LEGO 2K Drive could add Star Wars DLC: "We are pursuing everything you can imagine"
Plus, our hands-on first impressions of the new open-world racing game.
Announced today (Thursday 23rd March), LEGO 2K Drive is an upcoming open-world racing game that is bursting with personality, with smash-able LEGO vehicles and brightly-coloured environments coupled tantalisingly with generous dollops of humour and imagination.
Prior to the game's announcement, RadioTimes.com attended a preview event for LEGO 2K Drive at the Take-Two offices in London. Of course, Take-Two's subsidiary 2K is known for its sports games, including the ongoing NBA 2K and WWE 2K franchises, but this LEGO collaboration feels like something different.
In fact, LEGO 2K Drive feels more like a cross between Nintendo's Mario Kart and Microsoft's Forza Horizon than it does a traditional sporting sim. We were able to play the game for a few hours, across multiple modes (including solo play and multiplayer match-ups), and it feels like a wholesome yet silly recipe for family-friendly fun.
We started playing the game solo, going through the tutorial content that introduces you to the world, including wacky characters with pun names like Parker Carr. The set-up is simple: right now, you're a rookie driver, and you'll have to take on a series of increasingly difficult trophies if you want to win the big shiny trophy in the sky.
You can design your character from a wide range of options, and you can also design the absurd LEGO car of your dreams in the game's garage workshop (more on that later). We opted for a pre-made robot character and then went straight into the action, with a sharp-witted former champ on hand to guide our character through the basics.
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Driving in the game has a 'pick up and play' quality, where it definitely feels like even a young kid could understand the basics instantly. Press this button to go. Use the stick to turn. That's enough to get you started, especially on this first rush around the track, but there is depth in the gameplay if you go looking for it. With boosts, power-ups and drifting to think of, there will certainly be players that use every advantage possible to post very impressive lap times.
One fun way in which the game embraces the LEGO licence is this: your car is actually three vehicles in one. When you're on the track, it's a sports car; when you go off-road, you shift into a more heavy duty machine; and when you go on water, suddenly it transforms into a boat.
Each of these three categories of motor uses the same basic controls, but it's fun to explore in different ways, and it's staggering to imagine how many different varieties you will be able to collect, build or tweak for each vehicle form.
It's also worth noting that the game itself has two different forms: there's a vast open world experience where you can drive around, smash into things, hunt for collectables and undertake side missions, and there are also standalone tracks where you'll have to do a number of laps against CPU or online opponents, dishing out Mario-Kart-like attacks to try and outsmart the competition.
Both modes are fun, and it's easy to picture how players could lose hours at a time to the game, exploring and having fun without even thinking about their main objective. Similar to Forza Horizon, there's joy in the racing and there's also joy in the not racing.
We were having a great time exploring the first two open world 'biomes' — there will be a tutorial area, a spooky area, a rocky area and a lush green area at launch. We particularly enjoyed running into little challenges. There was one that required us to herd animals for a troubled farmer, and another that tasked us with bouncing around across multiple rooftops within a brisk time limit. This reminded us a bit of LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, where you could wander off from the main path to do random little jobs for the locals.
Once we got onto the proper race tracks, taking on other journalists in a series of races akin to a Mario Kart Grand Prix, the fun factor took on a whole new shape. Overtaking an opponent after using a power up wisely feels great, and the variety of these feels nicely balanced for a first attempt. Throwing spiders to clog up our rival's display is particularly satisfying, as is bringing home a win after a hard-fought race.
After that, we played around in the garage for a bit, where you'll find an impressively detailed editor that allows you to make whatever vehicle you want from a massive amount of different LEGO bricks, from windscreens and hinges right down to individual coloured studs.
We started off making a stupidly long, bright yellow car covered with plants and animals. But when we heard someone else was making their own version of the Batmobile, we couldn't resist the challenge to make our own four-wheeled spin on the Millennium Falcon. It ended up looking like a big grey blob because designing LEGO sets is harder than you might think.
Although there's no sign of an official Batmobile or Millennium Falcon in the game yet, there are licensed vehicles, including a McLaren recreation from one of LEGO's popular ranges that you can unlock very early on.
When we spoke to the game's executive producer, Mark Pierce from the development company Visual Concepts South, he teased: "This is the first of many, you know? We picked the McLaren series of Speed Champions, a very popular one. We have a very close collaboration with LEGO, I meet with them almost every week [...] And we're going to be bringing in more of their kits. And there's some other exciting things we'll be able to announce later on. That just amazes me, what we're going to be doing."
And is there any chance we'll ever get to see fictional vehicles from famously LEGO-friendly franchises like Star Wars at any point? As Pierce puts it, "We are pursuing everything you can imagine with LEGO in that regard. And not just with LEGO themselves, but with the third parties associated with LEGO.
"And so there's nothing we can speak about right now, but it's such a deeply integrated relationship we have with them. I think you can put two and two together and just imagine. We're going to be doing four Drive Passes in the first year, or season passes, and those things will be themed accordingly, so yeah."
There have been a lot of LEGO games over the years, though. What makes this one stand out? Pierce says: "I don't think anybody's taken it as deep with the open world stuff. You know, we have on-the-go events, we have the challenges, there's a collection game going on in there, there's the garage you can build things in, there's Story Mode that you can take through the whole game.
"So I don't think there's ever been as deep of a driving game experience before with any of the other LEGO titles out there. You know, and then the building. I think there's one other game that had as much building. I'm not that familiar with all the Warner Brothers titles, but we tried to bring depth that they've never seen before."
And this is just the start of LEGO's collaboration with 2K, too, which Pierce describes as a "multi game relationship", although he won't be drawn on revealing what the other games could be. For now, we're very much looking forward to getting back in the driving seat when LEGO 2K Drive comes out.
LEGO 2K Drive launches on Friday 19th May 2023 for PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.
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