Archives by Day

April 2024

LEGO 2K Drive

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Racing
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Visual Concepts
Release Date: May 19, 2023


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

Xbox Series X Review - 'LEGO 2K Drive'

by Cody Medellin on May 15, 2023 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

LEGO 2K Drive evolves the iconic LEGO play experience with a vast, open world where players can build any vehicle, drive anywhere and become a LEGO racing legend.

Buy LEGO 2K Drive

In 1999, the LEGO series of toys started its video game foray into racing games. Critical reception to LEGO Racers on the PC, Nintendo 64, and Sony PlayStation was mixed, but it did well enough that a few sequels were made before the venture was shelved in 2004. However, LEGO returned to the racing scene as part of DLC for Forza Horizon 4, and the reactions from critics and players was very positive thanks to the base game's fast, open-world racing mixing well with the whimsy and destruction afforded from the plastic LEGO bricks. The formula worked so well that LEGO licensed out the idea for a racing game in a similar vein, resulting in LEGO 2K Drive.

Despite being a racing game, LEGO 2K Drive has an actual story. You're a rookie racer in Bricklandia, a place that's obsessed with racing. While there are many championships to win, the ultimate prize is the Sky Cup Trophy, which is held in a race track in the sky. While many are willing to compete in fair races, the infamous Shadow Z breaks every rule to get that cup for himself. Under the tutelage of ex-racing pro Clutch Racington, you'll go on a journey from the bottom to the top to get that cup before Shadow Z does.

The story plays out similarly to past LEGO racing games but with a heavy injection of modern LEGO humor. That means loads of puns and silly characters abound. Your rivals can include from chefs, donut moguls, horses, and skeletons, all with races tailored to a specific theme. Race against the donut shop owner, and you'll see her car represented as a giant donut while everyone else races in large coffee cups. The news crew that appears before each race goes for some silly jokes, and Shadow Z comes off as a whiny villain who isn't overly menacing. In short, it's the kind of humor that will be fine for the kids and elicit a few chuckles from everyone else.

The Story mode is the main focus, and there are plenty of gameplay elements to parse through. The main racing will be compared to the likes of Mario Kart due to its similarities. The car handling is tight and responsive but familiar enough that fans of Nintendo's kart racing game can easily jump in. The weapons are similar enough, with heat-seeking rockets, spider webs, ghostly transformers and the like. Drifting can be more easily done by holding down the left trigger. Speed makers give the player a boost, but there's a turbo meter that replenishes over time, so players have access to a speed boost at almost any time. You can use that turbo boost in conjunction with a jump to cover wide distances or get big air over any leaps.

That familiarity comes with two gimmicks that aren't often used in kart racing games. The first is transformation. Taking a page from Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed, races aren't always restricted to a paved track, as you'll go off-road at times and in the water while your car transforms into the vehicle appropriate for the job. Unless you turn on the option to make transformation a manual action, the process is automatic, and the handling changes appropriately while maintaining an arcade feel that lets you drift with ease and stop on a dime. The second gimmick is vehicle deformation. Keep getting hit with weapons, and your vehicle slowly breaks apart. It doesn't change your top speed or make you faster since you've unintentionally shed the weight, but seeing your vehicle break apart gets you closer to total destruction. That doesn't immediately disqualify you from the race, but the time and placement penalty is severe. Luckily, LEGO 2K Drive takes some inspiration from its toy line; the destruction of the environment around you is beneficial, since it means you can repair your vehicle on the fly.

The blending of these elements creates a racing game that feels playfully chaotic. There are a ton of things that can happen at any time, but it makes things exciting since you almost always come out of that mess with good track placement. There's some heavy use of catch-up code in every race. The code is still tuned in a way that your wins won't come from you lapping the competition but squeezing out a photo finish on the final lap. There are a few moments when you'll come in second at the last minute, and that can be frustrating since first-place finishes are needed to advance the story, but most of the races end up in your favor. Kart racing vets may scoff at this, but for the intended younger audience, it keeps things lively.

As alluded to in the first trailer, LEGO 2K Drive is more than just a collection of point-to-point and circuit races. Between these events are large open worlds to explore that are in their own themed biomes. That means having to endure some loading screens as you go from racing headquarters to the southwest-themed area to the spooky lands, but the loads aren't terribly bad, and each land is quite spacious. Much like the Forza Horizon series, each of the open worlds is populated with a ton of events. Some are simple sprints. Others are missions to retrieve people or animals. There's a wide variety of events that come in timed and untimed varieties, and most of them grant XP and Brickbux, but some can grant new vehicles.

Just like the later entries in Microsoft's open-world racer, the joy from the world comes from being able to go just about anywhere. The roads are meant as guidelines, but you can create shortcuts by trying to jump over buildings and mountains. Transformation is enabled, so exploring the various lakes and rivers is fair game, and the spots can often hide secret collectibles. Except for buildings and natural landscapes, everything remains destructible, so you can unleash your inner kid and barrel through walls and other cars and watch them explode into little LEGO pieces. Minifigs often bounce in the air but otherwise go unharmed unless they're part of an objective. The execution lives up to the idea of a LEGO-themed vehicular playground, where almost anything goes and the game is better for it.

Since this is a LEGO game that isn't tied down by a license, there's an opportunity for customization on a level that only the LEGO brand can bring. To get the bad news out of the way, minifigs cannot be customized. You have a few presets available for your racer, and you can acquire more from the store, but there are only a few you'll ever get from certain in-game events, and every look is locked in.

