Review: Sonic Unleashed
Posted 31 Dec 2008 at 00:53 by Stephen Thompson
|"To start off, this is the game fans have been waiting for, yet the game fans didn't want."|
Oh Sonic, over the years you've been slated, laughed at and shunned due to previous bad past entries in your gaming series. Fear not my brave blue warrior, for change is happening. Nowadays it's pretty common knowledge that our speedster has had very questionable games since it's shift into the 3D gaming world. Some liked the Sonic Adventures on the DreamCast, while others began slamming it since it didn't play as well as it's fantastic 2D counter parts due to more side characters being introduced resulting in more characters than Mario spin off games, and the 3D Sonic games aswell as being plagued by those pesky camera problems. Years moved on and alas, we were graced with Sonic Heroes, while the game has some positives, it still had camera problems causing horrible deaths to the teams, then we had Shadow the Hedgehog with the ultimate life form baring immortality and harnessing the Chaos Emeralds power, using guns, shedding background knowledge on his origin. Then we had that major ball buster, which frankly we'll sidestep. With these problems and issues with previous games, was there hope for our favourite hog? After all, there's some amount of work needed for Sonic to regain his former glory.
Well the good news is, there is some light at the end of that exceedingly long and dark tunnel. Although not a 3D game, our DS's were graced with Sonic Rush emphasising Sonics speed proving some good 2D action, then we had the love hate Sonic and the Secret Rings on the Wii that proved to be popular, we got Sonic in Brawl with popular demand, we got Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games showing the blue man was still popular showing that Sonic was slowly changing his ways. His games were improving and there was still a fan base for him. Now SEGA brings us Sonic Unleashed, the latest entry. With the introduction over, lets jump into the game.
To start off, this is the game fans have been waiting for, yet the game fans didn't want. As many now know, Sonic Unleashed has two portions of the game being the day and night levels. After a nicely done and crisp intro showing Eggman actually getting somewhere with his plans by draining the Chaos Emeralds of their power and separating the world, you being the game. The first level shows us exactly what we love about Sonic. The day levels are simply fantastic. We have Sonic doing what he does best, blazing through the levels at high speeds with corners, zig zags, , loop de loops and inside you can't help but feel a cry for joy in your heart when bursting through the level with various paths to take, resulting on you getting somewhat addictive to the levels. With our speeding hero shifting between 2D and 3D perspectives with next to no camera issues, you can't help but feel this is the next generation Sonic game we've been waiting for. Though with such a good game, there's bound to be something bad about it, right? If your thinking this, give your self a pat on the back, you're quite right, or at least in a sense you are. Chances are many people, if not all, know about the night levels, featuring the Werehog, this my friends is what is dragging this game right down.
After being caught in Eggmans new device splitting the world from capturing Sonic and the emeralds, Sonic has a most unfortunate transformation. With this, comes the frustration. To be clear, the Werehog levels aren't necessarily bad, they can even prove to be quite fun at times, it's just you'll love the day levels and once it's night, you'll move slowly fighting through Gaia, with some platforming, but as you go on, you can't help but realise it's just the same thing but in different environments, we run through a town that you can't help but feel is in a PS2 game since the buildings seem so generic compared to the buildings that can be found in it's 360/PS3 counterparts. You run through a level, fight some Gaia, collect some keys to advance forward, jump/swing over buildings and gaps, fight some more Gaia and your done. It just gets boring after a while and there's so much of the levels, you can't help but feel that this is a Sonic the Werehog game with the addition of Sonic levels as a rewards for crawling through the levels at night. As the Werehog, you use the motion sensing of the Wii-mote and Nun-Chuck to fight. You move the Wii-mote to punch with Sonics right hand, and Nun-Chuck for left and eventually you can make some combos up to make destroying the Gaia that bit easier. Aside from walking or running with the Control Stick on the Nun-Chuck, every other action is motion controlled. To climb pillars, you need to raise and lower the Wii-mote and Nun-Chuck as if climbing, swinging from pillars will require you to swing the Wii-mote etc. If this isn't your thing then the Classic Controller or Cube pad will be your saviour so you don't have to give your arms a work out when playing the game. Your new side-kick this time is the flying dog, "Chip", that Sonic landed on when falling from Eggmans ship, though now the little fellow has lost his memory.
