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Submitted by Chris Leyton on December 1 2008 - 16:47

Believe it; Sonic Team has finally created a Sonic title worthy of its heritage...

Pros
  • Finally classic Sonic realised in 3D.
  • Plenty of Sonic Team touches.
  • Varied gameplay.
Cons
  • Day/Night medal design a little clunky.
  • Werehog may not be everybody's cup of tea.
  • English voice acting is atrocious.

It's testimony to the staying power of Sonic and the perseverance of Sonic Team that the iconic blue hedgehog is still around.  We won't even mention the travesty of Sonic's debut on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation3 (let alone Shadow), but it's fair to say that the rare flashes of brilliance such as 'Sonic and the Secret Rings' and 'Sonic Rush' have been greatly exaggerated by the dross since the blue hedgehog stepped into the third dimension.

Culminating in three years worth of work behind the 'Hedgehog Engine', Sonic Unleashed is the latest such attempt.  Released on every home console available, Sonic Unleashed has been mooted as the reboot that the series has sorely needed - but then again, similar things were said before he slipped his way onto the Xbox 360 and PS3 and we all know what happened with that.

Once again Sonic and his chums find themselves at the peril of Eggman's latest attempts to conquer the world.  This time around harnessing the power of the Dark Gaia that lies hidden within the world, Eggman's plans lead to the earth splitting apart at the seams and it's up to Sonic to save the day.  It's classic Sonic material (i.e. unlikely to convince Gears fan to put down their Lancers) and in many ways the dialogue and characters you'll come across are at least unlikely to offend in a similar manner to previous Sonic games.  Just remember to take our advice and opt for the Japanese dialogue, as the English option will soon test your will to live!

At the heart of the story and the gameplay lies the concept of Sonic transforming into the Werehog at night, which is served by a day/night mechanic that unlocks different stages accordingly.  Sonic Unleashed uses this dynamic to set up puzzles revolving around the different abilities of each character, but it does cause one or two issues that we'll come to later in the review.

Sonic's Back!

From the first Sonic stage it's apparent that Sonic Team is on the right track as far as establishing the iconic Sonic action goes.  Taking influences from the Wii exclusive 'Sonic & The Secret Rings' along with the PSP 'Sonic Rivals' outings, the Sonic stages are what fellow fans like myself have been waiting long and hard for.  Undeniably the finest example of Sonic in 3D yet, Sonic Unleashed takes the gameplay and largely restricts these particular stages to 2D in order to fully realise the one thing that Sonic games need - a blistering sense of speed.  However realising that this might not be enough to entice today's fickle gamers, each stage is flourished with plenty of 3D camera pans and movements to ensure this is Sonic looking like he should do 17 years after first bursting onto the scene.  It's not just a case of running from right to left either, as these stages brilliantly mix up the action with additional sections that put the camera behind Sonic and make excellent use of the shoulder buttons to sidestep.


Sonic Unleashed

Finally Sonic is back up to speed...


The level of respect Sonic Team has paid to the original 2D titles is manifested in virtually every aspect, it's unmistakably classic Sonic and exactly what the fans have been crying out for.  At first playing a stage can be fraught with frustration as you bump into obstacles and jump into spikes.  But like the original 2D titles perseverance is the key and soon you'll find yourself literally whizzing through the stages, memorising every little turn and playing by instinct - exactly what a Sonic title should be.  The camera and controls during these sections are hard to fault, Sonic Team has absolutely nailed what Sonic should be about and definitely cured the identity crisis that the poor hedgehog (and the team itself) appears to have endured in the years since Sonic first jumped into the third dimension.  Sonic Team has also expertly addressed the issues that have thwarted all previous 3D Sonic titles, ensuring that Sonic doesn't grind to a halt whenever he hits the smallest obstacle or needing to wrestle with the camera to maintain a reasonable view of the action.  Equally the slightly weird feeling of constant movement that characterised Sonic and the Secret Rings has been addressed, resulting in the finest example yet of what Sonic should be.

The Blue, Spikey God of War

However this is only part of Sonic Unleashed.  As mentioned before, almost half of the game consists of Sonic undergoing the werehog transformation and undertaking challenges where the gameplay is considerably different.  Employing a free-roam open world design, Sonic Unleashed puts the power of time at your fingertips with the ability to pass by day and night, in turn unlocking the stages associated with hedgehog and werehog.  At first there's the feeling as though you're merely playing through the werehog sections just to unlock the next Sonic stage.  However closer inspection soon reveals the classic Sonic Team touches that translate what could have been a routine bash-em-up into something a little more rewarding. 