Vehicle customization is very robust. You can modify any aspect of acquired vehicles, such as adding or removing parts, changing colors, and slapping on stickers. You can go through an interactive set of instructions to see how each vehicle is built; this is infinitely helpful if you want to re-create the vehicles with actual LEGO bricks. The option that most people will gravitate toward is building a vehicle from scratch. Once you choose the chassis that acts as your base, you can go wild creating the car, as long as the pieces connect. You are limited by the number of bricks that can be placed on each vehicle, but it's fair game otherwise. It takes some time to get used to the building process, but it works fine with a controller if you put the effort into it. You can assign different perk sets to the vehicles to make them better than stock, although they're not necessarily better than some of the vehicles from the Story mode. You can take customized vehicles online for any race — after they've been looked over and approved by 2K Games. It seems unfair that you can't show off your creations or modifications immediately, but considering what an online community can create, it feels like a decent compromise to ensure that hate symbols and genitals don't run amok on the track.

Vehicle customization may seem like a purely cosmetic thing, but there are some tangible effects on the vehicle. The number of bricks you place on it affects the weight, which means that it takes more hits to blow up, but it can be sluggish during turns. There's actual collision on the pieces, so making it tall means scraping across potential ceilings, and making it too wide means that you'll scrape walls or be a wider target for enemy weapons. It doesn't mean that you'll go faster or jump higher by having a ton of propellers, but it means that there needs to be some thought about its overall structure.

While the open worlds and actual racing are top-notch, there are some parts that don't hit as well. After winning any of the major cups, you'll be asked to level up by partaking in quests or side missions scattered throughout the towns. You can replay some of the races if you're at a higher class to get some rewards, but the XP rewards associated with side-quests and events feel small, and it doesn't take too long before you'll feel the need to replay the events to get a higher score to level up so you can return to more substantial events. That sort of grind is exasperated by the nature of some of these events, which don't work well with moving vehicles. Trying to run into small objects just to pick them up or deal with unwieldy rockets to somehow make it to a sky-high object can feel like a chore, and the fact that some of these are incorporated into the main questline helps create some real lulls in an otherwise well-paced campaign.

LEGO 2K Drive features multiplayer, and it has some pretty lengthy options. Local multiplayer is available for the regular and grand prix races, and even though the races feel reminiscent of go-karts, the two-player split-screen game is a touch disappointing. The ability to play some of the various minigames, like rescuing minifigs from skeletons or protecting towers from robots in two-player co-op, somewhat makes up for the lack of a local four-player mode, but the real selling point for most will be the fact that Story mode can be played with two players from beginning to end. Everything from the racers to the open world can be explored with a friend, which makes it even more enjoyable.

Online multiplayer can either be done with friends or with strangers worldwide, and while technical issues prevented us from trying out the former, we could do the latter in grand prix and regular races, restricting story and minigames to local play only. As expected from almost any title nowadays, the online performance is great, and the ability to experience cross-play against almost every other platform does a good job of ensuring a wide player base upon launch. Even if the player pool seems thin, the game fills in all of the racer slots with bots and swapping them out with real players who connect later. Sadly, the Nintendo Switch is left out of this player pool, and while local network play between two Switch consoles is fine, it means they're locked out of eight-player mayhem with those on the PC, PlayStation and Xbox consoles.

If there is one major qualm we have with the game, it would be with the presence of microtransactions. The fact that LEGO 2K Drive has four season passes doled out for the upcoming year is already bad enough, but it could be argued that it isn't too bad since the passes never expire and can be completed at your own pace. The game also has its own store, which offers cosmetics in the form of new minifigs and brick pieces. The most enticing things to buy are the vehicles, which are much more than cosmetic since they all have stat differences. They all have a cost associated with Brickbux, the in-game currency that's earned by playing and completing events. However, the amount of Brickbux that you earn isn't much, and unless you're dedicated to finishing all of the side-quests, you won't have enough to earn one minifig by the time you finish the first major grand prix in Story mode, let alone any of the vehicles.

This is further exacerbated by online play, where the Brickbux payout is paltry and emphasizes the grind necessary to get anything decent. The temptation is there to buy Coins with real money to convert into Brickbux, but we don't know how much the packs cost at the time of this writing. We levied this criticism at previous premium sports titles that have tried this sort of thing, but this feels worse considering that LEGO 2K Drive caters to a mostly younger audience.

Considering that the game was developed as a cross-generation title and it aims for the same audience as previous LEGO titles, the presentation is quite nice. The environments are lush with natural elements and LEGO bricks, and all of the towns and cities are flush with loads of minifigs walking around at a somewhat stilted frame rate that is reminiscent of the animation style of "The LEGO Movie," so it doesn't look awkward. Particle effects are present, as are reflections that appear in the shiny bricks and on some of the minifigs. The frame rate holds steady, even if the screen is flooded with big cars and all of the weapons go off in front of a crowd of onlookers. If you are on the Xbox One X instead of a Series X, the only downgrades you'll get aside from resolution are a lock to 30fps, along with the removal of some objects on the tracks and open environment. You'd really have to look to see those differences at a quick glance.

As far as the audio goes, the voice work and sound effects are great, while the music moves toward more thematic original compositions versus licensed tracks, which are often expected from racing titles. It works well, but you'll need to boost the volume in the options because the default setting makes it all play at a lower-than-expected level.

LEGO 2K Drive is a fun romp if you know what you're getting into. The racing is fast and exciting, and the catch-up code seems tuned just right. The open worlds provide a ton to do, and the freeform exploration and destruction makes driving around feel enjoyable. The amount of grind needed to make some real progression can drag down things in the intervals, when there are no story-based missions. Some of the quests that aren't strictly related to racing can be very hit-and-miss in terms of enjoyment. The presence of microtransactions is unsettling to see in the publisher's non-sports titles. If you can ensure you aren't tempted to buy new cars due to the paltry reward payouts, you'll have a very good time with this racing title.

Score: 7.5/10

More articles about LEGO 2K Drive
blog comments powered by Disqus