As mentioned previously, it feels more like Sonic the Werehog since there's perhaps about 2-3 night levels for every day, and damn it we want lots of day levels! From each level aside from tutorials and boss levels, each stage has 3 medals to collect, Sun or Moon medals, sort of similar to the emblems from the Sonic Adventures. The night levels which you get sun medals from require you to complete the stage under a time limit aswell as getting a certain amount of rings and red orbs to collect, which is essentially experience points for the Werehog so he can level-up to gain more moves and status upgrades. In the glorious day levels where you get moon medals, you get medals depending on your rank so speed is the only thing you need to consider in getting a rank instead of points and rings. You have a set time limit to get a certain rank, beginning with S, S gets you all 3 medals, A 2 and B 1. Though frankly you'll be more than happy to replay these levels again and again to get an S rank and bursting through the stages in different directions will only bring you joy. These medals will open up new areas within the Gaia Temple in each continent for bonus content such as unlocking songs, secret documents and art work. These can also be found through out levels in a classic Sonic container so getting all the medals and bonuses will certainly keep all you Sonic fans busy for quite some time. There's about 8 or so continents to 'restore' by bringing back the Chaos Emeralds power, all of which can be picked from the over world which you can rotate to find the continent you want to play in. You then decide if you want to go to the town, or go in some levels, then a list comes up with the levels you can currently select, what Sonic to go and what medals you need, so it's a bit convenient if you want to get everything in the game. Also the 'extras' menu such as art work, documents and music will you what level to find that specific item in. Now, in no way does this make things easier, more like a gentle push in the right direction, after all finding them all yourself will be a killer, especially things can be easily overlooked in the day stages.
One of the key differences from the Wii/PS2 version compared to the 360/PS3, aside from the graphics of the environment is the hub of each continent. The Wii has a useless static hub that it's only purpose is there to annoy you and waste time. This hub has a picture of the town and 'new' areas to search. And by search I mean clicking on an icon the screen to talk to folk to advance forward, why this was needed I don't know, the game would be a bit better without it. You ask some town folk to pretty much find a temple and that's it. You'll never dare look at it again after words. The 360/PS3 version has an explorable hub similar to Sonic Adventures where you need to go and look for people to advance and find more medals.
The only flaw with this game is the Werehog section and everything it covers, while it's not 'bad' it just drags down the game and compared to the day levels it becomes a bit annoying. Some will like it, but it is pretty much the same in each level so there's a fairly good chance you'll get bored. Again, the day levels are fantastic. You move Sonic at fast speeds to reach the goal. You can use your speed gauge that expands as the more rings you get to go at crazy speeds by shaking the Wii-mote. Sonic still has his tradition homing attack which doesn't slow down his speed too much, well, nothing really slows him down unless you make him or you run into a wall and there are no pesky spikes in the ground that will jump up and poke you. Sonic also has a quick step move to help with manoeuvring whether it be in levels to collect rings or dodge oncoming attacks from a boss and finally a skid move that will help get round tight corners and under blocks that will occur throughout the stages. All rather simple and easy to perform, but it doesn't make the game any less fun. The graphics are nice, but nothing the PS2 can't handle, since obviously the PS2 and Wii game are pretty much identical, though Sonic does look pretty good. As with other Sonic games, the music is quite good aswell that feels somewhat fresh when going through the levels, though unfortunately for Crush 40 fans, there's no music from them in the game, you'll have to wait for the Black Knight for that.
Sonic Unleashed has proved that there is some potential for Sonic to have great games since after playing it, you'll want more. You'll go back to play the day levels again and again like I've done myself many times now, and I'm still not bored of them. The downfall of the game is obviously the Werehog, though I'll mention it again, the Werehog parts aren't all that bad, it could have been better so it doesn't feel like it's just dragging on for the sake of it since the levels just tend to repeat themselves and you need to go through quite a few stages just so you can have some more day levels. The ratio of Werehog/Hedgehog could have been much better; it just feels like the Werehog stages are unnecessary and completing these stages will give you a reward, the day stages.
Though the Sonic Unleashed team said that the Werehog aswell as additional features on other Sonic games was needed to extend the game since if it was all Sonic, it would be a 3 odd hour game. Will we ever get that true Sonic we've all been waiting for? If Unleashed is anything to go by, it's a step in the right direction since this game nearly had it. And with the Secret Rings being popular despite it's love/hate charm and the Black Knight shaping up to be good, Sonic is getting back to his roots. Why the developers insist on not creating an all pure Hedgehog game will forever be the series' downfall. After all, I'm sure there's a fair few of us who would rather have a pure Sonic game rather than a Sonic game that's been dragged out just to make the game a bit longer…
N-Europe Final Verdict
Astounding day levels gives exactly what fans want. Highly fun and repeatable with various collectables and paths to take making the game last that bit longer. The addition of the Werehog, although it isn't really that bad, brings the Gameplay down a bit.
The Sonic levels
Some nice music
Lots of collectables
Graphics are quite nice
Werehog could be better