LEGO Speed Champions gets off to an amusingly on-brand start. The intro video from Forza Horizon 4 plays, where a lady explains her vision for a celebration of cars and the freedom they bring, only this time with LEGO. After the rousing speech, the Forza car in the original intro speeds into a screen where it transports onto the British countryside. The LEGO car crashes into a wall. It sets a great precedent, as does the tutorial race where you smash through LEGO environments. Bricks are flying, there's a UFO carrying cows at one point, and everything is awesome. Then it gets just a little less awesome.
Right after the thrilling intro race, the announcer/guide comes on and explains how LEGO sent over some kits to build cool things for the Forza Horizon festival. It's just a little bit of dialogue to give backstory as to why there are now full-sized LEGO cars and towns in this realistic depiction of the British countryside. Except it also unintentionally brings up an unfortunate thing about this partnership.
“I know half the fun is building them, but..." your guide says, right as he shows you three completed LEGO cars. This is the reason why you don't get to build anything yourself. Your guide got too excited and did it before you got there. Which makes sense. This is a Forza DLC, not a LEGO game. Even knowing that, I still couldn't shake the feeling that there was a little something missing in this LEGO experience. Looking at the whole package, I discovered what it was. There are only three new LEGO cars (with a fourth unlockable, but not actually playable yet). There's a new challenge system that gives you bricks to build an increasingly-outrageous LEGO house (that the game builds for you). The new map is delightful, but you'll still find yourself doing the same old Forza things.
This didn't have to be LEGO Racers 2. A little more LEGO would have been nice, though. Right now the feeling is more that of Forza, but with a LEGO skin.
That LEGO skin is absolutely incredible, however. The developers lovingly crafted every aspect of this setting to look as authentic as possible. Individual pieces fly off as your car takes damage. Some will even take on minor scuffs, looking like a set of LEGO that's been played with for years. Part numbers and the LEGO logo appear in the same places they do on real life kits, such as on the clear headlight pieces. Cities and audiences consist of mini-figures who jump up and down excitedly like something out of The Lego Movie. The flora and fauna are often taken from LEGO as well, such as the tree in the picture above. I remember that tree from my childhood.
I never got tired of driving through the open world and crashing through the LEGO locales. The whole thing is just such a joy to look at. The scene is even more set when you turn on the new "Everything Is Awesome" radio station. That does get old, though, as the station literally only plays that one song on loop.
There is some substance to go along with all the style. The main activity of LEGO Speed Champions is a whole chart of challenges. They range from obvious things like winning races to more themed tasks, like finding a specific area and smashing it to pieces. Completing these challenges will give you bricks. Hitting certain thresholds of bricks will award you with a growing LEGO house and new cars.
The advertisement makes it sound more exciting than it is. "Amass your own Brick Collection and construct a Master Builder’s House with a garage of amazing LEGO Speed Champions cars," says the Xbox Store description. You do amass bricks by winning challenges, that's true. But like I said before, the game constructs the Master Builder House for you and your garage consists of three LEGO cars. Since it takes time to amass those bricks and have all the LEGO things, you're really just playing Forza.
I should make it clear that I don't think playing Forza is a bad thing. I've had a lot of fun with Forza Horizon 4's live service approach to a racing game. Those elements carry over into this DLC's LEGO Valley as well. Seasons change the landscape, and Forzathon appears from time to time to gather you and other online players for a frenetic series of driving tests. There is a certain fun in seeing all the souped-up Fords and Ferraris drifting alongside my modest LEGO mini-coup.
The best way to frame my impression of Forza Horizon 4 LEGO Speed Champions is to use a comparison I've seen drawn by many others. Forza Horizon 3 had a Hot Wheels DLC that players loved. It brought the iconic orange tracks to the game with all of the crazy loops and twists that define them. It managed to bring a wild new gameplay element to Forza while staying true to the core of Hot Wheels. LEGO Speed Champions doesn't quite achieve that perfect synergy. It nails the earnest humor of LEGO, but sacrifices building, an equally core element of the brand.
There are many moments of brilliance in LEGO Speed Champions. I think back to that intro when I was thrust into the driver's seat and things were flying at me and I was smashing into things and it was nuts. That thrill returned as I discovered new areas of LEGO Valley and flew off boosted ramps. Then it was broken up when I realized I had to complete a bunch of basic racing challenges so I could watch the game build me a new car. Everything isn't always awesome. Sometime's it's just okay. That's fine, even if it could be better.
3.5 Out Of 5 Stars
The LEGO Speed Champions DLC was purchased by TheGamer for this review. It is available now as part of Forza Horizon 4 on PC and Xbox One.