Racing game fans have been fed well over the past few years. With a choice range teetering between a tough-as-nails real-life race car sim, to a go-kart battle in outer space, Visual Concepts blended two racing subgenres to create LEGO 2K Drive—a title that fuses the open sandbox of Forza Horizon 5 with the chaos that ensues in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, packaged in the signature LEGO charm.
LEGO 2K Drive kicks off its Story Mode with what LEGO does best, introducing zany characters that are instantly likable. You are an unproven silent main character in a vast open world known as Bricklandia, and the punning Clutch Harrington is your mentor. The LEGO brand’s signature charm takes over immediately as far as the storyline goes, as solid and often funny dialogue accompanies the player on their quest. This is along with characters that are almost all named with a punny twist, which keeps the player grinning toothily each time a new one appears.
LEGO 2K Drive’s story is a simple one and, thankfully, doesn’t take itself seriously. You must defeat four main driver guys (actually called Guy #1 in the first biome) in each of the four biome sandboxes and collect medals to prove yourself. Once proven, you can race against the main driver villain, Shadow Z, in the Sky Cup Grand Prix. A robot called S.T.U.D. is the devil-on-your-shoulder for the entirety of the game, but in the tutorial parts, he is insufferable.
“The LEGO humour is on full display all game long, and I’m here for it.”
Often, he will stop gameplay dead to demand you press buttons — such as the menu button — to locate certain menu functions. This is useful as a tutorial, but it overstays its welcome in an effort to detail ALL of the functions — LEGO 2K Drive is fun, and these interruptions are frustrating. I forgave the drawn-out tutorial when Clutch Harrington explained the reason in a funny back-and-forth with S.T.U.D., where the robot implies Clutch avoids system updates, and Clutch responds with, “I always just hit remind me later.” The LEGO humour is on full display all game long, and I’m here for it.
LEGO 2K Drive forces the player to stay in their vehicle while exploring, but that doesn’t mean there is much in the way of limitations. Slamming into things in-game, punting LEGO pedestrians and watching them fly off into the horizon, and just endlessly crushing the scenery is a destructively good time. The open sandbox biomes also function as a huge collect-a-thon, with shiny objects floating mostly everywhere, including a LEGO series staple, the Rainbow Brick.
The open sandboxes have three terrain types, road, off-road, and water, while allowing the player to jump very high to increase overall exploration options. The player’s vehicle embraces its inner Transformer and goes through high-speed automatic deconstruction and reconstruction each time the terrain switches. It is always visually impressive and never causes the game’s performance to suffer. This is even more impressive when watching eight cars on the racetrack transform into a boat at once, and still, the performance holds strong.
LEGO 2K Drive lets the player construct their own vehicle (of all three terrains) from scratch. This is an awesome experience for players to really show off their creativity with unique creations, and it is hilarious to watch the most unwieldy off-road car hit jumps with LEGO finesse.
Unlike Forza Horizon 5, though, LEGO 2K Drive doesn’t allow players to share their creations with each other. Visual Concepts has said this functionality is coming soon, but it is a small disappointment not to be able to browse the creativity of others — especially when another Visual Concepts title, WWE 2K23, allowed this from day one.
LEGO 2K Drive is at its best when it’s racing. The races are fast and chaotic affairs that hide shortcuts and encourage the player to jump often. Drifting effectively gets the user more boost, allowing top speeds for longer periods, and after pressing A to boost, a massive jet engine comes out of nowhere to denote you are indeed boosting. This also happens in the sandbox, but in races, it’s important to note due to collisions causing damage to your rig.
There are powerups to pick up and use to pick apart opponents. The Rocket is the LEGO 2K Drive equivalent to a Mario Kart 8 Deluxe red shell, and with proper jump timing, a player can completely avoid it, adding a skill required to perform better on the tracks. There are other powerups to take out your opponents with, but the races are designed well, and the difficulty can get punishing. When causing an adversary to crash, a big notification comes on screen that says, “You BRICKED ____” which is just satisfying and never gets old.
Most races have such good catchup AI that they were nailbiters even when I made no mistakes. This is surprisingly not a bad thing against a CPU either because the player has their own catchup with an item called Teleport. This can be used to throw the player back into the action instantly. With a variety of item choices, vehicle weights and styles, and the chaotic Twisted Metal feel to destroying other LEGO rigs, LEGO 2K Drive has plenty to offer.
Multiplayer hasn’t been forgotten either. LEGO 2K Drive offers cross-play with other platforms, and getting into a game is easy as intended. More notably, there is also split screen functionality, which just makes sense for multiplayer in person. Although LEGO 2K Drive is a super fun time, there are some downsides.
“With a variety of item choices, vehicle weights and styles, and the chaotic Twisted Metal feel to destroying other LEGO rigs, LEGO 2K Drive has plenty to offer.”
There is no track or race builder in LEGO 2K Drive. While races and biomes are designed well, including a genuine builder would be the perfect home run a LEGO game needs to make it feel like a real LEGO experience. There is a paid season pass, which is a common theme in gaming now.
LEGO titles traditionally allow players to unlock everything from the get by playing it without having to pay a toll, and a paid season pass forces these unlocks behind a paywall. These are mainly cosmetic, but you could argue cosmetics in a LEGO game have been treated as bonuses for completion — such as Lord Voldemort in LEGO Harry Potter — and not used as paid content.
Some of the minigames littering LEGO 2K Drive’s landscape are tedious and frustrating. I came across a small task where I had to ‘escort quest’ an actual round egg with round egg mechanics to a skillet. With the hills and gravity mechanics of LEGO 2K Drive, this is a nightmare and is far more complicated than it needs to be. There’s another escort quest where you scoop a horse and literally bring him back to his beloved on your back. The egg quest could have functioned in the same manner to avoid tedium and possibly save a few TV’s from breaking.
Other minigames have strict time limits and fail for what seems to be no reason sometimes, even when doing exactly what is asked, which doesn’t feel good. When a game demands excellence to earn a gold medal from its task, it should give a structurally sound task to perform and not fail without reason.
LEGO 2K Drive is an amazingly fun title that inserts Mario Kart racing into a sandbox LEGO fever dream. A robust map to explore, filled with many activities, including a great racing mode, pulls LEGO into the racing genre of games with finesse. LEGO charm is on full display, giving LEGO fans precisely what they expect in a fresh new genre. But some mechanical flaws and questionable design choices, along with a day one season pass, hold it back from reaching LEGO Olympus.