Lego 2K Drive review: Put the pedal to the metal and enjoy the ride
Forget what you know about Lego games. With a new partner, 2K Games, the toy brick brand is taking a break from blockbuster movie and comic-book tie-ins to explore a different style of action.
Think of a free-roaming racer such as Need for Speed or Forza Horizon, where you can head out and explore miles of open road, taking on the competition in high-octane races or tackling challenges that will push your driving skills to their limits. Only here it's all rendered in glorious, glossy plastic with bright blue skies and shimmering water, while you’re as likely to spend your time smashing through mobs of alien invaders as racking up fast times between two speed traps. In this game, crashing through the scenery isn't a sign of bad driving — sending bricks flying is all part of the thrill.
The setting is beautiful Bricklandia, where everything and everyone is made of Lego and the locals are motorsports-mad. In the central story mode, you’re the fastest rookie racer on the block — just the plastic person to team up with racing legend, Chuck Racington, and take on the notorious no-good champion, Shadow Z.
Before you can beat him, though, you’ll have to level up through races and the frequently bizarre challenges. These might see you rounding up stray rockets, or rescuing townsfolk from robot cowboys on a Westworld-style rampage. Everywhere you go there are time trials to speed through and collectibles to grab — and you might even sneak in a quick game of four-wheeled golf. Earn enough experience points and you’re ready for the next big race against a rival. Win, and you unlock new areas and events — not to mention another cool car to add to your line-up.
You’re not just racing on the tarmac, either. Head off-road and your car transforms into a quad-bike. Hot the water and it turns into a powerboat. This makes it even more fun to get around the game's four distinctive zones, and keeps things even more frantic and varied in the major races. The imaginative courses are packed full of weird Lego perils and spectacular set-piece moments, with the mayhem amped up by a nice line in Mario Kart-style power ups.
To keep winning, you’ll need to keep switching out the vehicles in your loadout, working out which will help you navigate twisting tracks and tumbleweed, and which will help you smash through hostile aliens or robots. You can also equip perks to boost that boost your vehicles’ damage resistance or acceleration, or swap the performance stats of one ride with another to make a quad bike that handles like a supercar.
This might break the laws of physics, but who cares in a Lego world? As with any good racer, you can really feel the difference between the lightweight, high-acceleration sports cars and the chunky muscle cars with their ludicrous top speeds.
And though you can win cars or buy them, you can also build them brick-by-brick. You can work by following the instructions or by just building the bonkers custom vehicles of your dreams. This bit can get very complicated, and the in-game tutorials don't do a great job of explaining how it all works. However, there's a lot of potential here for would-be Lego engineers.
What's less welcome is the intrusion of the dreaded microtransactions, tempting you to buy in-game currency with real-world cash if you want to get the coolest motors and driver costumes.
The story is no epic, but the fun isn't over once it ends. You can while away hours ticking off spare events or trying to collect all the collectibles and cars, or why not roam around Bricklandia and take on challenges with friends online? If you prefer a straight competition a la Mario Kart, the Cup Series and Race modes have you covered. The only real disappointment is that your split screen options are for two players only, where Nintendo's classic always handles four.
Nobody's going to claim that Lego 2K Drive is an original masterpiece. It's basically a mash-up of the Lego series with Forza Horizon, Need for Speed and Mario Kart, with a few events that riff on Nintendo's stunt-flying cult hit, Pilotwings. Yet this crazy family racer thrives on its energy and raw enthusiasm, with a world that's alive with silly characters and weird Lego critters, where you never know what's around the next corner. While it might not have the hare-brained genius of the greatest Lego hits, it goes full throttle in pursuit of fun.