As a Journalist, you are meant to be impartial, sporting a detachment that allows you to be fair in your critique, however I am always a little tougher on SEGA as I owned and loved so many of their consoles in the past. Sonic is part of this momentous iconic history, however something isn’t clicking lately…
The next generation (or really now the current generation) of consoles has endured a rocky time for our little blue spiky friend. The first outing was a complete disaster with bugs galore and now Sonic Unleashed is released, all I can do is wonder why they keep disappointing me?
Sonic Unleashed isn’t the utter garbage the first Sonic the Hedgehog on the Xbox 360 hurled in our quizzical faces, but it still fails to spark any kind of love that has been missing for so long now. If it wasn’t for Sonic Rush on the Nintendo DS, I would be convinced that the SEGA magic with anything remotely connected to Sonic had been lost in some strange dark gaming cupboard, where the passage of time had simply ignored the ingredients for a successful return. So it is possible, but again it falls so short of the mark on the mightier consoles.
It actually starts off quite promising with a staggeringly impressive introduction. It doesn’t last long as there are extremely cheesy cut-scenes that follow, even cheesy compared to previous Sonic incarnations, but the real problems are within the gameplay.
There are three sides to Sonic Unleashed. First is the exploration, which actually I usually enjoy in games and for developers the temptation to add a few more gaming hours is always good news, however you are plagued by the fact that collecting symbols throughout the levels is the only way to progress further. This leaves me cold as you have to return to previous areas over and over just to move on.
Secondly are the Sonic levels. Fast, frantic and camera zooming frenzies all add up to actually a fairly intense and fun ride and if Sonic Unleashed relied almost totally on this area, I would be inclined to at least pat SEGA on the back for their efforts, however it takes a swooping negative dive out of sight as quickly as Sonic can dart across the screen.
Lastly are the areas where Sonic suddenly turns into a platforming, puzzle solving, enemy whacking werewolf (actually werehog). As we enter this night time arena, you are left virtually cold in your seat as this weird Sonic transformation aims to earn high fighting combos, leaping from box to block and traversing along narrow beams. You are left craving the fast sections of good old Sonic as when night falls, Sonic the Werehog slows down to a crawl. Unfortunately the depression doesn’t end there. The camera is unfathomable at times and often you lose sight of where you wish to head, but the worst offender is the tedious control system that leaves even the simplest manoeuvrings error prone.
It is the same old story where Sonic Unleashed could have been so much more. Promising so much by returning to the old style Sonic speed, but then throwing in a rotten apple by adding elements that actually didn’t need to be there. Xbox Live Arcade is the root for your Sonic cravings these days. Maybe SEGA should really open their eyes to this and create something completely new for this area where Sonic truly excels. My heart is still open to the possibilities the future can facilitate for my old friend Sonic the Hedgehog, so far though I fear any title that features his name.