YOUR GUIDE TO NEW SONIC GAMES RELEASES!
STC'S RATING SYSTEM:
UNDER 40 = YAWNSVILLE 40-70 = NORMALSVILLE 70-80 = FUN CITY 80-90 = BIG TIME CITY 90+ = MEGA CITY
 
 

CONSOLE: X-BOX 360 / PS3
GAME TYPE: ACTION PLATFORMER
PLAYERS:
1-2

PUBLISHER:
SEGA
PRICE:
£40 approx
REVIEWER:
Iain 'Retro' Stewart

 
(Warning Boomers, this is a fairly long review by STC-O standards, go put the kettle on, and if you can, get me some micro-chips while you’re at it please! – Megadroid)

Heralded as the beginning of a new age for Sonic, “Sonic the Hedgehog” for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 had a lot to live up to from its mere announcement. Boomers may recall the preview of this game back in the first STC-Online Poster Mag commented on many apparent returns to classic form as well as utilising next generation hardware to its full extent.

Sadly however, this was not the case; not exactly, anyway.

Sonic the Hedgehog is by no means a bad game. But it is not the epic title it was said to be. However such outlooks are not beneficial to a review, and so we shall go into the game in detail and examine what exactly it plays like.

To begin with, the gamer is treated to the by now traditional gorgeous CGI Introduction sequence by Blur Studios. This concentrates on Sonic’s introduction to the game, and sets a basic story beginning for the gameplay to develop on from thus onwards. From the beginning, Sonic is the only playable character of the three possible, Sonic, Shadow and newcomer Silver. Starting out with Sonic the traditional level layout is discovered - Sonic plays the same as before with the ubiquitous homing attack and spin dash (although the spin dash is fairly pointless and almost never used in this game), with a new simple leg attack if the player taps the action button while standing or on the move. While not a large deviance from past Sonic controls, further upgrades of new techniques are available as the game progresses. At first you will be in Soleanna, an area similar to Station Square from Sonic Adventure. You will have the opportunity to explore and return to this area whenever you complete an act to buy new techniques or pick up small sub-quests. The overall quality of this area is not particularly high; it feels deserted and quite repetitive in design, especially for a supposed “next generation game.”

Moving on from there you will enter the first few Acts (as levels are now known) in which you find that Sonic controls almost exactly as before, both good points and bad points remain unchanged. He is unusual to control at first (as oxymoronic as this is with my previous sentence), but soon comes under control; there are much less missed homing attacks and twitchy stick deaths than previous games. Those used to the older style of homing attack may be disappointed - gone is the blurring speeding Sonic of robotic destruction, able to smash through dozens of robots in but a few seconds. There is now a “cool down” time between each homing attack. The primary problem comes from the camera in many situations however; it is usually alright, but occasionally gets a little hyperactive or sluggish. It also tends to flip out when close up on enemies or bosses, leaving you wondering exactly what’s going on, or when something very large is chasing you stop because of it. Long term fans will be familiar with the idea.

Near the end of certain Acts the new sections to Sonic will be uncovered, that of the Mach Speed Zone. These take place at high speeds (players of Burnout 3 may be familiar with the level of pace.) with Sonic consistently moving forwards. The player’s objective is to steer left, right and jump to avoid obstacles, while using the Light Dash to gain small boosts from lines of rings. These sections suffer from strange collision and edge detection, leading to frustrating deaths; however a good run can be very exciting and great fun. There are however, very few of these sections within the game.

After a short degree of time you will encounter Silver the Hedgehog, the newest character to encounter Sonic. A time traveller from the future, he has a mysterious mission involving Sonic and the “Iblis Trigger.” A telekinetic, he may be much slower than Sonic or Shadow, but has the ability to pick up and hurl all a manner of objects all across the screen, glide short distances and perform level specific techniques occasionally. He feels much more stable than Sonic, as being slower he is much easier to control and the powers are easy to get the hang of. Silver’s levels generally tend to concentrate on platforming and fighting rather than racing at top speed or acrobatics, and are a welcome change of pace within the game. There are occasional glitches with psychokinetic abilities, mostly down to objects going insane when they get caught on something (this Hume witnessed a box suddenly take off at 100 MPH for no reason!) or some objects not being able to be picked up.

As a character Silver is quite a diversion, being noticeably younger and very naïve and susceptible to influence from others. Despite a seemingly endless supply of hate for new characters, Silver is a solid addition compared to others who are more like clones than totally unique characters (bar the species).

Finally, Shadow the Hedgehog will be unlocked. Free of his misery laden past at last, he can finally come into his own as a much better character than the rather poorly executed version in his own game. No longer moody and obsessed with the past, he becomes a rather sharp dark side to the heroes’ side and his gameplay reflects that very well. Similar to Sonic, he trades speed for greater variety in his attacks, capable of Chaos Spear and a multi hit combo attack as basic form. Also capable of driving vehicles, they have been much improved since his own game, and feel as though they are actually useful (except the hovercraft, which is, frankly, awful.) in some sections. Many more enemies populate his stages, emphasising combat over agility, which quickly becomes wearisome in some of the later levels when literally dozens of enemies continually flood the screen.

