Piece together the building blocks of a solid racing game in our LEGO 2K Drive review!
Learning how many LEGO video games have been produced over the last 40 years is like finding out how many Swan Princess sequels exist. The number will shock and surprise you. While the fact that people are still buying Swan Princess DVDs in 2023 remains the greatest mystery since the disappearance of Harold Holt, I’m not surprised that gamers are still swarming over LEGO video games like sandflies at a picnic.
If you can think of a game, there’s probably a LEGO version of it.
The sandbox nature of LEGO and the creativity it inspires made the leap to the interactive medium almost seamless. While I have huge respect for Travellers’ Tales and their work on the franchise, I’m always excited by the prospect of another developer getting their hands on the licence.
Enter LEGO 2K Drive, an open world driving game developed by Visual Concepts. A studio best known for their work the NBA 2K series and recently taking over the development duties of the WWE 2K games. But can the masters of dribbling balls score a slam dunk with their foray into the world of driving games? Let’s find out.
LEGO 2K Drive Review – Story
The game is set in the world of Bricktopia, where everything is made from LEGO and racing is the national pastime. You play as an unnamed rookie tasked with winning the Sky Cup Grand Prix and dethroning the reigning champion, Shadow Z.
“Next time on Shadow Z!”
It’s a basic plot designed for children. You shouldn’t go into this expecting a thought-provoking narrative. This game is meant to be silly, and the irreverent dialogue reinforces this idea. Admittedly, this game managed to get a few chuckles out of an old fart such as myself. The decent voice acting and well animated cutscenes enhance the game’s story beats.
LEGO 2K Drive Review – Racing Gameplay
A lot of people have likened this game to Forza Horizon. While I think that’s a lazy comparison to make, there’s no denying the adventure aspect of the game was inspired by Playground’s magnum opus. But when you play the game proper, it’s clear the developers are fans of Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed.
Like Sumo Digital’s racer, LEGO 2K Drive is essentially a kart racer where your car adapts to the terrain via three different transformations. You will be racing on courses comprised of tarmac, dirt and water as you fight to claim the top position. The handling is simple with an emphasis on drifting as pulling them off will fill up your boost meter. The meter can also be filled by smashing through objects, which will tap into the anarchist inside of you.
Like most kart racers, each track is littered with power-ups to help you gain the upper hand. But none of these weapons ever felt satisfying to use nor do that add much to the driving experience. Especially since the rubber-banding AI undermines basically any skill or strategy. The final stretch will always be the decider and having a full boost bar is the best way to claim victory.
Fast than a LEGO brick on its way to your foot.
Despite my nit-picking, I had fun darting around the world of 2K Drive. The varied track design and the sometimes-aggressive AI can make for an adrenaline fuelled experience. Especially when racing on a track littered with hazards like land mines and crocodiles.
LEGO 2K Drive Review – Additional Gameplay
Outside of the races, the world of Bricktopia is populated with various challenges and quests. The quests can get repetitive as they rely mostly on same rescue and tower defence mini games throughout the entire campaign. The challenges boil down to racing through a set number of checkpoints in record time, or reaching a certain speed or distance in a set amount of time.
Quickly, we really badly need to drop this nugget!
Being a LEGO title, you would expect this game to feature a toolbox filled with customisation options. Unfortunately, the best 2K could muster is a simple car builder with no ability to share your creation with other players. There is no character customisation or even the ability to create your own races. For a game based on a line of toys that encourages creativity, this is a huge bummer.
It’s obvious that microtransactions and DLC were given the most priority during development. At launch, LEGO 2K Drive has three different SKUs with the most expensive one, the Awesome Rivals Edition carrying an absurd price tag of $179.99 AUD (which includes additional cars and the Year 1 Season Pass). A season pass for DLC that is yet to be released and was most likely removed from the base game to carve off as DLC.
I find the use of the word “shrimp” instead of “prawns” to be more offensive than microtransactions.
As for the microtransactions, you can exchange real money for “brickbux”, the game’s virtual currency that can be spent on costumes and other cosmetic items. Brickbux can also be used to purchase cars with a price tag of 10,000 brickbux. To give you a sense of how stingy this game can be with cash, my wallet contained 54,000 brickbux after completing the story mode. In other words, I only had enough cash to buy 5 cars after the credits rolled.
It’s obvious that 2K is trying to pressure players into opening their wallet to spend real cash on cars and cosmetics. For a game aimed primarily at kids, that’s downright scummy.
Campaign & Split-Screen
On the positive side, this is a surprisingly polished game. We’ve become accustomed to games launching in a broken state as of late. But I didn’t encounter any bugs, glitches or crashes during the ten hours I spent playing through the campaign. Furthermore, the game doesn’t eat up storage like a hungry whale on cheat day with the PS5 version only occupying 8.7GB of space on my SSD.
“Only 8.7GB!? You could download 10% of a Call of Duty patch with that much data!”
Another plus for this game is the inclusion of two player split-screen for every single mode. That includes the entire story mode. Open world races like Forza Horizon and The Crew usually omit split screen, which makes its presence in LEGO 2K Drive more impressive. Unfortunately, the story mode’s co-op is not available when playing the game with friends over the internet. Even more annoying is the fact that playing online requires the creation of a 2K account. Booo.
LEGO 2K Drive Review – Visuals and Performance
LEGO 2K Drive was built using Unreal Engine 4 and has been released on every current platform under the sun. That includes PC and Switch. For this review, I was only able to sample the game on PlayStation 4 Pro and PlayStation 5. The PS5 version gives us a nice 4K Presentation with 60 frames per second with some minor drops when things become too hectic. Loading times are lightning fast and the developers did a nice job of building an attractive looking world.
Meanwhile on the PS4 Pro, the framerate is cut in half and loading times are slightly longer. The post-processing is also reduced on the previous generation of PlayStation. Not only has all traces of bloom been removed, but the jet engine flames emitted by the cars are of much lower quality.
The most glaring change in the presentation is the use of temporal reconstruction. The artifacts associated with this technique are very glaring when compared to the more stable image being produced by the PS5. Despite all these hiccups, owners of the PS4 Pro will still be pleased with the results, even though I prefer playing the game on the PS-Quintuple.
In summary, LEGO 2K Drive is an inoffensive, adventure style driving game that should scratch the itch of any budding gear heads. But it’s hard to ignore the feeling that microtransactions and DLC were the priority for most of the game’s development time. The lack of customisation and creation tools is a glaring omission for a product bearing the LEGO licence. Not to mention the rubber banding AI and poorly implemented weapons rob the game of any nuance.
The final code is still serviceable and when the inevitable Game of the Year Edition drops in a year or two, LEGO 2K Drive will make for a fun time killer for driving game fans with an empty plate. But in its current state, the overpriced DLC and aggressive microtransactions makes it hard sell at launch.
So, why should you play LEGO 2K Drive?
- Looking for an open world racer that features split-screen co-op
- Enjoy kart racers with an emphasis on drifting
- You like childish and silly humour
But, why shouldn’t you play LEGO 2K Drive?
- The game is plagued with microtransactions and DLC
- Think AI rubber-banding is the product of Satan
- Don’t want to make a 2K Account to play online
A review code on PlayStation 5 was kindly provided for the purpose of our LEGO 2K Drive review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out our review for Need for Speed: Unbound and join the Qualbert Discord for more racing game goodness!