LEGO 2K Drive Preview: A brick of fresh air
LEGO is no stranger to video game adaptations, with TT’s action titles offering block-filled adventures across licensed properties like DC, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones among others.
It’s particularly surprising, then, to see 2K take the IP in an entirely different direction with LEGO 2K Drive. I was able to put a few hours into the new family-friendly driving experience, and after Forza Horizon 4’s LEGO expansion it’s perhaps only fitting that this plastic racer is the first contender to Microsoft’s open-world racing crown we’ve seen in years.
Taking the chaos of Rocket League, the power-ups of Mario Kart, and more than a little brick-based Burnout, LEGO 2K Drive could be something special when it launches.
As you may expect from a franchise as tonally amorphous as LEGO, LEGO 2K Drive’s story is very barebones – but it’s self-aware to poke fun at it as early as the opening cinematic.
You’ll step into the plastic frame of a new race driver looking to earn enough wins across a huge number of events as possible to qualify for a Sky Cup and earn your place in the racing history books. There’s a comically scenery-chomping rival racer, and a veteran to take you under their wing, but the LEGO 2K Drive wisely leans onto the good-natured, absurdist humour of the LEGO movies.
With locations like the Vegas-style Big Butte and plenty more we won’t spoil here, it’s a world built for fun, and in my time with it, it was intoxicating.
Events take place across multiple biomes, and much of the landscape is destructible in some way. You can’t go full Battlefield and destroy the buildings, but much of the rest of it can be torn up, smashed, and crushed under your adorable wheels. It’s incredible to see, too and is a step ahead of the prior Forza expansion’s adaptation of the iconic blocks and studs.
The Sum of its Parts
In an interview with Mark Pierce, the game’s Executive Producer, he explained how the choice of power-ups was intended to turn races into battles – and it’s hard to disagree.
“We evolved these [the power-ups], we tried out different things and some ones that stuck the most and, and felt the best.”
“The rocket is my favourite”, Pierce explains, “the ghost thing is very nice too, it gives you a moment to breathe.”
Pierce is referring to the Ghost power-up, which means attacks and other cars pass right through you, but there are plenty more – square wheels can slow opponents, while dropping an adorable LEGO spider means racers have to jump to regain their vision.
Vehicles drift around corners with a pleasing elasticity, but there’s almost always something going on, whether that’s an errant missile or an environmental hazard, that makes it almost impossible not to fall foul of some racer-to-racer shenanigans. Readers of a certain vintage will remember the classic TV show Wacky Races, and LEGO 2K Drive feels like the closest realisation of that chaos and colour in a digital format yet.
Smashing into vehicles can destroy them if you build up enough steam, and with a constantly refreshing boost mechanic that builds with the more carnage you cause, destruction isn’t just fun to see – it’s actively encouraged.
As vehicles are damaged, they can repair themselves with bricks collected from smashing, well, just about anything.
Cars themselves are bizarre vehicle hybrids that rebuild themselves, Sonic All-Star Racing Transformed-style, turning from cars to boats, to all-terrain vehicles whenever the racing surface changes. It happens in the blink of an eye, but it’s impressively animated and opens up a whole host of gameplay opportunities in the form of events found within the world.
Aside from racing, in my hands-on time with LEGO 2K Drive I was able to play dozens of different event types. One involved skipping my boat from pool to pool like a stone on a lake, while another saw me destroying alien invaders with an EMP grenade.
One standout mini-game had cars racing to the end of a runway in an explosive version of “Red Light, Green Light” from Squid Game. These events can be activated out in the open world, and are even more fun with other players, too.
Speaking of multiplayer, players can jump straight into a race or cup to compete for the podium, and doing so throws players into impressively designed bespoke tracks full of jumps, drifting opportunities, and environmental hazards like crocodiles, landmines, and plenty more.
Brick by brick
As you can imagine from a LEGO title, there’s plenty of potential for weird and wonderful custom vehicles across the car, off-road vehicle and boat templates.
Different vehicle bases convey different driving models, and in our play through I was able to build a sort of off-brand Batmobile with a glowing reactor. While there weren’t any licensed parts outside of the McLaren crossover, there could be some in the future.
Each individual brick can be customised, including colour, opacity, and more, and it’s sure to gain an impressive set of custom rides from creative types.
There’s even the opportunity to build according to an instruction manual – ideal for anyone playing with family.
LEGO 2K Drive has the unenviable task of kicking off a new partnership with one of the biggest brands in the world, but it’s clear that 2K has a love for the project that’ll be recognisable to anyone that’s overturned a bucket of bricks on the living room floor.
It’s a game that gives you plenty of tools to build your own fun, while also offering a huge number of things to do at your own pace, and I can’t wait to play more.