I don’t know about anyone else, but Forza Horizon: LEGO Speed Champions caught me off guard. Forza Horizon 4 successfully injected a much-needed shot of adrenaline into the arm of the Forza series, and in many ways was a coming of age for the Horizon off-shoot of the brand. That entry felt fresh, new, and exciting in a way that racing games haven’t for some time. It was with some disappointment then, that Fortune Island (the previous DLC) came along and was nothing more than a rehash of the main game, only on a smaller and less-interesting scale. Where the main game was new and exciting, that DLC was more of the same — but incredibly bland to seeming be pushing its USP as having a pretty-looking sky box. However, LEGO Speed Champions is a welcome return to form. Ratcheting the crazy up yet another gear, nothing encapsulates the idea that this series is comfortable enough in its quality to not take itself seriously more than this DLC. If you have Forza Horizon 4, this this is a must have.
In LEGO Speed Champions, players are whisked away from the FH mainland onto a land made of Lego bricks. The intro race that Horizon is now well known for takes players on a whistle-stop tour around the island; from speedways to deserts filled with aliens, or rolling fields covered in Lego brick walls, trees, and flowers to an entire town, the opening moments are a wonderful sight to behold. Smashing through a Lego brick wall in your Lego Mini for the first time, and seeing the little building blocks crumble to pieces and scatter around the environment unleashes a joy that is quite frankly unmatched in any other Lego game. The attention to detail is astounding, and goes above and beyond anything players would expect from a spin-off piece of content like this.
Being a game for car nerds, Forza players are used to a level of detail in the vehicles that is unlike most other games on the market. Gleefully, the designers have taken this ethos into the LEGO Speed Champions vehicular constructions themselves. All bricks in the game are authentically coloured and sized to actual Lego specs, and have been given an attention to detail that has never been seen in a Lego game before. The car decals are made to look like stickers, and if you look closely you will see serial numbers written on the see-through bricks — just like their real life counterpart. The developers also claim that the bricks have a slight warping to them, just all real Lego blocks have due to the manufacturing process. Playground Games clearly have a lot of reverence for Lego, and it’s only in taking the subject matter so seriously that we have a finished product that feels as lovingly and carefully crafted as anything they have ever done.
Players will eventually be set loose on the world to explore, race, collect, and smash as they see fit. The usual story applies when it comes to things to do, with a huge variety of collectables, races, speed challenges, and drifting to be done in vehicles of your choosing. Playground Games seem to have attempted to focus this somewhat by introducing a checklist system. By completing races and challenges, players are awarded brick rewards (basically XP) each time a certain number of bricks are collected through interacting with the world. These rewards range from additions to a Lego house that you build over time, to Lego cars — starting with a Mini, then moving onto a Ferrari, and eventually a Lego McLaren Sena. Each Lego car is stunning, and an absolute dream to work towards earning.
LEGO Speed Champions is outstanding, but it isn’t perfect. The island isn’t all made of Lego bricks, and there will be times where players are careening through trees and smashing them to bits before coming to an instant stop when they hit an unseen ‘normal’ tree. It would have been nice to see an entire world of Lego bricks, even if that might be an unrealistic expectation for a DLC. Also, there are only three Lego cars that can be unlocked, meaning that players will probably spend more time not in a Lego car than in one. For a DLC revolving around Lego, to only have three cars is quite poor. Realistically, there’s a good ten hours of content to work through, but after around five hours of play, all the cars will have been unlocked, leaving players who want something more to work towards looking at earning bricks to put in a small soccer pitch that is almost completely un-interactive next to their Lego house.
With that said, these annoyances are for the most part small blips. LEGO Speed Champions is stunning, and the attention to detail and respect given to the Lego brand is second to none. After the disappointment of the previous DLC, LEGO Speed Champions is a roaring return to form that will remind players of the joy brought to them by the main game. I feel like we should whisper this in case it starts a war, but…it’s quite possible that this is the best Lego game ever made.