When LEGO City Undercover was released in 2013, two of the best features were the massive open world and the ability to drive throughout it. In 2019, Forza Horizon 4 released LEGO Speed Champions Expansion which was fantastic and honestly should have turned into a standalone game. Fast forward to 2023 and surprise, we have a standalone open-world LEGO racing game NOT developed by long-time LEGO video game developers Traveler’s Tales.
LEGO 2K Drive was created by NBA 2K23 and WWE 2K23 developers Visual Concepts. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of both said 2k games but you have to admit that it seems a bit out of their wheelhouse (pun intended) to create an open-world LEGO racing game. Thankfully, Visual Concepts is a seasoned studio and they were able to produce a solid arcade LEGO racing game.
The first challenge any developer would have when creating a LEGO game is capturing the look and feel of what gamers come to expect. This means having a whimsical story that includes stop-motion animations with jokes that may fall flat on older adults but will cause young children to burst out with laughter. Visual Concepts nailed this challenge and it’s noticeable from the first cut-scene. Once you enter the world, it’s filled with beautiful colors. Everything POPS and its eye-catching thanks to the vibrant color pallet of all 4 regions. The iconic LEGO sounds are also present and can be heard when smashing into LEGO objects or when building your new hot rod.
Visual Concepts clearly did their homework and looked at some of the best arcade-themed racing games out and inserted some of the best features into LEGO 2K Drive. For example, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a brightly colored, fast-paced racing game that automatically transformed your car into a boat or plane. The same occurs in LEGO 2K Drive in which your car will transform into a boat once you touch water and into an off-road vehicle once you’re off the road. The transformation animation is beautifully done and includes the LEGO brick building sound. It’s worth mentioning this feature is extremely sensitive. If you slightly drift off the road then you will instantly transform into an off-road vehicle. The same goes for the boat and touching land if just for a second will transform into a car or off-road vehicle depending on the surface.
Almost every aspect of this game was designed for younger gamers in mind. The controls are simple to pick up and play with Right Trigger for acceleration, Left Trigger to brake/drift, (X) to perform a quick turn, (A) for boost, (B) to use picked-up abilities such as a shield or projectile weapons and (Y) to jump. R1 changes the camera view from close behind the vehicle to a higher view down the track.
If you turn off auto-transformation, the L1 button will need to be pressed to perform the change. Every key piece of information is voice narrated and all objectives have large bright icons on the map. There is zero penalty when smashing into objects while roaming the open world. In fact, you gain XP for doing so. Almost everything is destructible with the exception of buildings.
There’s a fast travel feature that can be unlocked when you’re at a garage. Find a garage and it will unlock this location for fast travel. Each region includes a series of races that need to be completed in order to progress the story. However, you can’t just jump from race to race like Mario Kart. You will need to reach the race-level requirement. You can level up by doing other open-world objectives like racing through gates, destroying particular objects in a period of time, etc. We have seen these side activities before and for the most part, they are fine.
You can also replay previous races to finish higher on the podium which will also help you level up. The actual races are fun and chaotic, one second you are boosting off a ramp, the next landing in water which in turn transforms you into a boat, and the next spinning uncontrollably because an opponent hit you with a projectile. LEGO 2K Drive also supports crossplay with PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC.
Now the standout feature in LEGO 2K Drive is undoubtedly the ability to create a vehicle brick by brick. At first glance, it can be intimidating to look at with all the various pieces and navigation panels but if you put some time in or are the type of person who enjoys creating vehicles out of loose LEGO parts then this is a dream come true mode.
Visual Concepts has also confirmed that a community vehicle design sharing HUB is in the works and will be available post-launch. I honestly can’t wait to see what the pro-LEGO builders of the world will create. My only concern with this feature is how microtransactions are linked to obtaining additional building parts. In the main menu at the bottom, you will see unkies emporium. It’s here that you can purchase new outfits for your LEGO avatar, vehicles, and a variety of building parts.
There is also a “Drive Pass” which can be purchased and comes with various vehicle parts and other goodies. My concern is that once this car-sharing HUB is released, we can expect many vehicles to be un-shareable due to the receiver not owning particular parts and then being redirected to Unkie’s to purchase those parts. I’ve seen this occur in WWE 2K23 community creations where you are unable to download a created wrestler because you do not own a piece of DLC needed to re-create that wrestler.
Overall, LEGO 2K Drive has the absolute key feature all racing games need and that is replayability. The simple controls, easy world navigation, and flexibility to be the worse driver in the world without consequence make this a fun game for all ages and if all goes well with the vehicle-sharing HUB, this could be the birth of a new franchise.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of LEGO 2K Drive for the Xbox Series X provided by 2K.