Developer: Visual Concepts
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X (Reviewed)
Release Date: May 19, 2023
Price: $69.99 USD – Available Here $99.95 AUD – Available Here
When it comes to LEGOs the possibilities are as endless as someone’s imagination with all kinds of creations being available and when you combine LEGOs with video games the options are skyhigh. Throughout the years we have seen licensed LEGO games of various popular properties and even a few LEGO original games that tried to make their own mark but one element that has been missing were LEGO racing games. This genre, gone untouched since the early 2000s, was touched upon with the incredibly popular DLC for Forza Horizon 4 that turned the world to the colorful bright land of LEGOs. On the heels of such a success LEGO and 2K have turned to Visual Concepts to create a racing game of their very own and with LEGO 2K Drive they have managed to do so. Is this a successful return of a classic racer in a new open world format or was this idea best left in the toy bin?
Though players can choose to simply take part in standard races, grand prix, or even play some mini-games, the biggest draw for LEGO 2K Drive and the setting for its open world exploration is Story Mode. Players take on the role of a rookie racer arriving in Bricklandia just as a massive series of championship races are set to occur with the ultimate prize being the Sky Cup Trophy. With the race literally taking place in the sky it is the type of thing a young LEGO driver dreams of but the troublesome Shadow Z is ready to break any rule to make the cup their own, but with the help of an ex professional and plenty of LEGO vehicles, it is up to the player to make their racing dreams come true.
Since LEGO 2K Drive doesn’t have any licenses to work with, the story itself is incredibly simple and straightforward but it is also allowed to experiment and throw things in some unexpected directions. This includes the way players will find themselves going from racing an astronaut only to help her defend her research from alien robots the next by using their car as a wrecking ball. Players will find themselves meeting a wide-range of colorful “Rivals” that are filled with puns and fourth wall breaking humor as well as various themed races where everyone’s vehicle matches except the players. This type of humor is mostly silly and will be great for children while those older players may smile a few times at best. The game does play to its strengths rather well when it comes to this childish type of humor, especially since the three main locations of “Big Butte County,” spookily themed Hauntsborough, and gold prospecting Prospecto Valley keep things feeling fresh as players jump from location to location and take part in the many random quests involving pun filled people in each area.
As mentioned earlier players will find themselves with a number of options when starting LEGO 2K Drive with the story mode being the biggest draw. Outside of this mode players can opt to race in any race right away, take part in a series of grand prix races, or even partake in various mini-games that they would otherwise play throughout the story mode. These other modes can be played online with others and even the story mode itself can be played with another friend should players choose, giving plenty of options for kids to have their friends join them in exploring or simply causing havoc in races.
The core element of LEGO 2K Drive is its racing system and it must be said that the developers have managed to create a very tight and responsive package here with races feeling more similar to arcade/kart style races than standard races. Players have everything from turbo boosts that refill faster when they crash through objects in the environment that also heals any damage they’ve received, a jump button to jump over other racers/incoming attacks/accessing shortcuts, and of course the weapon pickups themselves. Pickups come in a variety of forms with spider webs blocking a player’s screen, ghosts making players temporarily invincible, heat-seeking rockets, and even a warp drive to place them near the front of the pack if the player’s fallen too far behind.
What makes racing in LEGO 2K Drive really feel unique is the way that drifting and handbrake turns are split into two separate options. Players can often choose to drift around a curve or make a quick handbrake turn and turbo boost to turn a tight turn into an easy passing opportunity. Another unique element is the transformation mechanic that sees players immediately swapping between vehicles depending on where they are racing at the time, with each loadout featuring a main vehicle for roads, an off-road vehicle for everything not a road, and a boat or boat-like vehicle for the water allowing for races to quickly change things up on the fly. These transformations are incredibly fluid and, depending on the player’s loadout of chosen vehicles, can often play a role in where they can best overtake the competition.