It is also of note that Shadow has by far the best boss battles in the game. And with great joy I can tell you there isn’t a firearm in sight to pick up.

In addition to the three main characters, almost the entire newer generation of Sonic’s supporting cast are present, either as shorter playable sections on their own or as a section of a main characters’ level. Often these are suited to their particular skill to “help out” the primary character in some way or another. Some of these are downright terrible, Tails and Knuckles especially, and the quality never really ramps up with the sole exception of Blaze (who is even better than the MAIN characters!). The source of this majority being so bad is down to them feeling unfinished in design, losing abilities they used to have or via clunky controls. Blaze however is a dream to play as, smooth, very controllable and with some very awesome unique moves.

Graphics wise, Sonic the Hedgehog is noticeably entering the next generation; however on that basis it is rather disappointing. Compared to what many games are pulling out for graphics, Sonic the Hedgehog feels distinctly left behind, especially for human models who are often emotionless single line speaking last generation models. (In particular, they make terrible “speaking” noises that are hard to put into text other that “NUR!”)

The primary character models are a definite improvement over past attempts however; clipping errors are reduced and produce more believable characters instead of simple polygons making movements. That said the lip syncing has dropped its standard, this may be a niggle, but it is a noticeable one. Of particular note is that our two primary characters, Sonic himself and Dr. “Eggman” Robotnik have had a change of design! Sonic is taller with longer legs and a more pronounced chest and stomach, whereas Robotnik has lost a good bit of weight to become a slightly leaner, more evil looking scientist as opposed to his more comedic role in previous titles. Many of the games best scenes are down to him and this Hume cannot help but love the new design for a new age.

Sound within the game is, as usual, a high quality track listing combining traditional level themes with band played music to suit whatever situation. Some level themes are quite dreary and forgettable, often very quiet, whereas others are of a top standard quality (the final boss music in particular is very good) and retain the feel of a level throughout the entire continuation. Taking the musical ideals into a slightly more “epic” feel rather than the more carefree style used in previous games, it emphasises the “reinvention” of Sonic as SEGA is calling it well, even if many aspects of the game do not.

However one area that the game particularly finds it’s failing in is the Sonic game engine itself. Havok physics were known for a long time to be used in this game thanks to their unrivalled ability to make things move realistically. Unfortunately, an apparent incompatibility with the engine causes horrific slowdown if there are more than four or five objects moving at once. This is most noticeable with Silver when he picks up multiple objects, or when robots launch a barrage of (very slow moving) missiles. In contrast however, some sections, such as one particular Mach Speed Zone have a veritable mass of moving objects flying all over the screen with no slowdown at all for the most part.

Enemy AI proves to be a massive disappointment. Enemies will gladly stand in one place and wait to be destroyed, occasionally firing off a timed pattern of attacks that are all too easily avoided. Many enemies also seem to find firing at thin air is a very good idea indeed, and short ranged enemies will attack absolutely nothing occasionally for no reason whatsoever. In general they’re rushed, unimaginative, repetitive and almost pathetically easy. (Although admittedly, no Sonic game in 3D has ever remedied this problem.) The one saving grace is that upon destruction they will shatter into a dozen pieces and fly off at speed, giving the feeling of an actual impact rather than the soft “bump” from previous titles.

However by and by far the greatest failing of the game engine is the loading screens, they are everywhere, and I mean everywhere. You wish to start a side mission from a civilian, you talk to them and say “Yes I’ll help!” and be hence taken to a loading screen lasting 10-20 seconds. After this wait, you are treated to about six words of dialogue…and another loading screen of similar length. Upon completion (or failure) of said mission, you will –again- face a loading screen. After this is done you shall be congratulated warmly and presented with another loading screen for your troubles.

In all, missions that should by all means take a few minutes as a fun side quest become tedious drags of loading screens more than the actual gameplay itself in length. The same goes within Acts; one of Sonic’s in particular has four loading screens throughout its progression.

Plot wise, Sonic the Hedgehog can be taken on many levels. There is an overall plot for the game as a whole; however each of the three episodes has its own particular story that connects to the primary plotline in loose ways, often becoming clearer the closer they get to the end of an episode. The particulars shall not be spoiled for those yet to play, however classic ideas along with moderately deep story emerges, although the plot is nothing to rave about. It is fairly basic with one or two nice ideas surrounding certain sections, even the occasional emotional or comedic event scene.

With any game, and especially that of a major franchise like Sonic, the “soul” of a game is very important, that little hard to describe factor that makes us love a game. Sonic the Hedgehog originally was thought to contain this in buckets, restarting the franchise and once again (as SEGA states) “entering the Sonic Age.” This is not even close to being achieved with this game, and is more a “Sonic Adventure 3” in concept. The game lacks that spark of passion that brought us to love Sonic, and although fun, ultimately could have been much better in almost all areas in someway.
FINAL COUNTDOWN!
RAVES
GRAPHICS
78
SOUND
95
PLAYABILITY
79
OVERALL
80
Tighter controls, improved characters
GRAVES
Inconsistent quality, not very 'next gen'

 

 
 
 
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Used without permission. Published bi-monthly by the Sonic the Comic online team. This comic is only available on the internet.