It's obvious that Sonic Team has decided that a true Sonic title wouldn't have enough going for it, and so has decided that a Western audience needs some action and combat.  Immediately God of War fans will notice where the influence comes from.  Sonic in werehog form has extendable arms that bear an uncanny similarity to Kratos' Blades of Athena; equally the turning evasive roll is eerily familiar and just as tactically effective as the God of War's evasive manoeuvre.  Although we'll admit that these sections don't quite hold the same appeal as the classic Sonic stages, they're certainly not the disaster that we were first fearing and make a reasonable attempt at emulating the title to which it draws undeniable influence.  Sonic the Werehog has got all of the moves and techniques that Kratos puts to practise, whether it's aerial combos, hard hitting punches, a variety of grabs and grapples, along with stunningly cinematic quick-time events for dispatching the bigger foes he comes across.  The way in which Sonic upgrades with experience earned by defeating opponents, lends the werehog stages a suitable sense of progression, unlocking new moves and techniques that provides the draw behind the game.  We could argue that at around 30 minutes in length these sections do take a little too long and slow the overall tempo of the game somewhat; but the challenge is surprisingly stiff and worthy of hardcore gamers. 

To add even more variety to the already considerable diverse gameplay on offer, Tails jumps into the action with a handful of shoot-em-up stages onboard the Tornado.  Even these stages appear to pay respect to a genre that SEGA once ruled supreme.  Playing in a rythtym/action manner, it's a case of hitting the corresponding buttons that appear over enemies and missiles in a further test of your hand-to-eye co-ordination.  As if that wasn't already enough, Sonic Unleashed also features a further Sonic Team trademark with a handful of memorable and challenging boss fights. 

Game Over

Unfortunately just when it seemed that Sonic Unleashed would easily be the finest Sonic title since Sonic 2, one strange design decision hampers the whole experience and occasionally brings the whole thing down to a stuttering halt.  Your guide throughout the whole story is an ice-cream loving companion named Chip, who develops based upon the number of Sun and Moon medals that you collect.  In turn these serve as the key to unlocking the Gaia Gates and temples that serve as the main game stages.  All too often we found ourselves advancing to the next stage only to be turned away because we hadn't collected enough medals, which in turn meant moving back to the free-form world map to replay through stages in search of medals that you don't particularly care about. 

Hunting around the intermittent stages that follow each village on the world map for medals isn't exactly fun or enticing, whether you're in hedgehog or werehog form.  It occasionally hints at a compelling use of the day/night dynamic to serve as the occasional puzzle, but the overall dated and confused design bogs down the experience and serves as little more than padding to the otherwise thoroughly engrossing main stages.  That said, the ample selection of side missions provide more entertainment than they probably should.

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  • Graphics: 91%
     
  • Sound: 83%
     
  • Gameplay: 89%
     
  • Originality: 87%
     
  • Longevity: 80%
     
Overall Score: 8/10
The satisfaction of memorising a Sonic stage and playing by instinct at supersonic speeds has finally come to fruition, Sonic Unleashed is exactly what we've been waiting so long for.  By no means a perfect Sonic in 3D, Sonic Unleashed is nevertheless the best example we've seen so far and worthy of a purchase for the fans who remembered how good it was, such a long, long time ago.

 

   

     

       

         

           

             

               

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User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Fri 15th Jan 2010 09:58, Post No: 33

shenmue 3 is good but sonic is bad bad and sega s stuped


User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Thu 02nd Apr 2009 22:20, Post No: 32

YES! Much better than sonic 06!


User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Mon 16th Mar 2009 19:34, Post No: 31

I agree. This game does make sonic fun again and I like it alot.


By: freeradical

Added:Mon 16th Feb 2009 10:05, Post No: 30

More importantly than anything else, it makes Sonic fun again - simple as that.


User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Sun 15th Feb 2009 22:01, Post No: 29

I have to admit that this game is incredible! The graphics are amazing, the gameplay is great, the werehog features are nice, and all around, the game is great! Two thumbs up!


By: SegaBoy

Added:Mon 12th Jan 2009 10:13, Post No: 28

Wise words indeed - anybody who can't spot the similarities between the werehog and God of War is either a Sony snob, or just doesn't play enough games in the first place.


User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Mon 12th Jan 2009 00:35, Post No: 27

to the guy who said

"if the majority of reviews for this game say its sh*te then it must"

Totally unprofessional and unconstructive reviews like IGN don't count.

 

This game is great. I can't see how people are complaining about the werehog but didn't complain about the God of War combat or the Prince of persia platforms, when the werehog levels are so similiar.

 


User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Sun 04th Jan 2009 11:30, Post No: 26

help i cant get past the 2nd stage!!!!! im at the bit that you need to put some thing on a pederstall the only thing i can find is a box. now the box is to big and will not fit help cant get any ferther


User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Fri 19th Dec 2008 04:01, Post No: 25

I think this game is very good, is kind of hard to get the medals sometimes, but thats why I like this game, is challenging.  I love the graphics and the music.   It is worth buying it.  I don't know why it is getting such low scores in other sites.   In my opinion is the second best sonic game, after Sonic Adventures for Dreamcast.


User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Wed 17th Dec 2008 09:47, Post No: 24

Oh yeah of course - or it's just possible that people can't see the wood through the trees when it coems to Sonic, and nobody actually realises what a decent Sonic game is about nowadays?


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