Started with the PlayStation, now I'm here... with a PlayStation. Once skipped school to play the Metal Gear Solid demo repeatedly. I love stories big and small. Trophy hunter. Recent VR convert. Probably a hipster.