I’m a sucker for a good arcade racer, and even more of a sucker for anything LEGO, so when LEGO 2K Drive was announced I knew I was all in from the get-go, even if I’ve never been a huge fan of developer Visual Concepts usual output – largely the NBA 2K and WWE 2K franchises. Still, I was pinning a lot of my hopes for a worthy successor to the classic LEGO Racers games, and thankfully this has delivered in ways I hadn’t even expected.
Accompanied by the legendary Clutch Racington and his robotic assistant, S.T.U.D., you play LEGO 2K Drive as a voiceless driver of your choosing, on a path to winning the coveted Sky Cup Grand Prix Trophy. The core of the game’s single-player offering is a hefty adventure through four distinct, open zones in pursuit entry into this ultimate race where you’ll find yourself completing quests, earning experience and taking on a series of entertainingly unique rivals across 24 main races – each with their own quirks to contend with on the track. It’s a bold mix of ideas plucked from open-world racers and LEGO platformers where your avatar is less the minifigure behind the wheel and more the brick-built vehicle surrounding it.
Whether it’s burning miniature rubber on the two dozen well-designed tracks or roaming free across the four maps that they exist within, the simple act of driving in LEGO 2K Drive is an absolute joy at all times. No other open-world driving game can boast the kind of freedom that exists here thanks to the combination of transforming vehicles and highly-destructible environments. The roads here are barely more than suggestions, with every point-of-interest a completely straight shot away if you’re creative enough. When you’re not screaming across the map you can just as easily move with the precision of a platformer using the dedicated jump and quick turn buttons, making navigation feel super approachable even for those less familiar with driving games.
The real feat is that, despite possessing the traversal chops of an open-world action game when the situation calls, the actual act of racing feels as tight and skilled as the best arcade racers out there. Vehicles handle superbly no matter what form they take, with the nuances coming from a combination of how they’re built, the stats they possess and any added perks. Even before factoring in the ability to build new rides from scratch using hundreds of different LEGO pieces, there’s a heap of variety on offer to unlock and custom loadouts let you preset different trios of street, off-road and water vehicles for different situations.
You’ll race across these three different surface types in LEGO 2K Drive, with the game automatically switching you between your three preset vehicles for each situation. It took a hot minute to get used to seeing my ride rebuild itself into another form each time the ground beneath me changed, but it’s genuinely impressive to witness and makes the racing and action feel impressively dynamic. It’s not an understatement to say that the folks at Visual Concepts have nailed how this game feels to play in just about every moment. Even when you’re driving around in a giant hamburger, or some ridiculous creation of your own design that you spent hours building brick-by-brick to look utterly hilarious, it always works and always feels fantastic.
If you want to, you can really hone in on the brick-building aspect as well and carefully craft an arsenal of different builds for every need. Whether it’s gearing your vehicles to be more offensive or defensive in races, or specifically suited to certain types of open-world challenges, LEGO 2K Drive throws up a huge amount of different gameplay scenarios and you can tackle them with as much or as little engineering as you’d like. It’s a perfect match to the fun of LEGO itself, especially so when combined with the fact that your vehicles fall to their individual pieces with damage – and driving through all of the destructible LEGO bits throughout the world adds pieces back on.
It quickly becomes something more akin to an open-world adventure/RPG than a pure driving game, throwing new and more challenging obstacles your way through its series of quests that can be overcome with pure skill or navigated with thoughtful vehicle building. The world itself can even change in ways that affect races, like being rewarded a lawn mower in an optional side quest that can clear out patches of weeds across each map so they’re not in the way during races. There are a handful of “minigame” type main quests that are nowhere near as fun as the regular races and so feel a bit overused by the third time you’ve been forced to do each, but it’s a minor mark on an otherwise excellent 8-10-hour main run of missions.
Completing just the primary stuff still leaves about 80% of the game incomplete though, with LEGO 2K Drive stuffed to the gills with challenges, optional missions and a plethora of collectibles all offering up experience and cash to get even more out of the customisability of your LEGO rides. The primary way to get new drivers, LEGO pieces and vehicle perks is to complete more of the game, but there’s also the ever-present “Unkie’s Emporium” premium store beckoning at every garage stop. Being a 2K title it’s perhaps not surprising, but 2K Drive features an enormous catalogue of drivers, vehicles, LEGO pieces and decorations that can only be purchased using an in-game currency that’s drip-fed for free but buyable in bulk with real cash.
So far, so expected for just about any modern game, and it’s ultimately not all that intrusive on the fun of the game as a whole. This is a full-priced title though, one that’s already being supported by a paid season pass model, and yet a huge chunk of the coolest stuff is locked behind in-game purchases. By the time I’d completed every main and side quest in the game I’d earned enough currency to buy maybe three or four of the roughly 200 items on offer. Some younger players with enough time and patience might be able to grind out the bucks they need to get a good portion of it, but the rest are very likely to succumb to Unkie Monkey’s in-your-face salesmanship, which feels grubby.
[Note: The 2K team has reached out to inform us since this review was published to say that they’ve made some adjustments post-release, significantly increasing the payout of in-game currency from story progression and races. I’d already completed the vast majority of everything in the game by the time these came into effect so it’s difficult to test out how impactful this change is, but it’s worth highlighting that a change has been made.]
Putting the 2K-ness of it all aside, this is still a game built for pure joy, and that never lets up. It’s all superbly put together as well, with a well-realised aesthetic combining the plastic and organic worlds to great effect alongside flawless and fluid performance – at least as far as the PS5 version that I played. It’s easily the best-looking LEGO game that I’ve encountered, and by far one of the best-looking arcade racers around, with huge and detailed environments and massive amounts of LEGO-based destruction. Particularly impressive are the real-time cutscenes that use the same stop-motion style character animations as the excellent LEGO Movie, making me wish that TT Games had adopted something similar for its recent entries.
Oddly, the audio side of things in LEGO 2K Drive is a bit of a mess. I don’t know enough to know if it’s a low bitrate thing – the game’s paltry 8GB download on PS5 might suggest it is – but all of the voice work in the game sounds tinny and awful. It’s not just the sound quality either but the mix itself with volume issues in abundance that ruin the otherwise-great sound effects and mostly-good music. The trademark LEGO humour still manages to shine through though, with gloriously bad puns, visual gags and slapstick comedy in a relentless abundance that kept a stupid grin on my face the entire time.
So there’s a whole lot to love in LEGO 2K Drive, and I’ve not even touched on all of the multiplayer potential with the entire campaign playable in online co-op and all 24 superb races available to play locally or online in single race and cup configurations. It’s a fully-fledged adventure game and a top-notch multiplayer kart racer combined that easily trumps the likes of Mario Kart a run for its money as far as its content offering and variety goes, while also being shockingly competitive when it comes to the quality of the racing itself. This could’ve been a half-bricked grab at the LEGO crowd and still somewhat landed, but instead it’s thoroughly impressed me in just about every way.
LEGO 2K Drive is a wildly impressive triple threat of a great LEGO game, a great open-world adventure and a great racing game. Whether you want to challenge your friends in slick and exciting head-to-head races, tackle a hefty single-player campaign stuffed with varied and plentiful content, or just spend hours building your own LEGO vehicles by the brick, you're absolutely covered here. A couple of issues aside, this is easily the best multiplatform arcade racer around.