LEGO is no stranger to open-world games or to racing games. The time has now come to combine the two ideas. As part of a new partnership, publisher 2K Games and developer Visual Concepts have assembled an open-world driving game called LEGO 2K Drive. It sounds like a solid formula on paper, and it certainly plays out that way, for the most part. It's a relaxing, enjoyable ride across a colorful landscape, and Visual Concepts offers plenty to the LEGO enthusiast, whether they want to drive around or build a fresh ride.
LEGO 2K Drive's story is standard Saturday morning cartoon fare. Players take on the role of a rookie racer who's looking to earn the right to compete in the Sky Cup Grand Prix. To do so, they'll need to complete races from around the world of Bricklandia, defeating various oddball rivals and ultimately racing against the villainous Shadow Z. All of it is presented in the typical humorous fashion that has become the LEGO brand. Dialogue is filled with family-friendly puns and dad jokes, but such is the LEGO style. Was anyone not expecting a newscaster named Parker Carr?
The Story Mode's tutorials are refreshingly detailed, as legend Clutch Racington teaches players the ins and outs of racing. The learning curve is brisk as players quickly learn how to drive through tracks, off-road, and over water. The game's seamless transitions between different terrain are one of its highlights and heavily encourages exploration. There are straightaways, makeshift tracks, obstacle courses, and even giant cliffs where players can try some daredevil jumps.
It's a good thing the game has an appealing open world because players will be exploring for quite a while. Players must level up between taking on rivals and competing in regional cup circuits. The meat and potatoes are a lot of fun. Rival races basically take players around set tracks filled with Mario Kart-style power-ups. It's getting to those points where players might feel like they've hit some gridlock. Side quests are placed throughout Bricklandia, but finding enough of them to progress further in the story can feel slow.
Fortunately, players don't always have to run through the story alone. LEGO 2K Drive's Story Mode offers couch co-op for anyone looking to progress through the main narrative with a friend, which is ideal for anyone with younger kids or significant others who want to stay in and play together. Story Mode sadly can't be played online. However, players can get together with friends and go through the Shared World, which is basically players exploring previously-unlocked portions of Bricklandia and participating in their various activities. Visual Concepts could have simply stuck to standard head-to-head online races (those are an option, by the way), but it's nice to see the team go a little farther with LEGO 2K Drive's open-world premise since that's going to be the title's main appeal.
Tricked out ride
Customization is a major feature in LEGO 2K Drive, and it puts that LEGO license to work. Over the course of the Story Mode, players will unlock vehicles and swap any of them at any time between races. It's also possible to build vehicles from scratch and take them out on the road. This game has plenty to offer those who are visually creative and want to take their own version of The Homer across Bricklandia. Those who don't have the time, patience, or creativity can also utilize the cars they unlocked, take pre-made instructions, have the game assemble a copy, and then go from there. The options are robust.
There are also parts that can be purchased, and this is where things start to get a little ugly. While LEGO 2K Drive is best served as a perfectly competent single-player game with multiplayer options, 2K has opted for live service elements. That means premium season passes and microtransactions. It's possible to earn the game's various currencies through natural progression, but 2K is not shy about trying to needle players into spending money, which feels rather sinister for a game aimed at kids and families.
Brick fast, brick furious
There's a glut of both open-world games and LEGO games on the market, but LEGO 2K Drive offers something compelling by mixing the two ideas together. The Story Mode isn't going to change lives, but it's a solid adventure and good for some fun and laughs. On top of that, Visual Concepts capably presents a formula in which cars can change forms at a moment's notice without performance lag or slowdown. The actual cup circuit races are strong efforts, utilizing standard arcade racing ideas while also implementing an interesting idea that involves building boost by skimming across breakable objects.
LEGO 2K Drive's solid Story Mode is mainly undone by uneven pacing and the inability to play it online with friends. Add in the game's comprehensive vehicle builder, and it all leads to a solid debut for the 2K/LEGO partnership, even if the microtransactions can feel like stepping on a square LEGO brick.
This review is based on a Steam digital code provided by the publisher. LEGO 2K Drive is available now on PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch for $59.99 USD. The game is rated E10+.
LEGO 2K Drive
- Vast, explorable open world
- Novel approach to arcade racing
- Lovable LEGO humor
- Numerous multiplayer options with cross-play
- Detailed vehicle builder
- Story Mode's pacing feels uneven
- Can't play Story Mode with online friends
- Microtransactions feel icky