Building on previous LEGO racing games that have come before it, 2K Drive developers Visual Concepts have crafted a competent racing game with a surprisingly immersive building suite that makes it worth the price of admission alone. However, the game is kneecapped by insidious microtransactions that I had hoped we had left behind in the last generation.
Back in my days of only gaming with an ancient Dell laptop, circa 2005, the 1999 classic LEGO Racers was one of my favorite games. I loved that I could build my own car and race it against the greatest racers in the world, and its introduction is up there with the original PlayStation theme for me.
When I found out that there was a new LEGO driving game coming out onto the market, I was a little excited. I ended up preordering the game during my lunch break at work, and this is where the first slimy tentacle of 2K slithered across my leg. At the time of writing, these are the options available to purchase on the PlayStation store:
As Joan of Arc famously uttered before she was burned at the stake, the fuck?
Firstly, 2K can fuck right off with all these “special” editions. If you do buy this game and gazing into my crystal ball here, I can safely say a lot of you will, then do not shell out anything more than you have to for it. Secondly, 2K can doubly fuck off with making me create a 2K account before I could play online. The second lecherous tentacle of 2K ran itself through my hair as I realized that this game is marketed towards kids with the tactics of a sleazy loan shark’s den.
The jokes on them, however, as I am not a child (last I checked) and decided I would embrace my inner hermit and play by myself… then I remembered my brother enjoys video games as well, so I roped him into playing with me for the purposes of this review.
On the story side of things, you are LEGO Adultman, a famed racing no-name who is gunning for the ultimate racing achievement, the Sky Cup. However, to get there, you first have to beat a multitude of colorful characters with appropriately humorous names. The characterization and motivations of yourself and the other racers are paper thin, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s enough of an excuse to get us racing and how fun the racing is.
I was immediately transported back to my LEGO Racers days, drifting, using powerups, and smashing into the other racers. While LEGO Racers had handling that could charitably be described as languid and with environments that felt like a child playing with their toys in various non-LEGO locations, 2K Drive improves on both of these points from its predecessor. The handling takes influence from the Forza Horizon series in its arcade-style handling, and the environments feel a lot more like a LEGO world, albeit miniature in the same vein as the Hot Wheels racing games.
One of the innovative gameplay ideas Visual Concepts has leaned into is the inherent fun of smashing LEGO together. Besides being visually stunning, the sheer number of destructible LEGO objects you can smash into without the frame rate chugging. It’s also a smart way your vehicle regains health with each piece clicking back into place. It’s something I’ve never seen in a LEGO game before, and I’m hoping we’ll see it more often going forward.
All of this is backed up with the game running at a solid 60 frames per second, meaning that races are responsive, fast, and down to the final corner time and time again. This last point is somewhat artificially contrived through the use of rubber banding, although I have heard that this tails away towards the later races, but I cannot confirm at this time.
Along with the races, there are various challenges, side quests, and collectibles to keep you busy while you’re working your way toward the Sky Cup. They’re spread pretty conservatively around the three-and-half-ish maps. Not the Ubisoft method of loading them into a blunderbuss and firing them at the map; more like someone wiping their hands on the map after a particularly messy sundae.
These challenges are fun the first few times, with enough challenge so that you’ll be suitably frustrated when an errant jump or collision ruins your gold medal run. The collectibles are your standard open-world affair, mostly busy work that doesn’t add anything to the overall experience. The side quests are a mixed bag in terms of quality. Some are fun distractions, while others are just fetch quests repeated ad nauseam.
Also, while the writing is fun, and the fourth wall is much like the equator in that, it’s something everyone is aware of, but people plow past it with little resistance; it’s not as funny as it thinks it is. Sure, there are some lines that made me smile, but nothing laugh out loud, and it feels like there are more misses than hits which is always a problem.
It can be argued that all of this is just set dressing for the true star of this game, the building mode. This mode, entitled appropriately enough “Garage”, allows you to build a street, off-road, or aquatic car (also known as a boat) from the wheels up brick by brick or use an existing vehicle and modify it if you want a ready-made canvas to work with. The sheer scope of the bricks and tools provided to you is astounding. It lets you create replicas of your favourite real-life supercars or something a little more… out there.
Another point to mention is that if you can, play this game in the local couch co-op mode. There have been multiple times when my brother and I have pissed ourselves laughing after one of us punted the other off a cliff or appeared over the hill out of nowhere to wreak subsequent havoc.
Overall, 2K Drive is a great LEGO game and a great racing game with a cancerous microtransaction infestation that nothing short of the blinding light from a tactical carpet bombing can solve. If you are getting this for your kids, make sure they can’t get to your credit cards; otherwise, make sure you’ve got someone to play with. A must-buy for any LEGO fan.
Couch Soup Score: 8/10