Every vehicle in LEGO 2K Drive has various attributes to it such as top speed, acceleration, handling, and health as well as an overall weight system with heavier vehicles being a bit sturdier and capable of pushing around the competition but lighter vehicles often being able to outmaneuver others. As players race through the story they will unlock a wide range of vehicles that they can use as they feel like but with LEGO the player’s imagination is mostly the limit as the game offers an incredibly in-depth garage system that allows players a massive amount of options allowing players to mostly build what they wish.
This means that players can simply choose to modify a currently existing car and change a few elements to better fit their preference of color or swapping out a piece here or there to straight up building a car from scratch. There are even a large number of tutorials and options to walk players through how some vehicles are built. That being said, while players may be able to make nearly anything they feel like with the garage mechanic and customize the vehicles that they do obtain throughout the story there are limitations to size and how many blocks players can use on any one vehicle and a number of stickers and various other pieces for decoration are locked away behind either leveling up or monetization which we will touch on in a bit.
For as fantastic as racing can feel and as much customization the garage can offer, LEGO 2K Drive isn’t without a number of faults and one of these revolve around the way many races appear to be handled throughout most of the story. Often at times players will find themselves competing in races that will see the leaders tear away from the rest of the pack only to slow down near the end of the race and find themselves coming in second or even third as the player suddenly is capable of blasting past them for the win. This level of rubber banding is a bit strange especially when weapons are involved as players can find themselves targeting the lead driver only for them to be shielded early in the race and suddenly destructible on the final lap. Another element that can be a bit on the annoying side, especially for those looking for racing, are the many times the game forces players to go level up through side activities before continuing the story. While this is a minor gripe since many of these activities, be it small games such as hitting balls into a hole, taking on quests to deliver objects within a time limit, driving through an area without falling off a railing, etc. are pretty enjoyable it does take away from the experience, especially in later missions where the grind can take an annoyingly long time.
Perhaps one of the largest issues that sticks out the most thanks to LEGO 2K Drive‘s focus on being child friendly are the microtransactions. As players play through the game they will earn Brickbux from any activity, be it a quest, race, destroying other racers, and even out in the world itself and these BrickBux are used to purchase items from the in-game shop. The only issue is, a lot of customization options, including the only way to add new player avatars to the roster, are only available through the shop. Players can try to build a spooky looking dragster all they want or they can purchase a flawless one through the store or try to design a serviceable police boat or find an immaculate copy in the shop. While players can earn Brickbux by playing through the game, completing the story and doing a solid amount of side-activity will reward nearly enough for one vehicle purchase at best, meaning players that really want to earn a vehicle this way will be spending a lot of time grinding or opening up their wallet, or their parents’, in LEGO 2K Drive. This doesn’t even touch upon the element of the multiple seasons of free and premium rewards, four of which are already planned throughout the game’s first year of release, though at least these seasons can be completed at any time and are not time limited once obtained.
Visuals & Audio
Considering the wide range of platforms that LEGO 2K Drive is being released on it is quite impressive to see just how amazing the world looks. The development team has combined natural looking elements with LEGO brick designs to great effect including extra large real-world items and the towns and cities that players race through are filled with moving characters. The shine off of LEGO bricks and vehicles as they race through is stylish and watching vehicles break apart and the various objects in the road shatter as players drive through with no signs of slowdown makes each race impressive looking.
The voice work for LEGO games can be rather hit and miss and this time around the company has managed to put together a solid voice cast though it would be nice if subtitles were offered for all cutscenes including the race introductions. The soundtrack features a solid enough collection of basic background music that is usually themed around the area that players are currently racing through though none of the tracks really stand out as exceptional.
LEGO 2K Drive offers a lot of content and makes for a great game that children will adore as an early experience in the racing genre and even hardcore LEGO fans will enjoy thanks to the deep level of customization available through the garage. The racing is fast and exciting even with some questionable rubber-banding in early races and the open world itself is filled with all kinds of quests, activities, and collectables that exploration feels like an often worthy endeavor, if only the grind for some progression wasn’t so troublesome. That being said, with all of the that LEGO 2K Drive has to offer with its bright aesthetic and childish humor, there is a worrisome level of monetization lying beneath this enjoyable fast-paced racing game.
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