I’ve always loved the thrill of racing games, though my tastes are quite particular. Despite mine being a PlayStation household for decades, I don’t go in much for the ultra-realism of the console’s hallmark Gran Turismo series. Because that series provides cars so realistic that they aren’t allowed to smash them up with anything resembling realistic damage, they don’t quite scratch my itch for vehicular mayhem.
My platonic ideal for a driving game is Criterion’s Burnout series, and the final installment Burnout Paradise in particular. That game takes the exact opposite approach as Gran Turismo, with no licensed vehicles and a million ways to completely wreck your opponents in ways so over the top that the game plays like a fighting game on wheels most of the time.
While Take-Two’s Lego 2K Drive certainly aims it’s high beams on a younger audience, it embodies Burnout‘s spirit in a lot of ways, along with taking no small amount of DNA from Mario Kart. In addition, it borrows aspects of the other 2K-branded sports titles like the WWE and NBA-licensed products with a robust creation suite. It’s not the most intuitive way to approach a racing game, but when you consider that it needs to (and does) incorporate the creativity inherent in the world of Lego, it starts to make a lot of sense.
In fact, I can’t think of a single other racing game that allows you to build your car completely from scratch. Sure, you can customize the cars in the Need For Speed games quite a bit, though you’re pretty much constrained to the kinds of real-world modifications that are possible on a real car, if you were the type to pontificate about “famblay” and have more money than sense like the protagonist of a certain film franchise. Not so in Lego 2K Drive. Not only can you build and customize your vehicles from the literal brick up, but the creation suite is one of the smoothest virtual interpretations of playing with Lego that I can imagine. I spent and continue to spend hours in this mode just trying to test the limits of the system, and other than the physical size of the car, I didn’t really find any.
As far as taking your creation out onto the track, the racing system in Lego 2K Drive is both thrilling and accessible, perhaps to a fault in the latter case. People of all ages and skill levels will be able to fumble their way into the upper half of most leaderboards almost immediately, in part due to the extremely forgiving difficulty levels. Even on the harder ‘A’ Class courses, anyone with some skill or experience with racing games of any sort will be able to hang. This is only in part thanks to the fact that running into and through most obstacles doesn’t slow you down much, and your car/boat/offroad thing is effectively invincible. Not only can you blast through most barriers and set pieces, but you’re encouraged to do so. Crashing, such as it is, is extremely rare and even rarer is it going to knock you out of contention for a top spot.
Similarly, the other racers often feel like they’re patronizing you a bit, and the rubber-banding is particularly noticeable. This means that even if you fall far behind, the other racers will all slow down a bit to give you a chance to get back in the game. While I appreciate this for younger players, it would be nice to have a bit more challenge. No matter, though, because blasting through the pack with weapons or just smashing into them is big fun, and I can’t really complain that the game does a little cheating on your behalf. And any racing game whose controls include a jump button to get your hamburger-shaped car even bigger air is already earning high marks from me.
There is a whole heap of stuff to do in Lego 2K Drive, even outside of the creation suite and the races themselves. A suite of minigames is available, which ask you to do things like running over suicidal robots who are trying to blow up your communication towers. The game’s story mode, filled with quippy dialogue of the sort you expect from the other Lego-branded games like Lego Star Wars, as well as the Lego movies, also features an explorable open world where levels, tasks, and other rewards can be unlocked. Online play is available, as well as a split-screen offline mode in which I’ve been having a literal blast destroying my kids.
This wouldn’t be a 2K game without a heap of things to buy, and in this case that includes customization items, new vehicles, brick sets, characters, and more. These aren’t required to progress in the game, though, and I found plenty to do in the creation suite without having to buy any of the new pieces. I would, however, like to be able to share and download community creations, which doesn’t seem to be a feature on offer here. But if you’re into spending money on things, the opportunity is certainly there in terms of ad-hoc addons and a Season Pass kind of thing that promises support and new addons for at least the next year.
Lego 2K Drive is one of my biggest gaming surprises of the year. If you have a love of Lego and a hatred of following instructions like I do, it’s worth a look just to have the creation suite at your fingertips. The racing is almost a frill for me, but I don’t want you to take that to mean that it’s not great. A game that allows you to literally build a vehicle from scratch and set it loose in an environment full of wacky set pieces, powerups, and all kinds of mayhem is nothing less than a dream of mine, and the good folks at Take Two have done that idea justice, and then some.
Lego 2K Drive is out now for PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Steam, and the Epic Games Store from Take Two Interactive. I reviewed the PS4 version.