Action like in Mario Kart, open world like in Forza Horizon, creative romp like in Need for Speed: We have played Lego 2K Drive and reveal why something big is coming your way.
Five years in the making, now it”s time to hit the starting line: Take Two is working on an arcade racer – in collaboration with Lego! And Lego 2K Drive packs everything into the boot to shake up the genre: a varied open world, fun driving mechanics and above all a vehicle editor in which you can let off maximum creative steam.
At a press event in London, I was allowed to try out the ambitious racing game for two hours. I tell you what”s already great, what still bothers me and in which area Lego 2K Drive is already setting new standards in the racing game genre.
So fasten your seatbelts, watch the trailer to get in the mood, and then let”s kick the accelerator towards the floorpan.
How does it drive?
Let”s start with the most important thing in a racing game – the driving physics. Lego 2K Drive sorts its furhpark into three categories:
Takes some getting used to, but it”s a clever idea: I don”t select this manually, but my vehicle automatically jumps back and forth between these versions – depending on the surface I”m on.
Of course, I”m fastest on the paved road, the trips through the prairie, on the other hand, are a bit bumpier. However, Lego 2K Drive is pleasantly precise on all surfaces.
However, this only applies to the controller. Of course, the gamepad is the better choice for a racing game, but the keyboard controls in Lego 2K Drive are extremely … unusual. You steer with the arrow keys, while using your left hand to apply your various abilities. With a lot of getting used to, this might work, but I still strongly recommend a controller.
The following skills are used in Lego 2K Drive:
Boost: Press a button to give yourself a good boost until the bar is empty. Since the boost refills automatically, you don”t have to wait long before you can take off again.
Different drifts: With the standard drift you can already get around most corners, but for the particularly steep corners there”s an extra drift. With this, even 180-degree curves are no longer a problem.
Jumping: If you make a really big jump with your car, you can reach high items in the race. It also helps you avoid traps and generic missiles.
Items: There are item boxes on the tracks, similar to those in the Mario Kart games. When you drive through, you grab an item. These include homing missiles, protection items or even a ghost that makes you invisible.
Every time you are hit by mines, missiles and other painful items, your car will fall apart a little more. Eventually, there will be nothing left and your car will finally be broken down into its component parts. You will then be re-spawned, which of course costs you valuable time.
To repair yourself, you can flatten harmless objects on the side of the road – your car will then repair itself from the Lego parts. In addition, this fills up your boost gauge even faster, so a small tactical diversions next to the track is worthwhile.
However, there are no boost rewards for spectacular driving manoeuvres such as long drifts, long jumps or overtaking manoeuvres. It remains to be seen how Lego 2K Drive will manage the balancing so that clean driving is also rewarded.
When playing Lego 2K Drive, it delivered one thing above all: a lot of chaos! This is an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time: In an arcade racer, a portion of chaos is absolutely legitimate and often even fun. In Lego 2K Drive, however, sometimes there is simply too much happening on the screen to process it at all. Let me illustrate:
Up to six players race against each other, cars explode everywhere, your own vehicle constantly changes shape due to the different surfaces.
At the same time, you have to jump out of the way at the right moment, while the huge boost in the form of two thick turbines keeps popping up. Then to distinguish between the two drifts at the right moment and to deliberately destroy objects on the side of the road challenges my multitasking skills on the one hand, but in the context of a racing game it still seems quite overloaded and not really intuitive. Especially compared to a Mario Kart, in which all the game elements mesh just as naturally as they do perfectly with each other.
(There”s quite a lot going on on the screen and now there aren”t even any opponents in sight.)
If you want to, you can make things even harder for yourself and switch off the automatic change between the car types. Then you have to switch between off-road, boost and asphalt cars by pressing a button. The developers told me that you can theoretically be a bit faster than with the automatic function, but that takes a lot of practice. The almost hackneyed phrase “easy to learn, hard to master” is extremely true with Lego 2K Drive.
