Lego 2K Drive
Visual Concepts is a 2K studio best known for its annual work on the WWE and NBA 2K franchises, and while that will likely remain the case, we can soon add “the Lego 2K Drive” studio to its informal titles. And I think we’ll all be delighted to add that, if my recent two-hour hands-on preview is any indication.
In Lego 2K Drive, it feels like Visual Concepts took the humor and visuals we’ve come to know of the various Lego franchises and applied them to the open-world racing formula popularized by the Forza Horizon and Need for Speed series. But within that open world are races reminiscent of Mario Kart and quests, collectibles, and more that make Lego 2K Drive feel fresh in the genre. Visual Concepts’ inspirations are clear, but Lego 2K Drive feels decidedly like its own thing, and it’s a game worth keeping an eye on as it nears the finish line this May.
Immediately, Lego 2K Drive feels like a Lego game, and I’m not just saying that buildings, vehicles, characters, and everything other than the larger pieces of natural landscapes like cliffs and rivers are made of individual Lego blocks. The humor is upfront, just like it’s been in other Lego properties like Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and more. Laughs and gags are built into the world, but the Bricklandia racing announcers left me chuckling as they indulged in the kind of surface-level jokes likely meant for children, with an edge of meta humor nodding to those playing that might be older. With Lego attached to the name, I expected well-rounded comedy, and I’m happy to say it’s present here.
The lifelike Lego visuals seen in other Lego games are here, too, and they look as good as ever. I especially like that objects such as shrubbery, fences, and vehicles, have a physics system attached to each brick that realistically causes things to react to hits. When a homing missile hits your vehicle, not unlike Mario Kart’s red shell, bricks fly off your vehicle. And bricks snap back into place as you collect more by racing through breakable objects like fences and trees. This heightened my enjoyment while racing through various themed tracks, like one where a UFO shot lasers onto the asphalt or another where exploding pumpkins bounced spookily through a haunted house-like trail. These races remind me most of Mario Kart; there are item blocks to drive through, and, most importantly, a sense of unpredictable challenge.
I didn’t lose a race until I competed against other real-life players at the preview event, but despite always winning first place against NPCs, Lego 2K Drive does a great job at making you feel like you might lose. Each race felt like an enjoyable gauntlet where I had to utilize drifting, turbo, and items to advance from 8th to 1st place. It’s fun and feels greatly balanced, considering both children and adults will play this game. I especially love that my vehicle seamlessly transforms based on terrain – from a racing car to an offroad vehicle to a boat each with beautiful transition animations.
The races are the clear highlight of Lego 2K Drive, but its open world features plenty of good fun thanks to various quests, minigames, and more. After leaving the Turbo Acres tutorial area, themed like a racing-eccentric town, I went to Big Butte, a Grand Canyon-esque area that felt like something out of Cars. Here, I discovered quests that forced me to slow down and take in the scenery, literally, as I had to find a Bricklandia citizen wearing bunny ears by a food truck in the city. This wasn’t easy either, because Bricklandia is filled with NPCs. The efforts put into making the two areas I visited feel lived-in by Lego people were impressive – there are restaurants, busy crosswalks, food truck festivals, department stores, and more. Having such a realized world helps give Lego 2K Drive a leg up on its competition.
Six-player party-style co-op will make racing through these open worlds all the more fun. You can all do whatever you want in the open world, but if a player starts a race, everyone is thrown into it. The same goes for other minigame-like events, like Red Brick Green Brick. In this race, we could only accelerate when an on-screen indicator flashed green. If we moved while it was red, we’d explode, and the first to reach the finish line won. It was good fun, and I look forward to finding other minigames like this in the final game. As fun as the co-op was, it’s likely a feature I’ll completely ignore because it requires you to party up rather than random matchmaking.
As far as I can tell, Lego 2K Drive is the same experience when playing solo or with friends. In-world collectibles like Golden Trophies and Rainbow Bricks are always available, as are races, quests, challenges, and other activities.
My preview concluded with a look at the Garage. Here, you can build your vehicles, be it a racing car, an offroad buggy, or a boat, almost from the ground up. After selecting a base – the axel and wheels – you can choose from hundreds of bricks to create something new. I attempted to build a game-breaking absurdity that looked more like a parade float than a car meant for speed without paying attention to physics, but it still worked in the game’s test drive area. Because the Garage features building parameters, it doesn’t seem that you can build a vehicle that won’t work, which is great – I can mostly build whatever I want. I did notice that different builds handled slightly differently on the test drive track, though, so perhaps my neon pink monstrosity won’t stand a chance to the Batmobiles and pirate ships I’m sure more skilled players will be building.
I’m more of a “give me step-by-step instructions” kind of Lego builder, so I’m not sure I’ll be spending much time in the Garage building vehicles (although I will be customizing their colors and the like), but I look forward to seeing what more advanced builders create. I get the sense that I’ll be able to utilize their schematics, too.
Going into this preview event, I had no idea what to expect, but it wasn’t this. After roughly two hours of hands-on time with the game, I’m surprised by Visual Concepts’ first go at a Lego racing game. Lego 2K Drive represents the start of a multi-title partnership between Lego and 2K, and if this is the first game to come out of that collaboration, I’m excited to see what’s planned for down the road. Lego 2K Drive uses series like Forza Horizon, Need For Speed, and Mario Kart to create something familiar but new. It’s a racing game built with “everyone” in mind, and I’m excited to play more in May to see just how well the final creation caters to drivers of all ages.
Lego 2K Drive hits PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on May 19.