“Yeah, the Mario Kart and Forza Horizon comparison, I’ll take it,” says Brian Silva, director of the upcoming Lego 2K Drive, during a preview for Visual Concepts’ new racing game. The comparison was the first thing that came to mind after getting hands-on with about three hours of Lego 2K Drive’s open-world driving hijinx and races full of power-ups, boost pads, and a whole lot of drifting.
However, being an officially licensed Lego game, Lego 2K Drive appears to have the building blocks to be more than just its influences.
The setup for Lego 2K Drive is fairly standard fare: You’re the new kid on the block and must raise your reputation by winning races and completing side quests, eventually gaining enough notoriety to challenge the big-name characters in the story and open up new areas of the map. It’s how the stage is set for these types of games, but the key lies in what only Lego can offer.
If you’ve played any of the Lego action-adventure games or seen the Lego movies, you’ll be familiar with the brand’s tongue-in-cheek humor. That same lighthearted goofiness works as the foundation for Lego 2K Drive to contextualize the open-world driving adventure. The story’s in-universe broadcasters narrate game events with an irreverent self-awareness, poking fun at the absurdity of what’s happening. Nearly every character’s name appears to be a cheesy car-related pun, and side missions task you with running silly errands for NPCs — though I think I’ve done one too many quests helping cops do their damn job and now I’m part of the problem, but that’s on me.
Lego blocks themselves are integral to gameplay and the way the open world is designed. “Everything you see made of Lego in the game can be built in the real world with Lego,” Silva said of the buildings, foliage, and other objects seen in game. This extends to the vehicles themselves, which are the most important piece of the game’s identity.
The open world of Blocklandia is composed of various terrain types. Your vehicle will automatically and instantly transform into the proper one to match the topography — a race car for the open roads, an off-roader in the dirt, and a speedboat for sailing the waters. There’s an enjoyable seamlessness of navigating the world and being able to use the different types of vehicles on the fly, and this places more emphasis on the extensive vehicle customization features.
You can deck out any of these vehicles with stickers, flair, or some nonsensical configurations with blocks stacked on each other. But the more fascinating aspect is being able to build vehicles brick by brick with official Lego blocks, of which there will be over 1,000 pieces to toy around with. It took some time to get the hang of the controls in the customization garage as there are several moving parts, layers, and small pieces to manage within a 3D space. It’s not quite as easy as snapping any brick you want into place when you’re coming up with off-the-wall designs, so I imagine it’ll take considerable effort and wrestling with the systems to get the most of the game’s customization options. However, after about 30 minutes, I was able to slap together a modest car of my own, so with more time and creativity, I’m sure folks could create some wild whips. And although he wasn’t able to confirm specific details, Silva mentioned that players will be able to share designs online (and there will be a vetting process for inappropriate content).
Regardless of whatever monstrosity or fine piece of Lego craftwork you come up with for your vehicles, you’re going to be taking them into races. And I think what’s most striking from a gameplay perspective is that Lego 2K Drive is largely a kart racer. There’s a vast open world to explore and wreck, but most of the meat of the game is found in its competitive races, and it has all the trappings you’d expect. You grab power-ups and items throughout courses such as homing missiles, shields, bombs, or speed boosts, which can turn the tide of each race. In true kart-racing fashion, you’re never really safe in first place, even on the final straightaway — a well-timed missile can stop you in your tracks just before crossing the finish line.
Courses often feature big jumps and boost pads to keep up the momentum, and varied terrain may have you using each type of vehicle throughout the race. Every racer also has their own NOS-like speed boost gauge that builds up faster the more you cause destruction on a course, encouraging a controlled recklessness with your driving. Drifting is key to making tight turns at high speeds — it’s made simple by just pulling the right trigger to let your car break traction and start sliding. It’s quite easy to control even through a hairpin. The courses themselves change based on the three difficulties available; they don’t just make the AI tougher, they throw additional twists, turns, and obstacles on the track for more chaotic races.
It’s cool to see someone else give the kart-racing genre a shot, especially with a collaboration like Lego to help it stand out, but also integrate it into a larger setting with other activities in between. That’s where I’d want to see more from the game, though. Most side quests felt like basic tasks, like timed runs from point A to B or quick chase-downs. Other missions pop up for chunks of XP, like one where I had to defend three towers by crashing into aliens descending from UFOs. It played into the silly tone, but it wasn’t necessarily playing into its strengths gameplay-wise. It’s one aspect that felt weaker based on the hands-on demo.
There’s a good gameplay foundation, though. Driving around the map is effortless, and unlike its contemporaries, it never feels like you get stuck or have to reset; your Lego vehicle just transforms for the situation and keeps things moving. Having a dedicated jump button also makes exploration easier, so you don’t always have to be held to the ground. Silva mentioned wanting to create a sense of exploration, saying, “It’s not called [Lego 2K] Racing for a good reason. We did not want this to be your traditional racing game where you choose your vehicle and track and repeat. We wanted it to feel like a driving adventure.” With so many more parts of the map to unlock, my hope is that the adventurous spirit of Lego 2K Drive will make itself more apparent as the game goes on.
Overall, Lego 2K Drive has a lot of potential as both a kart racer and an easygoing open-world driving experience. I’m curious if the kart-racing aspect offers enough to sustain long-term interest, because it seems like the potential is there, especially with emphasis on multiplayer racing and open-world activities. With a roughly 15-hour campaign, it’ll come down to the things outside of the kart racing to support the rest of the game, whether it be the goofy vibe, deeper vehicle customization, or the side content within Blocklandia.
It won’t be long until you can start moving bricks yourself. Lego 2K Drive is set to launch on May 19 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.