Multiplayer and co-op
You can race online with up to six players. Thanks to cross-play support, it almost doesn”t matter which platforms your friends play on – the Nintendo Switch is excluded. Those who prefer to experience such an arcade racer in couch co-op will also be served: Lego 2K Drive has a split-screen mode for two players! It”s up to you whether you stay with your comrades-in-arms at selected race tracks or in co-op mode in the Open World.
This is how the Open World is structured
Lego 2K Drive unleashes you onto a huge game world in which you will have a lot to do. Strictly speaking, there are five open worlds. In addition to the small tutorial island, you can switch between four biomes. I was allowed to explore the American wasteland Big Butte at the event. The rural environment with its red sandstones is absolutely worth seeing, and every now and then I come across a few small towns or remote houses.
The race tracks are from the Open World, so they all look like the biome from which they originated. In addition to races in Big Butte, I have already seen another biome that resembles a gloomy ghost environment. I don”t expect as much variety for the eyes as in the Mario Kart tracks, however, when all races take place only in the four biomes.
On the other hand, there is a lot to do off the tracks. Challenges, mini-games and collecting tasks await you around every corner. Jump over these houses as quickly as possible, catch the escaped piggies again or look for the guy in the red top in the city who likes to stay near restaurants. While some of these pursuits were really fun, others (like the latter example) felt boring and like pure gap-fillers.
(There are especially many side missions in the cities.)
What bothers me most: In order to progress in the story, I inevitably have to complete some side quests. Lego 2K Drive has a level system that I increase with completed tasks.
However, the story missions in the form of rival races have a minimum level so that I can compete at all. And in order to climb this, the classic racing events are simply not enough.
In the rival challenges, I face a particularly skilled driver who has to be defeated in a classic race. Once I”ve beaten that one, it”s on to the next one. The story of Lego 2K Drive seems to be like most racing games so far: hardly worth mentioning. I just want to become the fastest, best and coolest driver in the whole world of bricks.
In the few and mostly very short cutscenes, however, the familiar Lego charm quickly emerges. Here, the cliché of the ageing mentor is poked fun at self-deprecatingly and the presenters joke about the biome name Big Butte. If you like the Lego humour from the films and games, you will have to smile a few times here too. You shouldn”t expect a great story.
The highlight of the game: the garage
Of course, there”s one thing a Lego game can”t neglect: building! Lego 2K Drive has taken this aspect particularly to heart, because you can create your car completely freely. Thanks to over a thousand Lego components, you can assemble the wackiest, sleekest and most impressive vehicles you can think of!
(In the garage you can really let off steam creatively. For example, how about a burger as a car?)
Those who are convinced of their design can also share it with their friends. I can already imagine how the community will exchange ever more unusual and impressive vehicles with each other.
Unfortunately, building the cars in my preview version still seems rather imprecise and fiddly. It takes a lot of patience until all the Lego bricks are in the right position and in the desired colour.
Nevertheless, this aspect of Lego 2K Drive gave me a lot of pleasure. It was like a return to my childhood bedroom, where I used to build the wackiest, but also sometimes the coolest cars – and now I can actually race my inventions!
Lego 2K Drive releases as early as 19 May 2023 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X/S, Switch and on PC.
There have been quite a few attempts to come close to the quality of Mario Kart with an arcade racer. I can”t remember the last time a game came as close as Lego 2K Drive. The driving experience is great, but it still differs enough from the seemingly overpowered role model.
For me, however, there was still a bit too much chaos on the screen to be able to concentrate on the track – this might get better with time, but is still quite challenging for beginners (especially in multiplayer).
The Open Worlds are also nicely designed, but the compulsion to do side tasks clearly bothered me: I want one thing above all else in a racer: to race! I couldn”t care less about the escaped piggies along the way.
But what really makes Lego 2K Drive special is the garage. The possibility to design your vehicles so freely and individually is simply ingenious! I could have easily sat in this editor for another two hours, I wouldn”t have been even remotely bored. If a community builds up here and regularly creates new cars, this could really be an extraordinary arcade racer.
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